Make no mistake, those players representing the Swedish Junior National Team were carefully selected.
No longer is the Federation solely interested in having the quickest and most prolific point producers from the country on the roster. Yet, coach Roger Ronnberg, who has been one of the most outspoken coaches of this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship, believes he possesses the best group of forwards in the tournament.
Can you blame him? After all, unbeaten Sweden enters Monday’s semifinal round clash with Russia (NHLN-US, TSN, 3:30 p.m. ET) having outscored the opposition, 21-9. The team is gunning for its first gold medal at the WJC since 1981, when current forward Tim Erixon’s father, Jan, played for the team.
Russia, which rallied from a 3-1 deficit to score a huge 4-3 overtime victory over Finland in a quarterfinal-round match on Sunday, suffered a 2-0 setback to Sweden in preliminary-round action last Tuesday.
“I think we have the best forwards in this tournament because they’re protecting the puck, are challenging the defensemen in the small areas and are good one-on-one,” Ronnberg said. “We used that pretty good against Canada.”
According to Ronnberg, there was a concerted effort in choosing several players capable of excelling on the smaller North American ice surface this year.
“The guys we picked for this team are good on the small ice,” Ronnberg said. “We have prepared those guys from the camps and everything we’ve done for this tournament.”