They knew they were underdogs going into the game and came up with a monumental effort in the final. Before a packed house at Fanatec Arena in Landshut, Germany, Sweden defeated the USA 6-4 to win the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship.
The Americans outshot Sweden 51-15 but Hugo Havelid, the goaltender on the tournament all-star team, came up with a monster game just 24 hours after stymying Finland in the semi-finals.
“It was a tough game for me physically,” the Swedish goalie said. “The USA put a lot of pressure on me, but it’s the last game of the season and there was a gold medal on the line, so I just had to hold out and play for my life.”
The Swedes were efficient on their scoring chances. They got two goals each from Noah Ostlund and Liam Ohgren, defenceman Mattias Havelid had three assists and Jonathan Lekkerimaki had four points in the game. For the Americans, captain Rutger McGroarty scored twice.
“Right now, it’s tough. You’re just thinking to yourself, ‘What could I have done differently? Maybe if I’d scored that one.’ You know, we have a great team and it’s a tough loss,” said McGroarty.
The USA came storming out of the gate, dominated the early minutes and scored the first goal at 2:24 when Devin Kaplan made a cross-ice pass to Ryan Leonard, who connected on the one-timer.
The Swedes had a chance to tie it on a power play but the best scoring chance went to the Americans when Kaplan got a shorthanded breakaway but was stopped by Havelid.
“At the start, we were just trying to force their D to turn over the puck and get enough pucks on their goalie,” said McGroarty. “Their goalie was awesome. He’s a stud. I felt we had the legs today, we had the energy, but the outcome sucks.”
“The important thing is to not be too negative,” Swedish head coach Magnus Havelid said about falling behind quickly. “We knew they were going to jump on us, but we just had to take it shift by shift because if we fell behind by two goals, suddenly it’s a tough situation, but then we got a couple of goals.”
Sweden then struck twice just over a minute apart to tie it and take the lead. Called Odelius forced a turnover at the U.S. blueline and found Oskar Pettersson, who beat Augustine off the rush high to the blocker side. Then they went ahead on a brilliant individual effort from Ostlund.
Starting the play deep in his own zone, Ostlund made a pass out from the corner and then got on his horse, skated up ice and got the puck back just inside the attacking blueline, taking a pass from Lekkerimaki. Ostlund then split the U.S. defence and then sent a backhander over Augustine’s glove.
But with 4:04 to play in the period, the Americans tied it on a goal Havelid might like back. Frank Nazar picked up the puck at his own blueline and carried it all the way, deep enough that it looked like he had no angle, then took a shot from a bad angle that beat the Swedish goalie under the arm.
In a four-minute span in the last half of the second period, a combination of missed opportunities and a string of penalties put the Americans down by a pair of goals.
Cruz Lucius made a long breakaway pass to McGroarty, who tried to go five-hole on Havelid but was stopped. Less than a minute later, with Sweden on the power play, Charlie Stramel got a shorthanded breakaway and missed the net. Later on the same power play, Liam Ohgren ripped a shot from the faceoff circle through Augustine’s legs to put Sweden back in front with 8:01 left in the middle frame.
“I don’t stand on that side normally,” said Ohgren. “I usually stand behind the net, but I came up and got the puck from Mattias and I just faked a past and shot it between the legs.”
Then penalties to Nazar and Cutter Gauthier 53 seconds apart put Sweden up by two men and they cashed in again. First Ostlund tried to shoot backhand through his legs but was denied. Then after shot attempts by Pettersson and Mattias Havelid were stopped, Augustine was leaning the wrong way and Ostlund had a clear lane to pot his second of the game on the rebound with 4:46 to go.
Just 49 seconds later, the USA came back to within one while the teams were skating 4-on-4, with McGroarty going top corner on a one-time set-up by Logan Cooley.
“I felt like we got a lot of opportunities in the third and that goal definitely gave our team some juice and some energy, and the guys were fired up in the locker room,” said McGroarty.
Early in the third period it was the Americans who got a couple of overlapping power plays and they got some zone time and some looks, but the Swedish penalty killing was solid and Havelid was in the zone.
“It does motivate me when they try to get me out of focus,” said the goalie Havelid. “It’s fun. These are the games I live for playing in.”
The Americans continued to press back at even strength, still just a goal away from tying it, but the fifth Swedish goal midway through the final period put them in a precarious spot.
On the rush, Ohgren and Lekkerimaki worked a beautiful give-and-go, with Ohgren finishing with a backhand deke to make it 5-3 with 10:19 to play.
“Maybe the last 10 minutes when we had the 5-3 lead,” Ohgren said when asked when he thought they were going to win. “Then I started to think, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’ But you can never relax because USA is a really good team and has a lot of great players, so you just have to keep playing your best hockey and, thanks to Hugo, we did it.”
When the USA went back to the power play with 3:30 left, Adam Nightingale pulled Augustine for a sixth attacker and a two-man numerical advantage and it paid off. McGroarty had one goal already but he had also been robbed by Havelid a couple of times. This time, Jimmy Snuggerud found him for the one-timer from right in front that went through the Swedish goalie.
But they came no closer. Lekkerimaki iced it with 31.9 seconds left into the empty U.S. net. Chasing Lekkerimaki in vain was McGroarty, diving in vain.
“I’m super proud of our guys,” said U.S. coach Adam Nightingale. “We should have no regrets. Hats off to them. They have a great power play and they scored a couple of goals on it. And their goaltender played really well. That’s the tough thing with a single-elimination tournament. But this is a valuable experience for these guys because this is a group that’s going to win a lot for USA Hockey in the future.”
Media All-Star Team
Goal: SWEDEN; #35; HAVELID Hugo
Defence: USA; #23; HUTSON LANE
Defence: CZECHIA; #9; HAMARA Tomas
Forward: CZECHIA; #25; KULICH Jiri
Forward: SWEDEN; #23; LEKKERIMÄKI Jonathan
Forward: USA; #18; COOLEY Logan
CZECHIA; #25; KULICH Jiri