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Canada falls to Sweden 2-0 in group play at World Juniors

Hugo Havelid made 21 saves in Sweden’s 2-0 victory over Canada at the world junior hockey championship on Friday.

Tom Willander and Noah Ostlund scored for the tournament hosts, who clinched top spot in Group A with a trio of shutouts. Theo Lindstein had two assists.

Mathis Rousseau made 22 stops in his third straight start for Canada, which sits second in the pool after winning its first two contests at the under-20 event.

The Canadians are looking to capture a third straight gold medal minus a boatload of NHL talent — including the record-breaking Connor Bedard — while Sweden hasn’t won since 2012.

Click to play video: 'NS junior hockey players head to world championships'

NS junior hockey players head to world championships

Canada beat Finland 5-2 on Tuesday and Latvia 10-0 on Wednesday. Sweden topped Latvia 6-0 on Tuesday before also shutting out Germany 5-0 on Thursday.

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Sweden opened the scoring 1:53 into the second period after Matthew Poitras, who joined Canada from the Boston Bruins, couldn’t clear the defensive zone. The puck made its way to Willander, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick, and he fired past Rousseau with defenceman Noah Warren screening his goaltender.

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Passed over in the last two NHL drafts, Rousseau did his best to keep the Canadians down one with a couple of huge stops, including one on Jonathan Lekkerimaki — another Vancouver prospect.

But Lekkerimaki kept the puck in at the offensive blue line on the same sequence and took a shot that Rousseau couldn’t squeeze before Ostlund slid the rebound home at 10:39.

Click to play video: '3 Halifax Mooseheads players named to Team Canada’s World Junior squad'

3 Halifax Mooseheads players named to Team Canada’s World Junior squad

Canada, which beat Sweden 5-1 on New Year’s Eve at the 2023 tournament in Halifax when Bedard had four assists, shook up its forward lines looking for a spark.

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Matthew Savoie moved in on a breakaway only to lose the puck before Macklin Celebrini, who entered as the tournament’s scoring leader after putting up a goal and four assists against Latvia, was stopped on a one-timer in the dying seconds of the period.

Canada got its first power play eight minutes into the third, but Celebrini hit the post before Havelid stopped Fraser Minten.

Owen Beck — the only returnee from last year — was crunched into the boards by Sweden’s Zeb Forsfjall and stayed down before briefly heading to the locker room. The officials initially called a penalty, but overturned the call following video review.

Canada got another power play with under six minutes remaining in regulation, but the disjointed No. 1 unit again couldn’t find the range.

The North Americans were subsequently whistled for a botched goalie pull that ended up in a penalty for too many players on the ice that sealed Sweden’s win.

Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 3,500 Canadians have made the trek to this city on Sweden’s west coast for the annual showcase, but the red-clad contingent was a loud minority inside an electric Scandinavium arena Friday.

A physical first saw the teams trade early chances, including a breakaway for Canada’s Carson Rehkopf.

Minten was assessed a double minor for high-sticking, but the penalty kill and Rousseau held firm, including an outstanding toe save from the goaltender on Liam Ohgren that impressed Swedish legend Henrik Lundqvist in the stands.

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Sweden thumped Canada — Celebrini and 13th forward Matthew Wood were on that roster — twice at the under-18 world championships back in April, including an 8-0 demolition in the final. Nine of the Swedes from that team dressed Friday.

The 17-year-old posted the 32nd five-point game for Canada at the world juniors in that whitewash of Latvia.

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The former New York Rangers netminder was honoured before puck drop as the latest inductee into Sweden’s Hockey Hall of Fame.

Canada meets Germany in its final group game Sunday, while Sweden takes on rival Finland.

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