Sweden claims fifth place
by Chapin Landvogt|01 JAN 2020
Sweden's Julia Tarnblom, Vilma Nilsson and Maria Lindberg try to shoot at goal as Czech players Viktorie Svejdova and Viktorie Chladova try to block.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
In a game played as part of the jostle for positioning for official rankings and future tournament groupings, Sweden and the Czech Republic faced off for fifth place at the Women’s U18 World Championships. It’s safe to say that neither team felt this is where it should have been in this tournament, each better suited for a playoff spot that never materialized, the young women faced with the same pride and tenacity they would for any game played in their nation’s colours.

What the game then went on to miss was something that was likely a good reason as to why these two nations were here in the first place: a lack of goals! The first 40 minutes of the game came and went with nary a goal and just five minor penalties, two of which were actually coinciding. Be it several strong saves or the tight checking and strong defensive plays or the lack of consequence when offensive opportunities arrived, the teams just couldn’t remove those two big zeroes from the scoreboard.

By the time the third period swung around, there was a feeling in the air that whoever could manage to put a puck in the net first would end up as the evening’s winner. And that’s exactly how both teams went to work. The intensity picked up, and more and more opportunities were created, then ultimately stifled, several times even by posts. There was plenty of pushing and shoving, especially in the goalmouth regions at both ends of the ice. Eventually that led to a power play opportunity in the 48th minute, seeing Czech captain Daniela Pejsova head to the penalty box for crosschecking.

What ensued was a decisive power play.

Moving the puck well, but failing to get strong shots on net, the righty shooting Ida Karlsson brought a hard shot-pass to the slot and right onto the blade of Lova Blom, who tipped the puck past Viktorie Svejdova, who herself plays her club hockey for MoDo in Sweden. It was a goal from which the Czech Republic would not return.

As of that point in time, the puck only seemed to head in one direction, that of the Czech goal. Admittedly, Svejdova was able to eat up shot after shot, even stopping three separate breakaway attempts, but it was all for naught as her teammates just couldn’t put any dangerous pucks on her counterpart Ida Boman.

Well, not until Pejsova hit the crossbar with a clean bullet from the point with just 50 seconds to go in the game. Some gasps could be heard around the arena, but they’d be the last of the evening.

As the game concluded, the Tre Kronor had managed to wrap up a hard-fought 1-0 victory and fifth place in the tournament standings.

"This game seemed like more of a battle than actual hockey", stated  Czech Republic head coach Pavel Zuziak. "You could just tell that whoever would score that first goal was probably going to win. Then we gave it up while shorthanded, which decided things."

"I'm happy though with my team", he added. "We had a solid tournament and won the round robin for our group. Our main goal was to get to the semi-finals, but then we lost in the quarterfinals. I was satisfied with the individual performances of my players and with how the team came to together and functioned as a team. Our team spirit was there and I think these ladies deserved to be rewarded better than what ended up being sixth place."

"You know, we went into this game wanting this thing. We were so hyped up", goalie Svejdova, who was the Czech player of the game, chimed in. "But unfortunately, you just can't win without scoring goals."

Captain Pejsova also pointed out, "We had a lot of injuries. That's not an excuse; we still worked as a team, but you just have to score goals to win a game."

Both players will be heading back to northern Sweden soon to continue their regular season.

For the Swedes, who celebrated jovially with a rather large crowd from back home, the victory still seemed so bittersweet. "We had such a good team. You know, we had a team that really stuck together and had each other's backs", explained Swedish captain Emma Forsgren. "I believed so much in this team and thought we'd be able to master any challenge we'd possibly face. So, ultimately, we're disappointed in finishing fifth overall, but I'm still so proud of these girls in the locker room."

For Boman, who pitched the shutout, things were a lot more cut and dry, "Yes, well, the shutout happened and my teammates made that possible. I'm happy with it. But looking at the whole tournament, we played a good game against Switzerland, a really good game today, but our games against Russia and earlier against the Czech Republic weren't all that good. That pretty much sums it up."

Their coach, Alexander Broms, saw the bigger picture, knowing full well that Sweden has higher expectations of what they want to be playing for in this tournament on a yearly basis. "We had a lot of pride. It was something we talked about before the game. It was important to finish this tournament in the best way. We battled hard out there to get this win and we're lucky we won."

"I guess things played out as they did after we had such a hard game against Switzerland. That cost us a lot of energy and we just weren't really able to recharge when it came to facing Russia. We talked a lot about Team Russia and what we expected them to do. And they did it. I think we weren't mentally ready to get the job done and that's our lesson we have to take with us for the future", he concluded in summarizing the event for his team. 
For sure, both teams feel they can and should be achieving more at this tournament. They'll now have to get back to the drawing board to work on a different outcome at next year's tournament.
Czech Republic vs. Sweden (5th) - 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship