By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com
Filip Forsberg’s shootout goal lifted Sweden to a 3-2 win over Switzerland and a second straight IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship gold medal in Copenhagen on Sunday.
Forsberg coolly shot low to the glove side to beat Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni. Oliver Ekman-Larsson also scored earlier in the shootout, as did Switzerland’s Sven Andrighetto. When Swedish netminder Anders Nilsson foiled Nino Niederreiter with his blocker, the celebration was on at Copenhagen’s Royal Arena.
Winning gold via the shootout under head coach Rikard Gronborg has become a habit for the boys in blue and yellow. Tre Kronor last won back-to-back titles in 1991 (Turku) and 1992 (Prague).
In regulation time, Gustav Nyqvist and Mika Zibanejad scored for Sweden. Nino Niederreiter and Timo Meier scored for Switzerland, while Roman Josi added two assists.
The underdog Swiss tragically missed their chance to win their first World Championship ever. While this was a huge achievement after only making the quarter-finals twice in the preceding four years, the loss will still sting for a long time. You just couldn’t come any closer to success.
The defending champions outshot Switzerland 38-27, giving Genoni another busy night after the 3-2 semi-final upset over Canada.
Nilsson, who made the tournament all-star team, entered with a tournament-leading 1.00 GAA and 95.9 save percentage. The towering 28-year-old Lulea native was well-protected in Denmark with an NHL-loaded defence corps, including fellow all-stars Ekman-Larsson and Adam Larsson, but he also rebounded after a lackluster season with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Swedes went wire-to-wire without losing a game. And although the Canadians finished fourth with a disappointing 4-1 bronze medal loss to the United States earlier, the motherland of hockey provided a subtext to this game.
Last year, Nicklas Backstrom got the shootout winner as Sweden edged Canada 2-1 for gold in Cologne. Canada was also the last nation to win back-to-back titles (2015, 2016).
It was a big bounceback for both Sweden and Switzerland after February’s PyeongChang Olympics. There, Germany shocked Switzerland 2-1 in the qualification playoffs and Sweden 4-3 in the quarterfinals, both in overtime.
This was a rematch of the 2013 World Championship final in Stockholm. There, Josi was named tournament MVP with another Cinderella squad, but Tre Kronor triumphed 5-1 with the help of late arrivals Henrik and Daniel Sedin. The victory broke the 27-year-old Worlds “home ice curse,” which dated back to the 1986 Soviet gold medal in Moscow.
This final attracted an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 12,490, dominated by yellow Tre Kronor jerseys, but also featuring lots of Swiss red and cowbells. It was a fitting climax to a tournament that exceeded expectations by selling more than 500,000 tickets.
The Swedes quickly settled into their puck possession groove, but the first good chance went to Niederreiter, who nearly finished off a three-way passing play on the rush by Nilsson’s right post. Seconds later, Viktor Arvidsson, who scored twice in the 6-0 semi-final win over the Americans, got in behind the Swiss defence. He had Genoni beaten with his deke, but backhanded the puck wide through the crease.
At 11:25, Niederreiter took the first penalty when he high-sticked Arvidsson deep in the Swiss zone. The Swedes peppered Genoni with shots, but couldn’t break through.
Atoning for his error, Niederreiter opened the scoring at 16:38. Off a faceoff at the Swedish blue line, Josi carried the puck into the Swiss zone and lost it in a thicket of Swedish defenders, but the Minnesota Wild veteran followed up and pushed it past a surprised Nilsson
Tre Kronor struck back just 1:16 later. With Hornqvist providing the screen in front, Nyqvist knocked down a Mattias Ekhom pass in the high slot and flung the puck over Genoni’s glove. The teams went to the dressing rooms tied 1-1 despite Sweden’s 13-7 edge in shots.
Early in the second period, Nyqvist played the goat when he high-sticked Ramon Untersander, Switzerland’s top-scoring defenceman. The power play looked like it would pass uneventfully – until Enzo found a wide-open Meier streaking down right wing. The San Jose Sharks youngster unleashed a wrister from the faceoff circle that beat Nilsson under his stick arm to make it 2-1 at 3:13. It was the first Swiss shot of the period with 10 seconds left in the man advantage.
Even though the recently retired Sedins aren’t here, the Swedes hemmed Switzerland in with great Sedin-style cycling for long stretches after the midway point. It paid off with Zibanejad’s 2-2 power play goal at 14:53 after Corvi went off for holding. Ekman-Larsson sent the puck cross-ice to the New York Rangers star, and he fired a wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle that sailed home.
Nilsson redeemed himself for the iffy Meier goal when he made huge, back-to-back blocker saves on Sven Andrighetto and Simon Moser in the last two minutes of the middle frame. At the other end, Genoni came out to stop Arvidsson’s slap shot on a 2-on-1 rush just before the buzzer.
The third period was cautiously played until Swedish captain Mikael Backlund stole the puck from Meier at centre and burst in for a backhand attempt. Josi hauled him down as Genoni made a left pad save, and the Swedish power play went to work again at the seven-minute mark. Solid positional play denied the Swedes.
However, in a weird sequence, Josi went straight back into the penalty box because he had failed to exit it completely. He got an interference play for touching the puck while still standing inside the penalty box gate. Outraged by the call, the Swiss fans whistled deafeningly.
On the ensuing man advantage, Ekman-Larsson exploded down the middle on a solo rush and got shaken up when he crashed into the goal post and the end boards. However, the Arizona Coyotes workhorse would carry on. The Swedes got one more mind-blowing chance in the final minute of the third when Ekholm streaked in unopposed, but couldn’t beat Genoni.
Ekman-Larsson also had a superb chance near the eight-minute mark of overtime when Rakell found him with a back pass on the rush, but Genoni was there again as Ekman-Larsson went flying over a Swiss defender. A few minutes later, the Swiss goalie made a great glove grab on John Klingberg’s quick release from the high slot.
The Swiss came within a hair’s-breadth of victory when Kukan centered it from behind the goal line to Fiala in the slot, forcing Nilsson into a stunning glove save. At the other end, Larsson hammered one off the goal post with under three seconds left in sudden-death.
Prior to 2013’s silver, all the Swiss World Championship medals came prior to the modern era of international hockey that kicked off with the Soviet Union’s golden 1954 Worlds debut: silver in 1935, and bronze in 1930, 1937, 1939, 1950, 1951, and 1953.
With Sweden and Switzerland facing off for gold twice in six years, this could mark a new rivalry in international hockey. Where will it go next? Can the Swedes three-peat? Will the Swiss be back for more? Join us again for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia (Bratislava and Kosice).