Bronze Medal Game: United States 8, Sweden 3
New York (The Draft Analyst) – Matt Tkachuk, Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork scored two goals apiece and the United States claimed the bronze medal on Tuesday, beating Sweden 8-3 at the world junior hockey championship from Helsinki.
The United States, losers to Russia in Monday’s semifinal, finished 5-2 with a tournament-best 34 goals in seven games. Sweden, which beat the Americans 1-0 in the preliminary round, was undefeated heading into yesterday’s match with Finland before dropping a 2-1 decision.
It was the fourth time the U.S. won a medal in the last six tournaments after only earning five in the previous 32.
Bjork opened the scoring midway through the first period with a put-back after Christian Dvorak’s initial backhander was stopped by goalie Felix Sandstrom. Tkachuk, set up by Zach Werenski and Schmaltz, made it 2-0 on a power play with 4:28 left in the period. Werenski fired a hard wrist shot from the blue line that Tkachuk deflected past Sandstrom.
Sweden rallied with two goals in 55 seconds to knot the score 2-2. Defenseman William Lagesson, an Edmonton Oilers prospect, charged the American net and knocked in an Adrian Kempe centering feed behind goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. Carl Grundstrom, who is one of Sweden’s top prospects for next year’s NHL draft, scored the tying goal as he too went to the net and converted a cross-ice pass from Joel Eriksson Ek. It was Grundstrom’s first and only point in seven tournament games.
Tkachuk, son of former NHL all-star Keith Tkachuk, added an assist on Brock Boeser’s go-ahead goal at 2:17 of the second period. Donato completed a 3-on-2 at 4:06 of the second to make it 4-2, and Bjork scored his second of the game and third of the tournament with 3:29 left. Defenseman Brandon Carlo added the final goal of the period when he took a pass from Schmaltz on a 2-on-1 and beat Sandstrom right under the crossbar.
Donato gave the U.S. a 7-2 lead 3:38 into the third when he corralled a loose puck in the slot from a dump in and backhanded a shot under Sandstrom. Tkachuk increased it to 8-2 off a 2-on-1 with Schmaltz, who fed him a perfect pass over a defender’s stick before Tkachuk rifled it through Sandstrom. Tkachuk finished in a three-way tie in overall tournament scoring with 11 points.
Axel Holmstrom added a late goal for Sweden, which became the first team to score more than two goals against Nedeljkovic, who finished with 35 saves. Still, it was an unfulfilling tournament for the Swedes, who have a 36-game winning streak in group play since 2007 but have failed to win the gold medal in eight of those tournaments.
LW MATT TKACHUK (2016 Draft eligible/1997): It’s hard for a teenager his size to sneak up on you. But when all was said and done for the Americans in Helsinki, Tkachuk finished as one of the tournament’s top scorers. His in-your-face style gave the Swedes fits, as they had no answer for his occupation of the low slot. And it’s not as if the Swedes had Smurfs matched up against him – Tkachuk was truly a load to handle for Sweden’s bigger defensemen. He didn’t have a memorable tournament via one play, goal or game, but he proved he belonged and then some.
C NICK SCHMALTZ (Chicago 1st/2014): Schmaltz had an excellent tournament as Team USA’s second line center, finishing with two goals and six assists in seven games. He was consistently productive in the wins, and a bit of a no-show in the two losses. What’s most impressive about Schmaltz is how calm he is with the puck. It looked as if he never got caught up in the moment, and the touch and precision he showed while setting up scores on two odd-man rushes validated what we saw in other situations. He tried his best all tournament long to get buddy Brock Boeser on the scoresheeet, but in the end, he tried to make everybody around him better.
RHD BRANDON CARLO (Boston 2nd/2015): Carlo had a very good tournament, as he finished tied for fourth in scoring among defenseman with four points, and was second to teammate Zach Werenski with a plus-9 rating. Team USA only gave up 10 goals the entire tournament, and Carlo had a hand in that. He made a nice recovery pass to Ryan Donato for a tap-in goal, and went right up the middle on a 3-on-1 to roof a feed from Schmaltz. Carlo says he models his game after New York Rangers’ defenseman Mark Staal (we’re guessing pre-2011 Marc Staal), and we see some similarities.