Sweden off to a flying start

Linus Omark's five assists lead Tre Kronor to 7-1 win over Austria.

25.04.2009
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PostFinance Arena Berne  Switzerland

Oliver Setzinger (AUT) trips up Johan Åkerman (SWE), but nothing would stop the Swedes. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHoF-IIHF Images

BERNE – Sweden left nothing to chance in its Group C game against Austria, taking a quick 3-0 lead in the first period, and leaving Austria in the dust. By the time Tre Kronor were done, the score was 7-1.

The script is always the same in the early games of the World Championship. An established hockey nation takes on a smaller one, whose only chance is to defend, defend, and defend, hoping that the longer the game stays goalless, the more frustrated the favourites will become, thus opening a window for an upsetting goal.

Austria’s plans were crashed at 1:37 when Sweden captain Kenny Jönsson got Johan Harju’s rebound and tapped it into a practically open Austrian net. Ten minutes another offensive defenceman, Magnus Johansson, took a cross-ice pass from Martin Thörnberg and one-timed it to the topshelf, beating Bernd Brückler on the glove side.

"To have a chance, we would have needed a good start. Tonight, we had a terrible start," said Austria's head coach Lars Bergström.

"Sweden played really well in the first period. We played better in the second better, even if Sweden also maybe eased up a bit. Had we scored on our powerplay, maybe the game would have looked different," he added.

In the next shift, a Swedish player had once again parked on Brückler’s doorstep. Defenceman Niklas Grossman faked a shot, passed the puck to Marcus Nilsson, who tipped it in from a close range. For Linus Omark, the assist was his third point of the period.

In the second period, Austria breathed new life into an otherwise sleepy game, when Martin Oraze’s slapshot found its way through traffic into the topshelf of the Swedish net, beating crouching Johan Holmqvist on the glove side.

The goal gave Austria new hope, and they peppered the Swedish goal with shots, but Holmqvist turned them all away.

To the disappointment of hopeful Austrian fans, Mattias Weinhandl grabbed Loui Eriksson’s rebound in the line’s first shift in the third period, and slid a backhander between Brückler’s pads to make it 4-1 at 41:22.

"We played well in the first period, maybe we started to do things in a different way, a little more complicated in the second, and let them into the game," Sweden's head coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson said.

"The score, 7-1, doesn’t truly reflect the nature of the game, because Austria played really well, and we had excellent goaltending tonight," he added.

At 47:00, Weinhandl and Tony Mårtensson were at it again. Omark sent a long cross-ice pass to the offensive blueline to Mårtensson, who took the puck deep, then dropped it to Weinhandl, who sent a wristshot to the back of the net.

Two minutes later, Omark was back on the ice - Sweden only dressed 11 forwards - and still hungry for points. His saucer hit the tape of Johan Harju's stick, Harju broke to the net and lifted the puck to the net.

"I couldn't have imagined anything like this before the game. Almost everything I did went right," Omark said.

He also took three penalties, which he shrugged off just as easily.

"Sometimes you're lucky in something, and unlucky in something else," he said.

At the end of the third period, Loui Eriksson showed why he scored 36 goals in the NHL this season when he broke to the slot, and sent a wrist shot to the top shelf, sealing the final score to 7-1. But tonight belonged to Linus Omark, who collected five points in his first World Championship game.

"I've never scored five points before, I think my record in the Swedish Elitserien is four," Omark said, smiling.

RISTO PAKARINEN

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