Welcome to the 2022 World Junior Championships predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey will take a look at each game and give our predictions of the results. Wednesday, December 28th is a busy day with several key games on the schedule including Team USA vs Sweden.
2022 World Junior Championships Predictions
Team USA vs. Sweden
Team USA gets into the heart of the round-robin play finishing up with the other two powerhouses in the group. First up is Sweden on Day Three of the 2022 World Junior Championships. This game will go a long way to determine who will finish first in the group and who will finish third in the group. Team USA is playing back-to-back days after coming off a forfeit result against Team Switzerland on Tuesday. Sweden has a day off after playing back to back to open the tournament and winning both of them. These two teams always play hard against each other. USA defeated Sweden 4-0 last year in the final game of Group B. Again this year both teams are in the same group. So you know Team USA will have to be at their best if they want to defeat Sweden.
Unfortunately for Team USA, they could not play their second game against Switzerland. They had to forfeit the game because of two positive COVID tests within the team. The game against Sweden is still on for now but Team USA may have to forfeit this one as well. We will update you on the situation as things happen with the IIHF.
If Team USA was able to play Switzerland, they would have been able to resolve a lot of issues before this game against Sweden. In Team USA’s 3-win against Slovakia on Sunday, they learned a lesson about finishing teams off. Team USA jumped out to a 3-0 with goals from Matt Knies, Mackie Samoskevich, and Landon Slaggert. Drew Commesso stopped 23 of 25 shots against Slovakia and was named player of the game. He definitely earned that moniker as USA was outshot by Slovakia 14-11 in the third period. Team USA took their foot off the gas pedal allowing Slovakia back into the game.
If they do the same thing against Sweden, they are going to have a lot of issues. This is something hopefully they talked about during the isolation time. Again we have no idea if this game will happen, but Team USA will want to improve on this going forward in this tournament. That seemed to be echoed throughout the coaching staff and players in their post-game press conference. Team USA’s penalty kill which was an issue in their pre-tournament game against Finland was 3-for-4 against Slovakia. That will need to continue as this tournament progresses.
Everything is up in the air at the moment. But Team USA will rely on their defence to guide them especially with captain Jake Sanderson anchoring the backend.
Sweden was outshot by Slovakia in Game Two of their round-robin Group B play. If it was not for the play of Jesper Wallstedt, who stopped all 48 shots he faced, the result might have been a defeat. Instead, Sweden was able to capitalize on mistakes made by the Slovaks to win the game by a score of 3-0. Sweden got goals from Theodor Niederbach, Albert Sjoberg, and Daniel Ljungman. However, just like the United States, Sweden knows it can play better. It was not their “A” game, but they won with their “C” game. They cannot do they against Team USA as they have so much firepower.
Wallstedt is playing the best right now amongst goalies and so is Sweden’s power-play which is so deadly. They have so many options with Alexander Holtz, William Eklund, Oskar Olausson, and others. Team USA will need to stay out of the box if they want to win. But for Sweden, with the streak in the round-robin over, they are playing more relaxed. This group which has six returning players is on a mission to win. Sweden has not won a gold medal since 2012 at this tournament. They have come close so many times but felt heartbreak.
This is going to be a fun game to watch even though it is a late game on the schedule. It is worth staying up for. Team USA and Sweden match up so well. It will come down to special teams and goaltending like these games always do. As well as which team makes the least mistakes. Team USA will rely on their defence, while Sweden will rely on its offensive ability. However, they can play stingy defence as well.
Prediction: Sweden Wins 4-3 in overtime
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