International Ice Hockey Federation

Swedes blow Slovaks away

Swedes blow Slovaks away

Berggren four points, Sweden to face Finns in SF

Published 26.04.2018 18:40 GMT+5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Swedes blow Slovaks away
MAGNITOGORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 26: Sweden's Jonatan Berggren #17 celebrates with Nikola Pasic #22 after scoring on team Slovakia during quarterfinal round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Jonathan Berggren scored twice and added two assists to lead Sweden to a 6-1 quarter-final win over Slovakia. The Swedes will face Finland in the semi-finals.

"Everybody was on," said Berggren. "Everybody wanted to play. We took the puck to the net. I think that was the most important thing."

The Swedes are playing for a medal for the fourth time in the last five years. They’ve never won gold, and their last medal was silver under curent head coach Torgny Bendelin in 2016. So their motivation as they leave Magnitogorsk for Chelyabinsk will be high, especially against their Nordic archrival.

"I think the Finns have a good PP, so we must be disciplined," said Berggren.

Nikola Pasic added a goal and an assist, and Marcus Westfalt, David Gustafsson and Lukas Wernblom also scored for Sweden. Three of the goals came with the man advantage.

"I think we played maybe 53, 54 minutes of great hockey," said Bendelin. "Only a couple of minutes at the end of the first period, I think we were a little bit down. Otherwise, very good. Power play was much better. Everybody chipped in, which was very important. I’m really satisfied."

Marcel Dlugos replied for Slovakia, which finishes in the top eight for the sixth consecutive year. The Slovaks competed hard throughout the tournament, but were simply overmatched here. Maxim Cajkovic, who entered the game as the tournament scoring leader (4-7-11), was held pointless.

"We had a bad start and it's a tough, tough loss," said Cajkovic. "We just couldn't reach the level of our past games. It was a good tournament for us, but we just lost the wrong game. They [Sweden] are good skaters and they punished us for every mistake."

Swedish starting goalie Olof Lindbom earned the win versus Slovakia's Samuel Vyletelka. Shots favored Sweden 41-25.

The only preliminary-round blemish on Sweden’s record was losing 3-2 to Canada in overtime. But Bendelin’s team bounced back in style.

The Swedes had to deliver a disciplined effort to make sure they came out on top, and for the most part, they did. The Slovaks entered this game as the tournament’s hottest power-play team (36.84 percent) after capitalizing three times in their wild 6-5 shootout loss to host Russia.

At 5:20, Westfalt opened the scoring by whacking home a rebound as the Swedes buzzed around the net. Lindbom stoned Sebastian Cederle with the left pad when he got behind the Swedish defence, but Slovak chances were rare as shots favored the Smakronorna 15-7 in the first period.

"I think we played a solid game, 60 minutes," said Lindbom. "We were the better team the whole game. It was fun to play out there. They were a good team, but I think we were a lot better. Everyone is trying to block shots."

In the second, Sweden went up 2-0 on the power play at 9:19 with Pasic cruising in from the left point and flipping a long shot past Vyletelka’s blocker. The goal seemed to deflate Slovakia as the game turned into a Swedish shooting gallery.

At 14:38, Berggren grabbed the puck off the right wall, dipsy-doodled his way into the slot, and fed it back to Gustafsson, who fired it home from the faceoff circle for a 3-0 lead.

The Swedish discipline waned late in the second when the blue-and-yellow kids started taking stick fouls. The Slovaks frequently found themselves crumpled on the ice. With Tobias Bjornfot off for cross-checking and Jacob Olofsson off for slashing, the Slovaks got a 5-on-3, and Dlugos sent a howitzer past Lindbom through traffic to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 17:37.

With just two seconds left in the middle frame, Berggren notched the 4-1 back-breaker when Pasic found him on the doorstep and he shovelled the puck past Vyletelka.

At 5:16 of the third, the Swedes got some insurance when Wernblom scored on a breakaway. On a sweet solo jaunt, Berggren added his fifth of the tournament with 2:24, putting an inside-out move on Dlugos before scoring the 6-1 marker on Vyletelka.

Looking ahead to the Finns, Lindbom said: "I think we want to be more consistent. In the offensive zone, we’ve got to score some more goals. We got a lot of chances today, and I think it could have been like 10-0 or something."

Slovakia’s U18 program has been on the upswing in recent years. At this tournament, it improved from ninth in 2013 to fifth in 2016, finishing sixth last year. However, the medal drought continues. The Slovaks took bronze in 1999 and silver in 2003 and haven’t touched the podium since.

"Overall we just couldn't play as good as we did in the last games," said Daniel Tkac. "It's a big disappointment, but it was a good tournament for us."

Bendelin wrapped up his comments with kind words for the local organizers: "This was the last game for us here in Magnitogorsk. This is very important: all the people have treated us fantastic. We had great days in the city. The hotel has been wonderful, the food has been great, the arena is fantastic. I’ve been in seven world junior championships, three for U18, and four for U20. The crowd we had here, I’ve never seen that before. It’s fantastic support, fantastic fans. I wish we could take them to Chelyabinsk."

 

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