A golden rematch
by Andy Potts|20 MAY 2018
Sweden's Viktor Arvidsson tries to score on Swiss goalie Leonardo Genoni.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
A Sweden vs Switzerland gold medal game immediately evokes memories of 2013. The 5-1 victory for Tre Kronor in Stockholm shattered the notorious ‘home ice curse’ at World Championships, while Switzerland’s run to a silver medal was a history-maker, ending a 60-year wait for hardware.
Five years on, the two will meet again in Copenhagen. This time, though, the Swiss are looking to be more than a brave runner-up.

Nino Niederreiter was part of that 2013 roster – and he has unfinished business with the Swedes after losing the final in Stockholm.

“The toughest memory was seeing them wearing those gold medals after they won,” said the 25-year-old. “That’s something that still hurts. Hopefully tomorrow we can do the same thing to them.
“Five years ago it was such a huge moment for Swiss hockey. Sometimes you never know if that’s ever going to happen again but now we’re here again. It’s terrific for us, it’s a big stepping stone for Swiss hockey and that’s something we can be very proud of but it is a big game and we have to get up, play with confidence and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Nino Niederreiter
Swiss forward
The teams met earlier in the competition, with Sweden winning a group phase game 5-3. Since then, Mattias Ekholm and Filip Forsberg have come into the Tre Kronor line-up, but Switzerland pushed hard throughout that game, almost managing to claw back a 0-3 deficit before falling in the final minutes. Niederreiter remembers a difficult opponent, but not an invincible one.

“They’re a great team, highly skilled,” he added. “It’s going to be a tough game. But we have to focus on us, try to do the little things that make us successful and go from there.”

For Kevin Fiala, meanwhile, 2013 is a date with different implications – but still with a strong Swedish accent. The Nashville forward, now 21, moved to Sweden that season to join the Malmo Redhawks system. Five years later he’s preparing for his first major final and, fittingly, it’s against the Swedes and just a 20-minute ride from his old home arena in Malmo.

“I love playing Sweden,” he said. “I moved there when I was 16 so it’s going to be a really big game for me. But I’m just going to focus on my game and try to win.”

Switzerland has gone under the radar for much of this tournament. In 2013, it blazed through the group stage without losing a game; here it produced some battling performances against the Group A favourites but still had to beat France in its final qualifying game to secure a quarter-final berth. Then, it all changed. Wins over Finland and Canada dismissed two highly-fancied teams. Leonardo Genoni impressed between the piping and a hard-working roster showed a great willingness to dig in and do the hard yards to neutralise the threat of players like Connor McDavid and Sebastian Aho. The goal threat has been shared around: Sven Andrighetto (2+7) and Timo Meier (1+5) are going for a point a game, 25-year-old Lugano forward Gregory Hofmann leads the goal scoring with four, including the crucial 2-1 goal in last night’s win over Canada.
SWE/SUI best semi-final goals
20 MAY 2018
For Sweden, blessed with a powerful offence and riding goaltending from Anders Nilsson that has come as a revelation to those who watched him struggle in Vancouver this season, it’s also a chance to do something special. Repeat champions are rare, but Rikard Gronborg’s team has been flawless so far in Copenhagen and has the feel of a gold-medal team.

For Magnus Paajarvi, back in World Championship action for the first time since 2011, this roster is better than the silver- and bronze-winning teams he played on in the past.
“Yes, it’s the best Swedish team I’ve ever been on. I think we’re fairly young but we’re established players. We’re not that many older guys but we still have a lot of experience in the team. It’s nice, we know each other really well and we’re working well together, but we’ve got one more game.”
Magnus Paajarvi
Swedish forward
Depth and aggression are making the difference, according to the players. Reinforced with arrivals from North America during the tournament, Sweden poses a threat throughout the roster.

Gustav Nyquist said: “I think a big part of it, we’re a deep team. We’ve got good guys all the way throughout the line-up. We can roll four lines, three D pairings so that’s been a big thing for us.”

Mattias Ekholm is another who is excited by the talented roster Sweden has brought across the Oresund. “I don’t think there’s much secret to it to our success so far,” he said. “Look at the roster, look at the line-up, look at the players who are here and see the energy, the speed that we play with. I think we’re a tough team to beat.”

That energy and aggression, triggering offensive explosions not always associated with Sweden’s game, is something that the team has learned from games where it struggled to put the opposition away. Those include the quarter-final against Latvia (3-2) and perhaps also that group game against the Swiss.

Paajarvi added: “We need to be aggressive. We weren’t that aggressive against Latvia, we were a little bit tight. Against the USA we said we needed to release and it’s true, we’re really good when we play aggressive hockey.”

The key component, without doubt, is the first line. Between them, Mika Zibanejad, Rickard Rakell and Mattias Janmark have shared 34 points in nine games. Second-line scoring from Mikael Backholm and Adrian Kempe has also been significant and there have been handy contributions from airlift additions: Viktor Arvidsson has three goals in four games, Patric Hornqvist two in four.

At the back, Anders Nilsson got hot at just the right time: his 41 saves in the 6-0 blanking of the USA in the semi-final recorded his third shut-out in six games here. He’s stopping more than 95% of the shots he’s facing to maintain a GAA of just one. That’s a big bounce back after suffering a GAA of 3.46 with the Canucks, his worst career season by that indicator.

For both of these teams, history beckons. By the end of Sunday night, we'll know which new chapter is going down in the record books.