Slovaks dominate...but Swedes win
by Andrew Podnieks|28 DEC 2021
Juraj Slafkovsky of Slovakia jumps in the as he deflects the puck.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Jesper Wallstedt stopped all 48 shots and carried Sweden to a 3-0 win over Slovakia tonight in Red Deer. It was the first shutout at these World Juniors, and with the win Sweden moves to 2-0 in Group B. The Slovaks did everything but score, and now they find themselves with an 0-2 record and scrambling to make the playoffs. Although they were the better team, their inability to capitalize on their chances was their downfall again.

"We weren't as sharp today as we were yesterday," Sweden's coach Tomas Monten agreed, comparing tonight's play with yesterday's fine effort in a 6-3 win over Russia. "The feeling from the beginning was that we wanted to play with the puck too much. We weren't ready to make the tough defensive plays we made yesterday. We got better during the game, but Slovakia had the upper hand. Our p.k. and Jesper were the factors for us to win."

Both goalies were excellent. Wallstedt had his finest moments in the second period and again in the third while Simon Latkoczy was steady and less busy all night, facing 27 Sweden shots.

Sweden was fantastic on the penalty kill in the third period when they were short-handed for five minutes, during which they faced a three-on-five and a three-on-six with Latkoczy on the bench.

"When we got a major and a three-on-five, that was pretty tough," Monten admitted. "We battled hard. We blocked a lot of shots and Jesper got the others. Our defensive players did a really good job."

"We didn’t have too much luck on our side," offered Slovakia's captain Samuel Knazko. "We should have scored at least three or four goals. Hopefully in the next game we can score goals and luck will be on our side."
Sweden vs Slovakia - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship
Jesper Wallstedt stopped all 48 shots and carried Sweden to a 3-0 win over Slovakia tonight in Red Deer.
SWE SVK 27 DEC 2021
It was a game of contrasting lineups. Sweden has six returning players from the 2021 U20 and none born in 2004 while the young Slovaks, although they have eleven returnees, also  have seven 2004-born players and two born in 2005.

The game started in much the same way as last night’s games for both teams. Slovakia held the edge in play but couldn’t score while the Swedes capitalized on their first power play. The Slovaks had the territorial advantage in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting Sweden by a 13-4 margin, but more than any great save by Wallstedt it was about the Slovaks not finishing their chances. 

Meanwhile, Sweden got the first power play of the game in the early going and wasted no time in scoring the crucial first goal. It came off a nice passing play from William Eklund to Helge Grans to Theodor Niederbach in the slot. Niederbach drilled a shot over the right-catching glove of Latkoczy at 6:25 for the early lead.

It was the team's fourth power-play goal in two games and gives early indication this is their finest weapon.

"The players have been executing really well on the power play," Monten agreed. "We just try to watch where Alex [Holtz] usually plays and the same with the others, and put them in the same spots they're used to and try to work some easy plays to create some chemistry."

The second period was a wide-open affair, both teams having plenty of scoring chances, but again Sweden made the most of theirs and Slovakia couldn’t find the back of the net even once. Sweden took a 2-0 lead off a brilliant individual effort from Albert Sjoberg. He beat defender Denis Bakala one-on-one at the Slovakia blue line and then fended off a check from Maxim Strbak to beat Latkoczy with an accurate shot.

But Slovakia had plenty of opportunities to get back into it among their 17 shots in the middle 20 minutes. Martin Chromiak, who scored twice yesterday, was stoned in front by Wallstedt. Simon Nemec tried a quick stuff as he went around the net, only to have the puck pushed out by Wallstedt’s right pad. And Knazko made a great move to find an opening in the slot, but his hard shot went off the shoulder of the Swedish goalie. 

Slovakia had a great chance to get on the board early in the third, but Wallstedt made two quick saves, including a robbing of a sure Chromiak goal with a shot from the back side of the play. They got another chance midway through the period when video review determined Leo Loof hit Simon Nemec in the head with a high check. That necessitated a five-minute power play and sent Loof to the dressing room for the night. 

Sweden's penalty killers, however, led by Wallstedt, were excellent, but with two minutes left coach Ivan Fenes pulled Latkoczy to create a two-man advantage. The Swedes then cleared the puck over the glass, resulting in another penalty and a two-man advantage for more than a minute. Fenes pulled his goalie again to create a rare six-on-three situation, but still nary a puck found the back of the net.

Daniel Ljungman closed out the scoring with an empty netter.

It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done. "They had a tremendous game," Monten said of Slovakia. "I think they were better than us for almost the entire game. We had some good moments, but overall they were better. But Jesper was terrific, and if we're going to have a chance to win this tournament, he has to be an important component for us, and he showed that today."

"I have never seen a shutout of a goalie like this," said Fenes. "We are seeded number eight in the tournament but we have shown in this game that we can play with a team such as Sweden."

Both teams now have a day off. Slovakia takes on Russia in the early game on Wednesday followed by Sweden and the United States.
Sweden vs Slovakia - 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship