Swedes secure fifth place
by Andy Potts|14 JAN 2024
Sweden's Ella Hellmann and Ebba Hedqvist celebrate their team's opening goal in the fifth-place playoff against Slovakia.
Sweden secured fifth place at the 2024 Women’s U18 World Championship with a comfortable 4-1 victory over Slovakia in Sunday morning’s placement game. Last year’s silver medallist was on top for much of the game, and two goals in two minutes at the start of the second period tipped the balance in its favor.

For Slovakia, this is a third successive sixth-placed finish. Prior to the tournament, Slovak head coach Gabriela Sabolova said she wanted her team to at least match last year’s showing. In fulfilling that aim, the Slovaks extend their top-flight tenure into a fifth successive season.

Sweden was the first to show in this game. The opening goal arrived in the seventh minute after the Tre Kronor forced a turnover in centre ice. Ebba Hedqvist and Mira Hallin conjured up a slick passing move and Ella Hellman finished it off. That’s Hellman’s second goal on Slovakia here; she also netted in a 6-3 group stage victory.

Slovakia struggled to get started in the first period. Outshot 5-13, it was perhaps fortunate to get to the intermission with just one goal to make up. However, at the start of the second Sweden turned its dominance into a more convincing lead. Ironically, Slovakia came close to tying the game when Ema Tothova tested Lovisa Lundstrom. But right after that Sweden came down the ice and Jenna Raunio buried Isabelle Leijonhielm’s astute pass from behind the net. Barely a minute later it was 3-0: Tilde Utbult played the puck out of the corner for Linnea Natt och Dag to step off the blue line and place a low shot beyond Livia Debnarova.

The game was getting away from Slovakia, but the first power play of the day offered a potential lifeline. For the first time, Lundstrom’s net came under sustained pressure. Nela Lopusanova once again led the fight for her team, with four shots on goal in the middle frame including one impressive solo rush. However, there was no way through.

Once back to full strength, the Swedes extended their lead thanks to Anna Brenkle. She converted a feed from Hallin, who got past Bianka Maslakova and, despite losing her footing, managed to slide the puck onto Brenkle’s stick. Hallin is something of a specialist against Slovakia: that was her second assist today and her fifth point (two goals, three helpers) in the two games between the teams. Similarly, Brenkle’s previous goal in this tournament came against the Slovaks.

Late in the middle frame Sweden got its first power play and even had a minute of five-on-three hockey. Debnarova saw plenty of pucks but kept the Swedes at bay. When she was beaten, Evalina Arvidsson’s shot clipped the bar and flew to safety.

With the game more or less settled, Sweden still had a chance to secure its first shut-out of this year’s tournament. Andreas Karlsson’s team initially decided that attack was the more reliable form of defence and took the play to Slovakia early in the third, seeking more goals. Debnarova frustrated that ambition and gradually her team gained the upper hand. That brought a late reward when Michaela Paulinyova grabbed a consolation goal for the Slovaks with just five seconds on the clock.
Sweden vs Slovakia - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship