Defenseman Jack Johnson’s power-play blast from the side of the left circle propelled the United States to a 3-2 overtime victory over Sweden in preliminary-round play at the 31st annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship.
The win vaulted the United States into Tuesday’s quarterfinal round, where Team USA will face Finland at 7:30 p.m. at the FM Mattsson Arena in Mora, Sweden.
“Obviously, that was a very big win for our hockey team,” said U.S. head coach Ron Rolston. “We didn’t get the start we wanted to, but we showed a lot of character and got better as the game wore one.”
Team USA started the night knowing that it needed a win to advance to the quarterfinals.
While the first period was scoreless, both teams had solid scoring chances. Team USA finished with 11 shots on goal in the first period, however, its first shot was a shorthanded effort from the high slot by Justin Abdelkader nearly eight minutes in. Sweden had 12 shots on goal in the stanza but could not solve U.S. netminder Jeff Frazee.
Sweden took a 1-0 lead at 7:16 of the second period in shorthanded fashion as Andreas Turesson put home the rebound of Martin Johansson’s initial shot. Team USA rallied with two goals in a 1:35 span in the back half of the period to stake a 2-1 advantage at 40 minutes.
Kyle Okposo intercepted a Swedish pass behind the net and fed Patrick Kane in front for Kane’s third goal in two games. Then Ryan Stoa banged home the second rebound in tight at 13:25 following Peter Mueller’s initial shot from the left circle and Nathan Gerbe’s rebound attempt.
The U.S. looked like it would win the game in regulation, however, with :14 left in regulation and Sweden netminder Joel Gistedt pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Fredrik Pettersson got the puck by Frazee to tie the game.
That set the stage for Jack Johnson, who scored his second game-winning goal in as many days. Erik Johnson and Jack Skille drew assists on the four-on-three overtime goal.
Frazee finished with 28 saves, while Gistedt had 31 stops for Sweden.