Sweden is the second team in Group B to reach nine points in three games following a 6-0 victory over Great Britain in Tampere at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Anton Bengtsson and defenceman Rasmus Dahlin led the Swedish offence with three points each. And fresh off a two-goal performance against Czechia on Sunday, Rasmus Asplund scored two more in this one.
“We got the start we wanted and we just rolled from there,” said Asplund. “I don’t think we played a great game but we got the job done and we’re taking the three points with us. It’s a good boost for my confidence but the team game is the most important thing. Who scores doesn’t matter that much.”
The Brits, meanwhile, are left with just a single point from their first three games, but they have a couple of the group’s big teams out of the way already.
“These teams are the best of the best and we were just trying to give it our all out there today,” said British forward Scott Conway. “We fell short, obviously, but give them their credit, they’re one of the best teams in this tournament.”
The Swedes scored early and often in this game, building up a 5-0 lead after the first period, in which they out-shot the Brits 19-4. With the game hopelessly out of reach by that point, British starting netminder Ben Bowns was lifted in place of trusty backup Jackson Whistle, who stopped 18 of 19 the rest of the way. It was Whistle’s first action of this tournament after Bowns had played the first seven periods in the British net.
Playing in his second straight game after beating Czechia on Sunday, Magnus Hellberg stopped all 16 shots he faced to record his second career World Championship shutout.
Sweden wasted little time getting started, with Asplund scoring his first after just 13 seconds had elapsed, putting in a rebound after Bowns had stopped Dahlin’s point shot.
“That was huge,” said Dahlin. “We talked about it in the dressing room that we needed a big start, and that’s what we did. We scored a few goals at the beginning and that put us in a good position for the rest of the game.”
On playing with his Buffalo Sabres teammate Asplund, he said: “It’s great. We’re good buddies and it’s fun to play with him here too for Sweden. We’ve got some chemistry and we’re just trying to ride off that.”
Joakim Nordstrom made it 2-0, firing home a loose puck in the slot, and after a flurry of action around the British net in which Bowns did all he could to keep the score respectable, Anton Bengtsson made it 3-0 at 10:24 when he converted a pass from Mathias Brome on a 3-on-2 rush.
Already with an assist in the game, Dahlin scored his first-ever World Championship goal to make it 4-0 when his point shot hit the stick of a British defender and went through Bowns’ legs. Finally, after scoring in the opening seconds of the period, Asplund scored in the closing seconds as well, potting another rebound with just five ticks on the clock.
“In the first period, we kind of let ourselves down,” said British captain Jonathan Phillips. “It certainly wasn’t in line with the ethos that this team is built on. Obviously, it’s Sweden and you’ve got to give them respect, but I think we didn’t give ourselves enough respect in that first period. We just sat back and didn’t play our game. You could see in the second and third periods, we started finding our groove and identity back again.”
With victory well in hand, the Swedes, still playing with only three lines and with a game against Finland tomorrow, went into cruise control the rest of the night, putting relatively little pressure on Whistle or his defence. The best scoring chance of the middle frame went to Britain in the late going when Hellberg made a nice pad save off a point shot from Mark Richardson and then Matthew Meyers fired the rebound off the crossbar.
With 11:30 to play in the third period, Cade Neilson made another bid to break Hellberg’s shutout on a breakaway but missed on the backhand.
“We played well in the second and third periods – we didn’t give them so many chances compared to the first period at least,” said Conway. “I thought we were definitely better defensively and being better defensively also makes us better offensively. We had a few chances and we just have to bury them, especially against these top teams.”
“We got a some goals in that first period and we played the last 40 minutes alright,” said Swedish defenceman Jonathan Pudas. “Yeah, it was like we had five guys on the outside and nobody in front of the net to do the dirty work, but it was okay in the end.”
With 6:51 to play, Bengtsson rounded out the scoring with his second of the night off the rush, this time picking the top corner to Whistle’s blocker side.
With this game out of the way, Sweden now looks forward to a first-place showdown tomorrow with host Finland, the only other Group B team to win its first three games. After a day off, GB is back in action on Thursday against the USA.
“It’s going to be a tough game tomorrow, we know that, we’re trying to focus on the next game here,” said Asplund. “It’s gonna be fun. We have a good rivalry with the Finns so it’s going to be a great game tomorrow.”