International Ice Hockey Federation

Swedes bring home bronze

Swedes bring home bronze

Three power play goals in victory over Czechs

Published 29.04.2018 20:28 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Swedes bring home bronze
CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 29: Sweden players and staff celebrate after a 5-2 bronze medal game win against the Czech Republic at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Sweden captured its fourth IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship bronze medal of all time with a solid 5-2 win over the Czechs on Sunday in Chelyabinsk.

"It’s tough to lose a semi-final and play a game the day after, but I’m very proud of the guys," said David Gustafsson. "I think everyone did a great game, and I think we were a better team than the Czech Republic."

Captain Adam Ginning and Nikola Pasic had a goal and an assist apiece for Sweden, which never trailed. Oskar Back, Marcus Westfalt and Filip Johansson added singles. Gustafsson racked up three assists and Axel Andersson had a pair.

"There were some periods in the game where we didn’t play the way we wanted, but on the whole, it was a good game for us," said Swedish goalie Olof Lindbom.

Karel Plasek and Michal Teply replied for the Czech Republic, which generated many more chances than it could capitalize on.

In front of 5,813 enthusiastic spectators, the Swedes did what they do best: build a lead methodically and sustain it. They won the special teams battle with their power play, which clicked three times.

Here in Russia, the Czechs haven’t scored more than two goals versus anyone but France. Unsurprisingly, they couldn't do it against coach Torgny Bendelin’s boys – even with 40 shots on goal and with star Swedish defenceman Adam Boqvist out after suffering a concussion against the Americans.

"All tournament, we have had trouble scoring against top teams and this is what happened today, too," said Czech coach David Bruk. "Skill, puck control, confidence, getting the shots on, we don't have enough of all of this."

Bendelin will leave the U18 program on a good note. "This is my last year for Swedish junior hockey," said the 61-year-old, whose coaching career dates back to 1982. "I’m going to finish. It’s been really great. I’ve really enjoyed the work. I almost love every day in this job. But everything has an end. I’m going to quit now and do a little bit different things in hockey. But we’ll leave that today because I want to celebrate with the team."

Sweden also earned bronze in 2000, 2005, and 2007. The Smakronorna, who have never won U18 gold, also own five silvers (1999, 2010-12, 2016). While today's victory didn't make up for falling 2-0 to archrival Finland in the semi-final, it was better than going home empty-handed.

The Czechs fell short in their quest for their first medal since 2014’s surprising silver. Their only three previous medals were bronze (2002, 2004, 2006). Regardless, coming fourth is a nice step up after losing in the quarter-finals at eight out of the last nine tournaments.

"I am happy with the final standings," said Bruk. "The fourth place is pretty good for us. I am happy with the players born in 2001. They got some good experience here. I think we have a lot of potential to grow."

"Our plan is to play as a team because we don't have the same individual talent as our opponents," said the Czech Republic's Martni Has. "We need to block shots. This is the way we can win. I think in this tournament, we did it pretty well."

Lindbom, who has been the backbone of this Swedish team, shone again with 38 saves, many on Grade A chances.

"It means a lot," said Lindbom. "It would be so sad if we came in fourth place. Everyone was so excited to give it their best today. We got the win, so it feels great."

Czech backup Daniel Dvorak made 33 saves, while Lukas Dostal, who totalled 76 saves in the 2-1 quarter-final win over Canada and the 4-1 semi-final loss to the Americans, got the afternoon off.

Back opened the scoring at 4:48, swivelling in front of Dvorak to tip Ginning’s left point shot home for his first of these U18 Worlds.

At 8:17, Sweden went up 2-0 on its first power play. After the Czech netminder stopped Jonatan Berggren’s rising shot, Gustafsson sent it from the goal line cross-crease to Pasic, who made no mistake.

Halfway through the first period, Vojtech Kropacek got a partial breakaway while shorthanded, but shot high and wide. Yet at 13:42, the Czechs got some life on their first power play when Plasek got his stick on captain Libor Zabransky’s centre point shot and then banged the puck past Lindbom to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Not long after Matej Blumel slipped through the Swedish defence on another shorthanded break and forced Lindbom to make the save, Westfalt restored Sweden’s two-goal lead at 16:17 with the man advantage. He shoveled a loose puck past Dvorak in a goalmouth scrum.

Gustafsson hailed the Swedish power play: "We worked a lot on it and it was much better today than it was at the start of the tournament."

Refusing to quit, the Czechs made it 3-2 at 5:57 of the second period. Kropacek centered it from behind the net, and at close range, Teply forced it under Lindbom’s pad.

However, the Swedes settled the game down and soon made it 4-2 on the power play. Jacob Olofsson scooted down the right side and centered it on his backhand from behind the goal line. Samuel Fagemo misfired in front but Johansson was there to whack the lose puck inside Dvorak's right post.

With just over six minutes left in the middle frame, Lindbom stopped Adam Gajarsky on a breakaway with a superb left skate save.

"I actually thought he was going blocker side, and then he changed his mind in the last second," Lindbom said. "I just put out my skate and it hit it."

At 5:31 of the third period, it was 5-2 Sweden as Ginning blew a high one past Dvorak. A Czech comeback now seemed as unlikely as a bicycle outracing a Skoda. And so it proved to be. Lindbom denied Plasek on the last quality Czech chance with a minute left.

Of Bendelin, Lindbom added: "He’s always obviously great. He’s got about 37 years of coaching experience. He knows what he’s doing. He keeps us confident and it’s really important. He’s a great person outside the rink as well."

"We have a very solid, talented team with a lot of skilled players," Bendelin said. "I’ve been working many, many years for the junior hockey. I had [Nicklas] Backstrom 12 or 14 years ago. I can see the same level in the players here. It’s a matter of how they prepare, how they train, how they adjust, how they develop. But they have a great future if they want."

Sweden will shoot for its first gold ever when it hosts the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Ornkoldsvik and Umea.

 

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