Defenceman Nils Lundqvist recorded four points and Jonas Froden, Adrian Kempe and captain Henrik Tommernes each chipped in with three as Sweden won its first game of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship 7-0 over previously unbeaten Switzerland. Adam Reideborn made 28 saves for his first career World Championship victory and shutout.
“It was a great team effort starting from our goalie and going all the way out to our forwards,” said Kempe.
It was a huge win for the Swedes, both in terms of margin of victory and importance. After losing their first two games, they were in danger of falling into a deep hole in the quest to advance to the quarter-finals.
“We didn’t play really bad in the games but we didn’t play as well as we could and we didn’t score,” said Swedish head coach Johan Garpenlov. “Today was important to get a win and believe in our team and our system. Everybody on the team played well.”
And it was a disappointment for the Swiss, who are still in decent shape at 2-1 but were looking to stay on top of the group as well as get revenge on the team that beat them in the 2013 and 2018 World Championship finals.
“It’s pretty frustrating because we didn’t play our game like we did the last two, and we got punished,” said veteran Swiss forward Andres Ambuhl, who played in both of those finals against Sweden. “We deserved to lose like this.”
For a short time, it looked like the trends that were established in the first two games would continue as the Swiss were stronger out of the gate, leading 5-0 in shots by the four-minute mark and then killing off a Swedish power play with only one relatively harmless shot against.
But the Swedes seemed to gain some momentum from the zone time and possession and maintained them, then struck twice in a span of 1:25.
“We were maybe too confident,” said Switzeland’s Noah Rod. “The Swedes were very strong. But it’s a short tournament, we have to watch the video and work on the next game. If you want to beat an opponent like Sweden you have to play your best for 60 minutes and we didn’t do that.”
First, Laurence Pilot’s waist-high shot from the point was tipped in the slot by Froden, sending the puck down and through the legs of Leonardo Genoni.
“It was a lot of fun to score my first goal in the World Championship,” said Froden, the Skelleftea AIK winger who was in fact playing in his first World Championship game. “I won the battle before and then went to the front of the net and tipped the puck through the legs of the goalie and I felt pretty good about it.”
The second goal came off the rush, with Adrian Kempe sending a wrister from just inside the blueline that sailed up and over Genoni’s glove.
The two Kempe brothers, Adrian and Mario, played together on the same line today for the first time ever.
“It’s always fun to play for Sweden but it’s something extra to play with your brother and playing on the same line tonight, I think we played a really solid game as well,” said Adrian, 24, who plays for the Los Angeles Kings and is now in his third World Championship.
“It’s something we always dreamt about, playing together on the same line, so it was special for sure,” said Mario, 32, the former Arizona Coyote who played for Sweden in 2019 in Bratislava.
“I think what we needed today was to go out and bring some energy to the team since we lost the first two games, so I tried to tell (Adrian) before the game, ‘Let’s go out and work hard and be tough to play against’ and the goals will come, and I think we did a good job of that.”
Switzerland had a great chance to cut the deficit in half with just under four minutes left in the opening frame when Enzo Corvi’s shot from the point through a crowd hit the crossbar, with a screened Reideborn not moving.
The Swiss came out storming again to start the second period, with Nico Hischier taking a cross-ice pass and just firing wide with room on the near side as Reideborn slid across, but soon found themselves shorthanded again. The Swedes were more dangerous on their second power play, moving the puck around well and ending with Lundkvist feeding Victor Olofsson for the one-timer to the roof of the net.
“A lot didn’t work out. First the penalties ... Sweden had a good power play,” said veteran defenceman Raphael Diaz. “They were very dynamic in the neutral zone and had a drive to the net. There are many things we need to analyze and improve immediately. We have to look to the future and learn from the defeat.”
Froden scored his second of the game just past the game’s midpoint when he carried the puck down the left wing and beat Genoni to the short side. At that point, Swiss head coach Patrick Fischer had seen enough and lifted the hero of the 2018 World Championship in favour of Melvin Nyffeler, who became the third Swiss goalie to see action this tournament.
“We made things too easy for them, the score was too high,” said Fischer. “Sweden clearly played better than us today. We will have to look what we did well and what we did bad. The scoring chances were similar, so it’s not like we did everything bad.”
With the game fully under control, the Swedes continued to roll in the third period and added goals by Magnus Nygren, Lundkvist and Tommernes in the third period to round out the scoring.
Although they were clearly not going to win the game by this point, however, the Swiss didn’t quit in the third period, forcing Reideborn to earn his clean sheet. Gregory Hofmann made a brilliant move splitting the defence and forced the Swedish goalie to make a blocker save, and on a couple of power plays they dug in hard trying to force the puck over the line.
“If you give up one goal in two games, you’re obviously playing pretty well,” Garpenlov said about the 29-year-old Ak Bars Kazan netminder. “We know we have three good goaltenders that can win us games, and so far Reideborn has played really well for us.”
After a day off, both teams have tough challenges coming up on Thursday, with Sweden taking on the Czech Republic and Switzerland facing Slovakia, the only unbeaten team left in Group A.
“We’ve gotta go back to what made us strong,” Ambuhl said on what they’ll have to do against the Slovaks. “We moved the puck fast, we didn’t turn the puck over in the neutral zone, aggressive forechecking, and we always played tight on the opponent. Today we didn’t do that.”
“I like the win and how we played, so right now I’m happy but, then again, we play the Czechs in a couple days,” said Garpenlov. “If we play like we did today, everything’s going to be alright.”