But there was a time not too long ago when it had its golden age, specifically the three-year period 2005-07 under coach Peter Elander.
Elander headed the team for six tournaments between 2004 and 2009, but it was the three in the middle that stand out as exceptional, starting with the development of many of its top stars.
Sweden lost a tough 3-2 decision to Finland for bronze at the 2004 Women’s Worlds, but a year later it managed to turn the tables. In 2005, Finland went ahead 1-0 and 2-1, but Sweden proved resilient.
Anna Vikman tied the game early in the third and then Emilie Okonor put the Swedes ahead. Erika Holst scored short-handed late in the game to ensure victory, and Maria Rooth closed out the scoring with an empty netter.
That gave Sweden its first medal in nine World Women’s tournaments going back to 1990, and it set the stage for a much bigger result less than a year later at the Turin Olympics.
Sweden again made it to the semi-finals against the U.S., and everything looked to be going according to the expected script when the Americans took a 2-0 lead early in the second period.
Then, Maria Rooth took over.
She scored a goal five minutes later to cut the lead in half, and less than four minutes later she scored a sensational goal short-handed to tie the game. Shocked, the Americans played a third period that lacked their usual confidence, and the Swedes rose to the occasion to force overtime.
The Americans were more aggressive in the fourth period and even had a power play, but they couldn’t get the winning goal. That meant a penalty-shot shootout.
Kim Martin was perfect in the Sweden goal while Pernilla Winberg and Rooth scored for the Swedes to take them to the gold medal game. This marked the first time in women’s history that gold at either the WW or Olympics was not an all-North American affair.
Canada won the finals, but Sweden had a silver medal from the Olympics.
A year later, Sweden and Finland again played for bronze at the Women’s Worlds, and Kim Martin outduelled Noora Raty in a 1-0 victory. Rooth, not surprisingly, scored the game’s lone goal.
Elander’s lineup for these three victories was a who’s who of the greatest Swedish players. Kim Martin in goal, Rooth, Erika Holst, Winberg, and Danijela Rundqvist, the legendary defenceman Gunilla Andersson. They played for a decade for their country, and they gave Sweden its best results ever.
The only disappointment about this era of Swedish hockey is that it didn’t spur on a next generation of success, and now, as Sweden fights to return to the top level, we can only look back to these glory days and hope a new era is just around the corner.
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