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Sweden Moves Ahead With 5-2 Win

By David Ginsburg
AP Sports Writer
Monday, February 16, 1998; 7:13 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — Just in case anyone has forgotten, Sweden is the defending Olympic hockey champion and still a bonafide threat to win another gold medal.

The Swedes made that perfectly clear today, getting a goal and an assist from Niklas Sundstrom in a decisive 5-2 victory over Belarus.

Sweden will play Finland on Wednesday in the single-elimination quarterfinals. Belarus lost its three round-robin games by a combined 15-4 score, will face Russia.

Sweden finished the round-robin portion with a 2-1 record, the lone blemish a 3-2 loss to Canada. Although Canada (3-0) established itself as the team to beat by outscoring its opponents 12-3, the Swedes appear primed for the challenge of defending their title.

Mikael Andersson and Ulf Dahlen helped Sweden take control with first-period goals, and New York Islanders goaltender Tommy Salo, who starred in the 1994 Olympics, had 21 saves.

Andersson gave Sweden a 1-0 lead at 10:06 by breaking loose in the Belarus zone, faking left and lifting a backhander past goaltender Andrei Mezin.

Seconds later, Belarus' Andrei Skabelka had a breakaway and tried the same tactic against Salo, who deftly kicked the shot aside.

Dahlen then took a pass from Tomas Sandstrom, skated down the right side and put the puck under Mezin's pads at 11:22 of the period.

Salo again stopped a breakaway with four minutes gone in the second period, and at 10:36 Sundstrom made it 3-0 by taking a crisp lead-pass from Peter Forsberg and scoring on a wrist shot from the left circle.

Belarus finally scored with 41 seconds left in the period. As a 5-on-3 Belarus advantage was expiring, Igor Matushkin snapped a 25-foot slap shot past Salo's extended glove.

Mats Sundin made it 4-1 with 9:41 remaining, lifting a shot past the fallen Mezin as Belarus captain Alexander Andrievsky was leaving the penalty box.

Vladimir Tsyplakov got a power-play goal for Belarus with 6:16 to go, but Mikael Renberg scored 52 seconds later to restore the three-goal margin.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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