International Ice Hockey Federation

Sweden drops Slovakia

Sweden drops Slovakia

Clinical finishing makes the difference

Published 16.05.2017 15:02 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Sweden drops Slovakia
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 16: Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom #19 skates with the puck while Slovakia's Michal Sersen #8 defends during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The Tre Kronor can still hope for second place in Group A after wrapping up the first phase with victory over Slovakia.

Sweden proved too strong for Slovakia, maintaining its hopes of a second-place finish in Group A. This 4-2 success means the Swedes will take the runner-up spot - and possibly avoid a trip to Paris - unless the USA gains at least a point in this afternoon's game against Russia.

Whoever finishes second, though, must wait for the result of the Germany - Latvia qualification showdown this evening before confirming its travel plans. If the Germans win, they will stay in Cologne for a QF match-up with Canada, meaning the second and third-placed teams from the group would head to France. A Latvian victory would enable the second-placed team to remain in Cologne to prepare for Thursday's playoff action.

Slovakia has repeatedly complained that its results would have been better if it had put away the chances it created throughout the tournament – and the first period underlined that point. Henrik Lundqvist came up with a blocker save to deny Lukas Cingel early in the game, and then made a huge pad stop when Marcel Hascak challenged him in a one-on-one breakout.

Seconds later, though, Sweden showed how it should be done. Play went straight back down the ice and William Nylander displayed some superb skills up close to go backhand then forehand and bamboozle Julius Hudacek before finding the top shelf.

If that was a sucker punch for Slovakia, Sweden’s second had the team cursing its luck. Oliver Ekman-Larsson shot into the glass and couldn’t believe his luck when the puck bounced right back to him in front of the net. With the disc in the air, the D-man produced a shot that a cricketer would be proud of to double his team’s advantage.

"Henrik came up huge for us in the first period," said Sweden's Joel Eriksson Ek. "We took some stupid penalties and put ourselves in a bad position but we played better and better as the game went on so we feel pretty good."

Slovakia had only pride to play for at the end of a frustrating tournament, but continued to fashion chances. Lundqvist made another big save to deny Michal Miklik after Vladimir Dravecky’s great work behind the net but was beaten at last early in the middle session when Tomas Matousek smashed home a shot from the high slot after Pavol Skalicky’s effort was kicked away by the goalie.

Captain Dravecky admitted that he was frustrated to have fallen short of the playoffs, but paid tribute to Sweden's in-form netminder.

"Henrik is one of the best goalies in the world," he said. "We had some chances to score, especially in that first period, but we couldn't because of him."

The Tre Kronor quickly reinstated that two-goal advantage with Dennis Everberg reacting fastest after an offensive face-off and beating Hudacek short side in the 26th minute. That was the end of the goalie’s tournament; Jaroslav Janus came off the bench to replace him and face down a spell of Swedish pressure as the second period wore on. The incoming goalie looked good on his first appearance in Cologne, but rode his luck late in the session when Niklas Backstrom hit the frame of the goal from close range.

Slovak hopes of claiming a morale-boosting result in its final game were reignited two minutes into the final stanza when Andrej Kudrna, one of nine World Championship rookies on Zdeno Ciger’s roster, got his first goal of the competition. The Sparta Prague forward hared away from two D-men to beat Lundqvist high on the stick side.

Sweden pushed forward, looking for the goal that would make the win safe, but Janus was making the most of his brief time on the ice. The HC Litvinov goalie went unbeaten through 34 minutes of action, making 26 saves before he was withdrawn with 1:51 left to play. Slovakia hoped for a tying goal but was undone with 32 seconds on the clock when William Karlsson shot into an empty net to wrap up the victory.

Despite finishing off the group phase with another victory, Sweden's players are looking for more from the team when the knock-out action starts on Thursday.

"We need some better steps if we want to go deep into the playoffs," Eriksson Ek admitted. Meanwhile, Niklas Backstrom added: "Three points is three points, but maybe we're not really satisfied with the way we've been playing. We need to manage the puck a little better, play a little quicker. We're looking forward to doing that in the playoffs."


Back to Overview