Sweden wins first World Juniors test
by Martin Merk|11 FEB 2020
Swedish defenceman Albert Lyckasen led his team in scoring with six points, all assists.
photo: Steve Kingsman / HHOF-IIHF Images
The road to the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer in the Canadian province of Alberta has started in Berlin for five teams who competed with their under-19 national teams with players eligible for the U20 teams at the World Juniors in ten months.

The venue was the legendary Wellblechpalast (German for corrugated iron palace), the ice hockey rink at Sportforum Hohenschonhausen in East Berlin. Built in 1958, it was one of the most important ice rinks in East Germany and home to Dynamo Berlin, later rebranded to Eisbaren Berlin. The DEL team moved to a bigger and fancier venue in 2008 but their junior teams still play here. As did the U19 national teams from five countries during the last week.

While the national team programs rather focus on the U18 national teams these days in view of the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in the United States in April, the focus in Berlin was on 2001-born players who are not eligible anymore for the U18 Worlds but will carry the torch at the next World Juniors.

Few might have put their money on Sweden as tournament winner of the round-robin tournament after the first game in which they surprisingly lost 3-2 to Switzerland. But Swiss goaltender Thibault Fatton made 50 saves and Switzerland came back from a 2-0 deficit to score an upset.

However, in the end Sweden topped the standings and the Swiss were last.

In their second game the Swedes were 2-0 behind against host Germany and 3-1 after two periods before turning it to a 6-4 win in a wild third period. Lucas Edmonds scored the game-winning goal with 5:25 left and added his second goal of the night with a shot into the empty net.

Despite the trouble against the two lower-ranked nations, the Swedes improved throughout the tournament. They beat archrival Finland 6-3 and made everything clear with a 4-1 lead at the half-time mark.

With a victory against the Czech Republic the Swedes claimed first place in the tournament. Albert Johansson opened the scoring after 13 seconds en route to a 5-2 victory.

Throughout the tournament the Swedish offence was led by Emil Heineman and Arvid Costmar, who both had two goals and three assists. Defenceman Albert Lyckasen even had one more point with his six assists to lead his team in scoring. Finnish forward Joni Jurmo was the tournament’s scoring leader with three goals and three assists.

Finland finished in second place by beating all other teams than Sweden. They started with an impressive 9-1 rout of Germany, beat the Czechs 4-3 in shootout and finished with a 4-0 blanking of Switzerland.

Host Germany, promoted to the World Juniors one year ago and qualified again after a ninth-place finish and beating Kazakhstan in the relegation round, was the surprise team with a third-place finish.

After defeats against the Nordic opponents, the Germany won two neighbouring clashes. Fabjon Kuqi and Kevin Slezak scored the two goals in a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic where Jonas Gahr had a strong game in the net.

In the last game Switzerland outshot Germany 45-29 and the Germans needed strong goaltending from Tobias Ancicka and Christopher Kolarz, who shared the ice time in the net. The home team fought back from a 3-1 deficit and Steven Raabe became the hero when the tied the game with six seconds left in regulation time just to later score the 4-3 game-winning goal at 4:32 of overtime.

The Czech Republic and Switzerland followed at the end of the standings despite four points from five games.

The U20 programs of the various nations will get back after the end of this hockey season and usually convene first time in summer and play tournaments in August and November.

The 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Red Deer will take place next winter from 26 December to 5 January.