It wasn’t the blowout many expected, but Sweden still earned a convincing 5-3 victory over Latvia on Saturday to complete its sweep of Group C and secure no worse than a second seed in the playoffs.
Latvia played with a lot of tenacity and frequently challenged Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, but the Latvians also lacked discipline and that proved to be their downfall. Sweden’s first four goals were all scored with the man advantage. With several of the Swedes’ top forwards gone, they also relied on their depth to carry them through this contest as five different players found the back of the net: Patrick Berglund, Erik Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Alex Edler and Jimmie Ericsson.
Ericsson, a 33-year-old Swedish league forward playing on a team full of NHL talent, ended up the hero today by scoring the game-winning goal.
Latvian netminder Kristers Gudlevskis surrendered five goals on 29 shots, but was solid in spite of the scoresheet. The 21-year-old netminder serving in Tampa Bay’s minor league system made some impressive saves in this contest, even if the end result wasn’t pretty.
With this win, Sweden will wait for the conclusion of the Finland vs. Canada match on Sunday to find out where they will finish in the rankings. They are already guaranteed to advance to the quarterfinals but, with a goal differential of just plus-five, Sweden won’t be able to rank higher than the winner of the Canada-Finland game if either of them get three points.
Therefore, Sweden needs to hope that the contest goes to overtime.
Latvia, meanwhile, lost all three of its group matches but with a goal differential of just minus-five, it has a good shot of finishing with the 10th seed, which is the highest among the last-place teams.