Stenberg hatter gives Sweden win
by Andrew Podnieks|28 DEC 2023
Sweden remained undefeated with a solid win over Germany tonight.
Otto Stenberg scored three goals and Sweden beat Germany, 5-0, tonight at Scandinavium for their second shutout win in as many games. The loss drops Germany to 1-1.

It was surely too much to ask for Germany to beat Sweden tonight given that they had just erased an 0-25 all-time record against Finland two nights ago and tonight they faced a team that they have also yet to beat in 24 meetings.

That being said, the Germans played an impressive game and were often the better team, but they lacked the timely scoring and creativity around the net required to change momentum. Coach Tobias Abstreiter also elected to start Matthias Bittner in goal over Philipp Dietl, one of the heroes of that historic win over Finland, but Bittner was his team's best player tonight, facing 41 shots (to Germany's 15), many of which were in close.

"I think we played well for 60 minutes," said captain Liam Ohgren. "We struggled with goals at the beginning, but we kept shooting and eventually they started going in. I thought we were the better team the whole game and played with a lot of energy. After that second goal we played better. We've been playing great and have had great goaltending, which is important coming into the game against Canada."

"It was a tough game," admitted German forward Eric Hordler, "but I think we played well in the first and second periods. That gave us a pretty good chance to win the game, maybe, but in the third period we didn't do the little things right. We didn't play hard enough, and Sweden is too good. Our goalie was awesome today, but they are a good team. Everyone believed we could win. We were proud of winning against Finland and believed we could do it again. We are a good team and support each other."

Play was even to start the game but after penalties each way a few minutes in, the momentum went fully to Sweden. They had a great chance early to open the scoring when Noah Ostlund ripped a shot off the post, and during the four-on-four Otto Stenberg had a breakaway only to be foiled by Bittner, who was sensational in the opening period.

The Swedes finally got on the board at 15:48 off the rush. David Edstrom found Stenberg in the high slot, and he snapped a high shot over Bittner’s shoulder to send the crowd into a frenzy. Shots favoured the home side 18-6 and accurately reflected their dominance. 

The Germans were the much better team in the second. They forechecked effectively, controlled the puck for long stretches in the Swedish end, and did everything but score. Eric Hordler had an early chance from the crease, but Melker Thelin was there to make a five save, while Bittner continued to sparkle at the other end.

He stoned Ostlund from in close and robbed Felix Unger Dorum with a right-pad save, but in the end it was Sweden that got the only goal of the period off a wicked blast from defender Mattias Havelid, who blew the puck past Bittner high over that same shoulder Stenberg had found in the first.

The Swedes got back on track in the third and upped their lead on an early power play. Stenberg stationed himself inside the German box, and Unger Sorum placed a perfect saucer pass on his sitck which Stenberg wired to the net in an instant, making it a 3-0 game at 6:16.

Stenberg, a first-round draft choice by St. Louis last summer, completed his hat trick three minutes later, knocking in a loose puck after sustained pressure. Ostlund made it 5-0 at 14:33 on another close-in chance.