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Sweden's remarkable 54-game unbeaten run at world juniors snapped by Russia

Justin Cuthbert
·3-min read

It lasted almost 14 years and spanned more than 5,000 days, but one of the most remarkable records, streaks or accomplishments in the history of the world junior championship is over.

Sweden’s 54-game unbeaten run in the preliminary round of the U20 showcase ended at the hands of Russia on Wednesday night in Edmonton — albeit barely. Sweden dramatically forced overtime with exactly one minute left in regulation to push the game to overtime, but a Russian power play in the bonus period would produce a late winner from Marat Khusnutdinov.

Russia vaults into top spot in Group B with the victory and will secure at least a top-two seed on its side of the bracket when there was an outside possibility that it could tumble down to the fourth slot.

Before Wednesday’s loss, Sweden’s last upset in the tournament’s group stage came on Dec. 31, 2006 versus the United States, when Jack Johnson notched an overtime winner. Fourteen different versions of the Swedish roster have since contributed to the streak, which grew to be twice as long as the next best preliminary round run in the tournament’s near half-century history. All told, 47 of the Swedes’ 54 wins came in regulation, with three decided in overtime and four in the shootout. Had the Swedes pulled off the victory following the equalizer versus Russia, it would have been the fourth time over the balance of the streak that it did not lead at any point in the game before emerging victorious in extra time.

Marat Khusnutdinov of Russia scores the game-winning goal against goaltender Jesper Wallstedt of Sweden at the world juniors. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Marat Khusnutdinov of Russia scores the game-winning goal against goaltender Jesper Wallstedt of Sweden at the world juniors. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

But what is most remarkable about Sweden’s incredible success to begin the last 14 tournaments is that only once did Tre Kroner’s undefeated start extend through the knockout round and result in a gold-medal triumph. Sweden’s one title over the last 14 years came in the 2012, a tournament which also happened to be held in Alberta.

Russia had fallen victim to Sweden seven times over the course of the streak, before exacting revenge. That was the third-most among competing nations and just one loss shy of the most.

Looking forward, the Swedes must quickly overcome the disappointment of being the version of the team to fail to extend the unbeaten run, as they could still have an opportunity to steal the group from the Russians. A regulation victory in the New Year’s Eve nightcap Thursday night versus the United States will be enough to secure top position with one point banked in the overtime loss.

A win Thursday will be hugely important in Sweden’s bid to end a streak of knockout round disappointment, which remains far more important than anything accomplished in the group stages of the event.

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