BERNE—Mattias Weinhandl and Dick Tarnstrom broke a goalless tie with power-play goals in the second period to help Sweden to a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in quarterfinals action Thursday in Berne.
Jonas Gustavsson stopped 33 of 34 shots in a game that featured 22 minor penalties and nearly 26 minutes of power-play time.
Tre Kronor will now face Canada in the late semi-final on May 8 in Berne, the winner earning a berth in the gold medal game on Sunday night.
"The biggest thing today is that we shut down the Czech offence," opined Marcus Nilsson. "We did it so well that the only goal they scored was on our five-on-three. We outworked them, and our defence stepped up."
The first period was goalless and memorable only as a workout for the respective teams’ power-play and penalty-killing units. The teams combined for nine minors in the opening 20 minutes, yet neither side could open the scoring with the extra man.
The result was that both teams played their top two lines more than the coaches would have liked, while many players on the third and fourth lines skated for no more than two or three paltry minutes. Flow? Forget it. End-to-end action? Not this chukker. In all, more than half the period was played with one team down a man.
The one thing the first period lacked was a five-on-three advantage, but the Swedes got just such a deal early in the second—and they capitalized. Mattias Weinhandl’s wrist shot on his off wing beat goalie Jakub Stepanek to the short side at 3:53 to open the scoring, the eleventh penalty of the game.
Moments later, at the other end, Ales Hemsky missed a wide-open net with Jonas Gustavsson down and out, and on the counterattack seconds later Weinhandl missed a one-timer with an open net. As the period progressed, the Swedes became more and more confident and took play to the Czechs, generating several good scoring chances, but Stepanek held his ground and kept the game within reach.
The Swedes scored their second goal in similar fashion to their first late in the period. They were on a power play, and Weinhandl drilled a one-timer at Stepanek from the left side. This time the goalie made the save but he left a rebound just out of reach. Dick Tarnstrom poked the loose puck over the goal line.
"That goal was huge for us," Anton Stralman said.
Jaromir Jagr had a great chance to get one back early in the third on a Czech power play, but his quick redirect of a pass was stopped beautifully by the right skate of Gustavsson. A little later, Patrik Elias ripped a shot off the post that Gustavsson didn’t see but heard after the fact.
The Czechs made a game out of it midway through the third period with the rarest goal in hockey, one scored while playing two men down. The Swedes made two egregious errors at the same time, a bad giveaway at the Czech blueline and a sloppy line change, giving the Czechs a two-on-one. Tomas Rolinek made a perfect pass to Petr Cajanek, who beat Gustavsson between the legs.
Alas, this was as close as they'd get. Kenny Jonsson's point shot eluded Stepanek shortly after the goalie made a stunning pad save on Weinhandl, giving the Swedes a two-goal cushion again with just two minutes left to play.
"It was important not only to get the lead but to play with it," said Stralman of his team's performance in the third period.
Tre Kronor advances to the semi-finals against Canada, and the Czechs are going home with a sixth-place finish.
"I haven't seen much of Canada in his tournament, but they're Canada, and they're always among the best and always working hard," Stralman offered. "They'll no doubt challenge our goalie."