Swedes going for gold

Team Sweden mobs goaltender Johan Gustafsson after winning their World Junior Hockey Championship...

Team Sweden mobs goaltender Johan Gustafsson after winning their World Junior Hockey Championship semifinal match against Finland in Calgary, Alta., Jan. 3, 2012. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency)

SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:14 PM ET

CALGARY - Never count the Swedes out.

Not when Max Friberg is on the ice.

The slick winger with hands of gold scored his tournament-leading eighth goal with 1:44 left in regulation to force extra time in Tuesday's semifinal against Finland at the 2012 world junior hockey championships.

Then, with the Saddledome crowd lustily booing him, Friberg came through in the shootout to put Sweden into Thursday's gold-medal game (7 p.m., TSN) with a 3-2 win.

It was the second straight third-period rally for the Swedes, who were down 2-0 to the Finns and trailed Russia 3-0 New Year's Eve.

"We did what we had to do after we gave them leads," Friberg said of the Swedes' ability to turn it on when they need it.

"It shows that we have good character to come back both times."

Friberg and Sebastian Collberg scored for the Swedes in the shootout.

Joel Armia, who also scored in regulation time, had the Finns' lone shootout marker and then copied Friberg's celebration by riding past the Swedish bench on his stick.

Finnish forward Mikael Granlund, arguably the top puckhandler in the tournament, needed to score to prolong the shootout but lost the puck and never got a shot off.

The Swedes' comeback spoiled a heroic outing by Finnish goaltender Sami Aittokallio, who made 55 saves in the loss.

"We wanted to win, and we lost," Aittokallio said through post-game tears.

"So it wasn't enough."

Alexander Ruuttu also scored in regulation time for Finland, while William Karlsson replied on a third-period powerplay for Sweden.

Trailing 2-0 early in the third period, the Swedes finally squeezed one past Aittokallio. He made the first save but had the puck go off Karlsson and into the net on Sweden's 38th shot of the game.

Aittokallio made his first mistake late in the game, and it proved costly.

He left the net to play the puck and had his pass picked off by Johan Sundtrom, who centred to Friberg. The tournament's scoring sensation one-timed it into the vacated cage to tie the game at two with 1:44 to play.

The Swedes won the territorial battle in the opening period, outshooting the Finns 14-6, but they went to the dressing room trailing 1-0.

Miro Aaltonen made a great pass from behind the net to Ruuttu, who beat Johan Gustafsson with 1:31 left in the frame.

Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen was, obviously, told to keep a close eye on Friberg.

The Detroit Red Wings prospect twice crushed Sweden's leading scorer and also ran over d-man Jonas Brodin.

Mika Zibanejad, an Ottawa Senators first-rounder, nearly put the Swedes on the board, but his one-timer clanked off the post.

The Finns weren't getting many shots at the other end, but they were efficient.

Armia picked the pocket of Swedish forward Joakim Nordstrom, who was the overtime hero against Russia New Year's Eve, turned around and picked the top corner to give Finland a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes.

scott.fisher@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher


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