By Kris Baker for Sabres.com
Alexander Nylander (2016, first round) and Marcus Davidsson (2017, second round) each notched one assist Thursday as Sweden doubled the United States 4-2 to advance to the gold medal contest at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Sweden hasn't won a medal since 2014, but now they find themselves squaring off with Canada for gold in Friday's tournament finale.
Nylander, who had his feet moving all game long to capture three shots on goal, nearly scored on an excellent chance in the early minutes.
Working on the left side of the ice on the first power play of the game, Nylander darted to the left post and was hit with a back-door feed, but was thwarted by an excellent stop from U.S. goaltender Joseph Woll (TOR).
On the Swedes' third power play in the middle period, Nylander accepted a rimmed puck at the right point, took a few strides along the boards, and slung a cross-ice pass to Elias Pettersson, who rifled a wrist shot high over Woll for the game's first goal.
Thee assist gives Nylander seven points in the tournament (1+6), which ties Pettersson and Lias Andersson (NYR) for the team lead heading into Friday's gold medal game.
Following the semifinal victory, Nylander was named one of Sweden's three best players in the tournament.
For Davidsson, it was another excellent performance in a supporting role that saw him kill penalties, pursue the puck with vigor and apply back pressure that allowed the Swedes' skill players to execute.
A simple support play by Davidsson at his own blue line saw him break up an American power-play zone entry and quickly spring his Djurgarden IF linemate Axel Jonsson-Fjalby with a board pass. Jonsson-Fjalby took the pass in stride and scored short-handed, Sweden's fourth and final goal of the game, to seal the win.
The helper gives Davidsson to three points (1+2) heading into Friday's gold medal tilt.
U.S. scoring star Casey Mittelstadt (2017, first round) was bottled up by the Swedes all game long. It was clear that was Sweden's game plan. Any time the puck came to him, two Swedes converged to take away his time and space. Mittelstadt finished the game without a point for the first time in the tournament.
Mittelstadt pleased the home crowd late in the opening frame when he dangled his way through a defender's legs to get a clean look at the Sweden net, only to whiff on his shot attempt.
Late in the second period while on a power play, Woll sprung Mittelstadt with a long pass as the American's caught the Swedes on a line change. Mittelstadt broke in with two others on a three-on-none rush, but his move to the backhand was stopped by another sharp save from Filip Gustavsson (PIT).
Through six games, Mittelstadt is tied with Czech forward Martin Necas (CAR) for the tournament lead with 10 points (4+6).
In the second semifinal, Vojtech Budik (2016, fifth round) recorded one assist and three shots on goal in 16:17 of work as the Czech Republic was hammered by Canada 7-2.
With the gold medal dream on hold for another year, the Czechs will play for bronze in their quest for their first medal since 2005.
Budik has been consistently strong defensively throughout the tournament, using a smart stick and working to gain body position when defending his goal, but there was no stopping a motivated Canadian club Thursday that came in waves on its way to outshooting the Czechs 39-20.
Midway through the third period, Budik hoisted the puck from deep in his own zone to center ice, where it was scooped up 2018 draft prospect Filip Zadina. Zadina went down and scored his second of the contest.
Budik enters the bronze medal contest five assists, five shots on goal, and a plus-3 rating in six games.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker's website, SabresProspects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@SabresProspects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.