Czech Republic 1 - Sweden 3
SWEDEN BEATS CZECHS TO TAKE FIFTH PLACE
By George T. Baker | Box Score
Fifth place doesn’t have the same appeal as a gold medal, but leaving the 2006 IIHF World Juniors on a
winning note is still much better than losing your last game.
All the scoring took place in the third period, with Johan Ryno, Niklas Bergfors and Niklas Backstrom
tallying for Sweden, while Tomas Rana replied for the Czechs.
Curiously, defenceman Ladislav Smid was named the Czech Player of the game. The 10,684 fans in attendance knew exactly who they thought was Player of the Game and voiced their opinion when Fiala was named one of the top three Czech players in the tournament afterwards.
“That was a great experience,” said Fiala. “Such a big rink, and so many people. It was great.”
Sweden was still reeling from a 1-0 overtime loss to Tuukka Rask and Team Finland, while the Czechs were looking for redemption after losing to the Americans 2-1 on Monday.
Swedish Head Coach Torgny Bendelin said his players were prepared for whatever the Czechs might throw at them.
“We knew it was going to be tough and it was,” said Bendelin. “We surprised them [in the first meeting] and knew this time they weren’t going to make the same mistakes.” Tre Kronor beat the Czechs 3-2 earlier in Kamloops.
The Swedes wanted to rebound from last year’s tournament in North Dakota, where they finished sixth. Sweden’s last medal was a silver in Boston in 1996.
The Czechs had hoped to improve on last year’s bronze medal finish, but suffered a difficult 2-1 quarter-final defeat versus the USA, and here they looked like they were still reeling. Outshot 21-6 in the second period, the Czechs were very lucky to start the third still tied 0-0.
“We didn’t play so bad in the first period,” said Czech Assistant Coach Jan Votruba. “[In the second] we only played in our own zone, and we didn’t have anything.”
Team Sweden carried the play in the first period, using an effective cycle game that generated chances.
Forty-three seconds into the first period, Fiala robbed Swedish forward Mattias Hellstrom with his left pad after a great slot feed from Erik Andersson.
With under seven minutes left in the first, Bergfors was allowed to walk in from the bottom of the left faceoff circle after Niklas Backstrom beat Michael Frolik on the draw. Bergfors outmaneuvered a Czech defenseman, but Fiala made a blocker save.
In the middle frame, Sweden took complete control of the game. No one was more active than forward Sebastien Karlsson, who had two sure goals ripped away from him by Fiala midway through the period.
On the first opportunity, Fiala stopped a Karlsson shot from the slot with his right pad. The second chance was more glorious than the first, as Karlsson re-directed a shot from the point, but Fiala stuck his left toe out at the last second.
When Sweden finally beat the Czech goalie they couldn’t beat the metal behind him. With less than two minutes to play in the second period, Frederik Pettersson broke in 2-on-1 with Bergfors but his shot hit the left post.
Fortunately for Sweden Fiala wouldn’t continue his dominant play in the third. In less than 20 seconds, he let in two goals he would have loved to have back.
Just under a minute into the third period Johan Ryno stomped to the net and put a weak backhander through Fiala’s five-hole.
Less than thirty seconds after the Ryno goal, Nicklas Bergfors picked a pass from Pettersson, cycled over to the right face off circle and beat Fiala off his glove hand.
“I was starting to wonder when we had like 45 shots in the game and no goals,” said Bergfors. “I got a nice goal but it was lucky.”
“I didn’t see much,” said Fiala. “They hit a couple of posts and it was just a matter of time [before] it was going to go in.”
The Czechs responded at 3:11 of the third. Tomas Kana took a bouncing puck from the hash marks, drove to the net, and put a weak backhander behind Larsson.
The Czechs then pressed for the equalizer but couldn’t find the back of the net. With 48 seconds left, Niklas Backstrom, who had skated hard all night, got a well-deserved goal into an empty net after Fiala was pulled.
By John Kurucz
Czech Republic: The Czechs enter tonight’s contest with a record of two wins and three losses, and are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2-1 setback against Team USA on January 2. While the Swedes defeated the Czech Republic 3-2 in Round Robin play on December 28, the contest could have produced a much more lopsided result if it wasn’t for Radek Fiala’s solid netminding in the second half of the game. Marek Schwarz started the game for the Czech Republic, but was pulled early in the second period after conceding three goals. But who gets the start in tonight’s game is anyone’s guess, as Head Coach Radim Rulik has bounced back and forth between his two goalies. Schwarz, however, did look good against the Americans, posting 29 saves on 31 shots. Forwards Petr Pohl (five points) and David Krejci (six points) have carried the Czechs offensively thus far, and captain Ladislav Smid has been rock-solid on defence. This team’s chance of succeeding would improve if Michael Frolik stepped up a little. The highly touted 17-year-old forward has been a disappointment to date, with only one assist in five games.
Swede: With a respectable three wins and two losses, Tre Kronor must refocus for tonight’s game after a heartbreaking 1-0 overtime loss to Finland two days ago. There, the Swedes were clearly the better team, but ran into a red-hot Finnish goaltender in Tuukka Rask, who made an amazing 53 saves. The Swedes previously defeated the Czechs 3-2 on December 28. Daniel Larsson will likely get the nod in net tonight, and he has put up excellent numbers, including a .951 save percentage, in his three starts. The Swedish backline will be anchored by Oscar Hedman, who has notched four points in five games while posting a very respectable +9 rating. Up front, the Swedes will look to Nicklas Backstrom and Sebastian Karlsson (both with six points) to continue putting up good numbers. But they’ll have to improve upon their dismal power play, which has only capitalized on six of 41 opportunities, to get the upper hand tonight. Whether the Swedes have any more to give after their demoralizing quarter-finals exit will probably decide the outcome of this matchup.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications