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Swedes put hush over Canada ; Lander's shootout goal a setback to red-and-white

The team decked out in blue and gold did its thing when it came to quieting the Canadians in attendance at HSBC Arena on Friday, except it wasn't the Buffalo Sabres sending Toronto Maple Leafs' fans back home feeling blue.

No, this was a much more distressing defeat for Buffalo's red and white neighbors to the north because now their junior hockey heroes will have to travel a longer road if they are going to complete their golden redemption mission.

Sweden versus Canada before nearly 18,000 fans at the arena more than lived up to the hype, but when it came down to a skills competition to settle matters -- the Swedes ended 2010 with their biggest triumph in years in the IIHF World Junior Championship.

Sweden defeated Canada via shootout, 6-5, to win the Group B preliminary-round title and earn a bye into Monday's medal-round semifinals.

It's just the ninth time in the 35 years of this event and only the second time since 1998 that the Swedes have gotten the better of Canada, the nation that's won more gold (15) than the Swedes have won overall medals (14).

Sweden insists gold, and not a win over Canada, is its goal for this championship. But the Swedes did admit the sweet sound of silence that filled the arena once Anton Lander clinched the shootout against Canada goalie Olivier Roy was a beautiful thing. The Swedes scored two goals on three tries; Canada's Ryan Ellis and Brayden Schenn missed their shootout attempts against Robin Lehner.

"It was incredible," said forward Patrick Cehlin, whose wrister on the rush from outside of the left faceoff dot with 8:17 left in regulation tied an entertaining game that featured five ties and five lead changes through 65 minutes. "We talked about it a lot, to beat Canada, and that's one of the things we talked about [quieting the crowd]. To have no sound at all, it was incredible."

"I know we haven't won anything [But] I'm really proud coaching this team," Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg said. "I think they showed their character bouncing back after [Canada] goals."

Canada recovered from stretches in which Sweden clearly took the play to them. The Swedes bounced back after Lehner (29 saves) yielded a couple of gift goals. Sweden didn't let the physical pounding of the Canadians -- led by Sabres prospect Marcus Foligno -- ever throw it off its game as it took the punishment instead of penalties of frustration. Sweden also dished out some of its own punishment and did an excellent job at puck control to prevent the Canadians from establishing their forecheck, which has beaten many European teams into submission on the international stage.

"I think fans got their money's worth," Canada coach Dave Cameron said. "[We] lost to a worthy opponent."

And a disciplined one as Sweden only took three penalties (none through 40 minutes) to keep the tournament's top power-play unit off the ice.

"It [stinks] losing in a shootout but when two elite teams meet in a shootout, you're doing more right than wrong," said Canadian defenseman Calvin de Haan, who had two assists after sitting out Wednesday's triumph over Norway with an undisclosed injury. "That's the positive that can come out of this."

Canada will face Switzerland in a medal-round quarterfinal Sunday afternoon at HSBC Arena, setting up a possible big dukaroo against the defending champion United States in the semifinals instead of the highly anticipated gold-medal game rematch expected by many.

Canada needed just 58 seconds to get a rise out of its fans as Sean Couturier scored unassisted when his back-hand pass toward the front found its way into the net. The Swedes needed just 1:17 to tie it as Max Friberg swatted the rebound of a blocked shot out of midair past Roy.

Carl Klingberg scored twice for Sweden. For Canada, Curtis Hamilton had a pair and Schenn notched his seventh goal.

"It was two good countries battling it out," Ellis, the Canadian captain, said. "We just have to refocus and get it going in the medal round."

e-mail: mrodriguez@buffnews.com

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