December 31, 2010
Swedes maintain confidence
By RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency
BUFFALO — There’s a reason the Swedes didn’t yield after the Canadians started hammering them physically in the first period.
There’s a reason they didn’t fold the tent after falling behind with the big crowd at the HSBC Arena cheering everything the Canadians did.
“This is not your typical Swedish team,” said massive goalie Robin Lehner, the Ottawa Senators prospect. “I don’t want to sound cocky or anything because it’s a huge thing for us to beat Canada, but we’re not surprised by this result.
“This is a confident, physical group. We play hard at both ends of the ice. We don’t get down on ourselves. Nothing had to be said in the room. We knew what to do and Roger (head coach Ronnberg) is a big part of that for us.
“I didn’t think Canada had a lot of great chances but they capitalized on the ones they did.”
No one’s confidence grew as the game went on more than the 6-foot-3, 220-pound puckstopper.
Lehner gave up a goal on Canada’s first shot. He whiffed on another try from Quinton Howden.
“Their first one wasn’t a goal,” he said. “They had a guy (Marcus Foligno) right on top of me. I don’t think it should’ve counted. The second one, I should’ve had and would’ve liked to have back. Their third, I never expected the puck to hit the glass and bounce back in front. I thought it would go in the corner or something.
“That was bad luck and there’s nothing you can really do.”
It could’ve crushed him. In that forgettable first, Lehner skated out to shove Ryan Johansen after the Canadian forward dumped young Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson.
He looked ready to boil over.
But in crunch time, he outplayed Canada’s Olivier Roy.
He stopped Brayden Schenn and captain Ryan Ellis in the shootout.
“After their fifth goal, I thought I made a couple of important saves,” Lehner said, “and then, the shootout, of course, I felt good about it. The Ellis one, he had me beat but I think with my size and confidence, I was able to get over in time and change what he wanted to do.”
The Swedes, Canadian forward Curtis Hamilton felt, weren’t much different than the team they played at the Air Canada Centre in a pre-tournament test 11 days ago.
“We were just on our heels a little too much in the second period,” he said, “and they took advantage of it. That’s all it was. We needed to dig in there and keep going forward.”
In that 4-1 loss in Toronto, undisciplined Sweden gave up 10 powerplay chances. This time, they only took three penalties — all in the third period.
But they became accustomed to playing in front of the Canadian crowd. They learned from their mistakes. Former Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin spoke to the players and told them what hockey was like in Canada and what to expect in Buffalo.
“We did a good job (keeping emotions in check) this time,” Lehner said. “We stayed with it. It’s a huge win for Swedish hockey. It’s always tough to beat the Canadians but we knew we could do it.”