Sweden shuts out rival Finns

February, 22, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- By the time Super Sunday at the Olympic hockey tournament reached the Sweden-Finland matchup, much of the drama had evaporated.

Well, sort of.

By virtue of the Swedes' 3-0 victory over their longtime archrivals, the upstart Americans moved past Sweden to the top of the rankings after the preliminary round thanks to their 3-0 record and better goals for/against record.

The implication of this is significant. The Americans will now play the winner of a qualification game Tuesday between Belarus and Switzerland. With all due respect to the Swiss and the boys from Belarus, it is by far the easier of the quarterfinal opponents for the United States, at least on paper.

That was not lost on the Finns, who could have earned the top seed themselves had they not lost Sunday night. Both the Swedes and Finns were 2-0 heading into Sunday's action and both had been guaranteed a spot in Wednesday's quarterfinals.

"It would have definitely been the easier path had we won tonight," Finnish forward Antti Miettinen said.

"It's disappointing. Our power play is awful. Their power play was good and that was the difference," added Olli Jokinen.

"We've got to put this game behind and move on," said Jokinen, who wasn't even sure when the Finns would play again. "Our focus was to win tonight."

The Finns' loss sets up what will likely be a quarterfinal matchup with the Czech Republic, barring an upset by Latvia (the 12th-place team in the group). Either way, the Finns will be shorthanded in the quarters. Defenseman Joni Pitkanen was ejected and automatically suspended for a game after his head check on Patric Hornqvist, who did not return to the game after the infraction midway through the second period.

Although the Swedes have not been overpowering offensively, they have been stingy on the back end, allowing just three goals through the first three games and shutting out opponents twice.

"I think we're happy," said Daniel Alfredsson said. "We've done a good job so far. Now we get two days to regroup before the quarterfinal and it's exciting to be there."

Alfredsson, the Ottawa Senators' captain, managed to catch some of the two earlier games.

"Both games I thought were played really well, especially Canada/U.S. They were going at each other pretty good. I was just thinking if you're a hockey fan, it's a treat to get to watch all these games."

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer



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