Asplund impresses in Swedish win
by Andy Potts|15 MAY 2022
Sweden's Rasmus Asplund scores his second goal on Czech netminder Karel Vejmelka.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
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Rasmus Asplund led Sweden to its second victory with two markers in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Czechia. The Buffalo Sabre grabbed a crucial goal seconds before the first intermission to tie the game and pave the way for the Tre Kronor to snap a two-game losing streak against the Czechs in World Championship play.

As one of just two NHLers in the Swedish attack, Asplund led by example today - but the 24-year-old was modest about his personal contribution to the game.

"I just try to do my job out there," he said. "I want to be a hard-working guy and today I scored twice but that’s not what matters. We want the three points every game and now we’re going to focus on the next one."

Emil Bemstrom, Mathias Brome and Anton Bengtsson joined Asplund among the Swedish scorers, while goals from David Krejci, Tomas Kundratek and Matej Blumel put Czechia on the scoreboard.

After playing its opening game with just three lines, Sweden registered two more players in time for Sunday’s meeting with the Czechs. Forwards Oskar Lang and Nils Aman, both of Leksands in the SHL, were added to the roster.

Johan Garpenloev also swapped goalies, with Magnus Hellberg starting in place of Marcus Hogberg. And there were tweaks to the lines, reuniting Lucas Wallmark and Joakim Nordstrom after the pair spent the bulk of the club season together.

Czechia made just one change from the team that defeated Great Britain 5-1. Goalie Karel Vejmelka, fresh from his first NHL season with the Coyotes, replaced young Lukas Dostal between the piping.
Czechia vs Sweden - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
Rasmus Asplund led Sweden to its second victory with two markers in Sunday’s 5-3 win over Czechia.
CZE SWE 15 MAY 2022
Against the Brits, Czechia found life tough in the first period. Here, Kari Jalonen’s men looked to banish any early jitters and duly got the opening goal after six minutes. The Swedish D got in a tangle trying to clear its lines and two Czech veterans continued to roll back the years. Roman Cervenka’s feed invited fellow 36-year-old Krejci to step up for a laser-like shot that flashed low past Hellberg.

However, the goalie - who finished the season on a short-term deal with the Red Wings after several seasons in the KHL - was not fazed by allowing the opener.

"We talked about a game being 60 minutes," Hellberg said. "Sometimes you get a tough start, sometimes you have a great start. We wanted to focus on our game plan, get pucks deep and work in their end. We know they don't like to defend but they're a skilled team and I'm proud of how the guys played in front of me today."

The opening session was not rich in chances, but Matej Stransky was close to increasing the Czech lead when he fired a Radim Simon feed onto the top of the bar in the 17th minute.

Then everything changed. The first penalty of the game saw Hynek Zohorna go to the box and the Swedish power play got to work. Wallmark fired a shot wide of an open net, Max Friberg hit the post and Asplund cheekily faked a lacrosse attempt as the Czech defence wobbled. By the time Vejmelka held onto a Rasmus Dahlin shot, tensions were bubbling over and a spot of handbags on the crease saw two more roughing calls handed out.

From the restart, though, Sweden showed greater composure. Bemstrom fired the puck to the slot and, via a ricochet off a Czech stick, it dropped for Asplund to stab home the equalizer.

"It was a good power play, we created lots of chances," said the goalscorer. "It was just a rebound that came to me and I put it in the net."

There was more penalty trouble to come for the Czechs at the start of the second when a 5-on-3 advantage saw Sweden move in front. Wallmark’s feed to the top of the circle sat invitingly for Bemstrom to roof a one-timer.

"We didn't start the second period well," said a disappointed Cervenka. "We were down and it was hard to get back."

That sparked a mini goal-rush, with Brome adding a third when he grabbed a loose puck in centre ice and advanced down the right-hand channel. David Jiricek offered him the outside and Brome’s shot should have been straightforward for Vejmelka. However, the goalie inexplicably got his angles wrong and was beaten over his pad.

A Czech power play followed but offered little, and when Erik Gustafsson returned to the game he immediately set up another Swedish goal. The defenceman lifted a flighted puck into centre ice and Asplund raced clear to shoot over Vejmelka’s glove. Asplund’s second of the evening made it four goals in less than nine minutes, bringing an end to the goalie’s evening as Marek Langhamer came off the Czech bench to replace him.

The incoming goalie was immediately indebted to Michael Spacek, who got his stick down on the line to stop a Max Friberg effort squirming into the net. But then a Czech power play brought a life line when Cervenka’s feed set up a Kundratek one-timer to make it 2-4 and give his team belief.

"We started to move our legs more in the third period and we got some chances, but it was too late," Cervenka added. "We will look at our mistakes and prepare for the next game."

There was frustration for Czechia at the start of the third when Dahlin tumbled into the net and knocked it off its moorings before Krejci could get off a wrister from a dangerous spot. No goal, and no delaying the game penalty on the highly-rated young Sabres D-man.

Then came two quick goals. Bengtsson extended the Swedish lead with a vicious effort from between the hash marks, but within 30 seconds Cervenka’s third helper of the game saw young Blumel continue his scoring start to the tournament. Cervenka moves to six assists in two games, while Blumel has 4 (3+1) points in his rookie World Championship.

"Another goal is nice, but I know that myself and as a team, we can play much better," Blumel reflected. "We didn’t perform as we can. We scored first, but overall we didn’t have a good start to the game. We took a lot of penalties and I think they scored two goals from that."

By now, though, the clock was against the Czechs. A too many men penalty ate up further valuable time but Langhamer was called to the bench with more than two minutes to play as Jalonen looked to save the game. However, it was difficult for his players to establish controlled possession in the Swedish zone. With 46 seconds to play, the Czechs were able to call a time-out and set up one last bid to salvage the game, but the plan did not deliver and Sweden secured the verdict.
Czechia vs Sweden - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship