The impossible dream has come true.
With a dazzling attack and air-tight defence, Sweden defeated the Czech Republic 4-0 Sunday night at a packed Arēna Rīga and became the first nation in history to capture Olympic and IIHF World Championship gold in the same year. A quick two-goal outburst in the opening period was enough to seal the fate of the Czechs.
The victory ended an eight-year gold drought at the IIHF World Championships for the Swedes. Only one member of the 1998 team that triumphed in Zürich, Switzerland also took part in Sunday’s climactic match: forward Jörgen Jönsson (of current Swedish champion Färjestad BK Karlstad), who is the all-time leader in national team games.
Overall, it was Sweden’s fourth World Championship title in the last 16 years. Tre Kronor also retained its number one overall spot in the IIHF World Rankings, which it achieved in the Olympics in February.
Henrik Zetterberg, Mikael Samuelsson, Kenny Jönsson, Jörgen Jönsson, Ronnie Sundin, and tournament MVP Niklas Kronwall were the six Swedish players who achieved the unique distinction of playing and winning gold both in Turin and Rīga. Alternate goalie Stefan Liv played in Turin but not in Rīga.
Swedish Head Coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson has now assured his hockey immortality as well by guiding his team to something that the Russian “Big Red Machine,” the mighty Canadians, and the clever Czechs could never accomplish in the past.
Not everyone was convinced the blue-and-yellow team could go all the way after tying Switzerland in the Preliminary Round and losing to Slovakia in the Qualifying Round. But the doubters were silenced this night.
The Czechs, who were defending champions, failed in their bid to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2001, but the silver represented their second consecutive IIHF World Championship medal.
Jesper Mattsson and Niklas Kronwall led the Swedish attack with a goal and an assist apiece, and Fredrik Emvall and Jörgen Jönsson also scored. Andreas Karlsson and Michael Nylander each added a pair of helpers.
Swedish goalie Johan Holmqvist registered 15 saves for his second shutout of the tournament. Milan Hnilička, in his ninth straight start, had 22 stops for the Czechs.
After the Swedes weathered an early Czech power play, they went to work with the man advantage when Petr Hubáček hauled down Michael Nylander deep in the Czech end at 5:35. Mikael Samuelsson nearly gave Sweden the first goal with a one-timer toward a half-open net from the faceoff circle, but Hnilička got it with his blocker.
Just before the eight-minute mark, Swedish fans erupted into celebration when Andreas Karlsson fired a shot from the slot through Hnilička’s five-hole, but the referee’s whistle had blown just an instant earlier.
The Swedes jumped into a 1-0 lead at 14:36 largely thanks to Niklas Kronwall, whose spectacular stickhandling pinch from the right point with the puck was broken up, but Jesper Mattsson was there to flip in the rebound.
Just 37 seconds later, it was 2-0 Tre Kronor when Mattsson circled to the blueline in the Czech zone and fired a slapper that Fredrik Emvall tipped past Hnilička on the stick side.
Early in the second period, the teams found themselves playing 4-on-4, and Kronwall took full advantage of the skating room, taking a lovely feed from Mikael Samuelsson at the Czech blueline and cutting in from the right side to beat Hnilička with a high backhand and make it 3-0 at 4:04.
Sweden easily weathered an interference minor taken by Per Hållberg, and then shortly after the midway point, the Czech goalie had to stop Mattsson on a 2-on-1 rush with Nylander.
The Swedish power play clicked into high gear on a two-man advantage with Patrik Štefan and Tomáš Plekanec in the box. Nylander cunningly slipped behind the net and then quickly put the puck out front to Jörgen Jönsson, who banged it past Hnilička’s skate at 17:01 to put Sweden up 4-0.
In the early moments of the third period, Nicklas Bäckström narrowly missed giving Sweden a five-goal lead when his wraparound attempt on Hnilička hit the out-of-position goalie’s left post.
After the Czechs failed to capitalize with Michael Nylander going off for high-sticking at 3:17, the Swedes cracked down defensively. They broke up plays in the neutral zone and forced the Czechs along the boards when their opponents actually approached Holmqvist’s net.
With just over eight minutes left, Holmqvist made one of his few difficult saves, picking off a high Petr Hubáček wrister directly from the slot. Furious, tenacious checking and crisp puck control by his teammates did the rest, as the Czech Republic could never get anything going. The Swedish fans rose and clapped in rhythm, singing as horns resounded through the arena.
When the final buzzer sounded, the ecstatic Swedish players mobbed each other in celebration in their end of the rink, throwing away their equipment and knocking the net off its moorings.
IIHF President René Fasel presented the World Championship trophy to Swedish captain Kenny Jönsson, who kissed it and held it aloft in undeniable joy.
The Swedes, standing along their blueline during the tournament awards, took turns raising the glistening mug. They had even more to celebrate as Johan Holmqvist was named Best Goalie and Niklas Kronwall Best Defenceman. Team Canada General Manager Ken Holland came out to accept Sidney Crosby’s Best Forward award.
More huge cheers from the Swedish-heavy crowd ensued when Niklas Kronwall skated forward to accept his tournament MVP trophy.
Fasel then hung the silver and gold medals around the necks of the Czechs and Swedes respectively, with the assistance of IIHF Council Members. The Swedes skated a victory lap with the World Championship trophy before posing for a group photo, faces aglow with smiles.
Afterwards in the dressing room, Kronwall was seen celebrating with the legendary Börje Salming, bringing together two generations of superb Swedish blueliners.
Sweden will defend its title at the 2007 IIHF World Championship in Russia, starting next April.
01:14 – 🇸🇪 PEN – Kronwall, slashing
05:35 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Hubáček, hooking
11:41 – 🇸🇪 PEN – K. Jönsson, tripping
14:36 – 🇸🇪 GOAL – Mattsson (Kronwall, Karlsson)
15:13 – 🇸🇪 GOAL – Emvall (Mattsson, Karlsson)
18:40 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Erat, holding
22:22 – 🇸🇪 PEN – K. Jönsson, interference
23:24 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Michálek, tripping
24:07 – 🇸🇪 GOAL – Kronwall (Sundin, Nylander)
27:32 – 🇸🇪 PEN – Hållberg, interference
35:06 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Štefan, holding
36:41 – 🇨🇿 PEN – Plekanec, slashing
37:01 – 🇸🇪 PP2 GOAL – J. Jönsson (Samuelsson, Nylander)
43:17 – 🇸🇪 PEN – Nylander, high sticking
W: 🇸🇪 J. Holmqvist (15-15)
L: 🇨🇿 Hnilička (22-26)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇸🇪 9+10+7 = 26
🇨🇿 7+4+4 = 15
🇸🇪 Goaltenders: Daniel Henriksson, Johan Holmqvist, Stefan Liv. Defence: Andreas Holmqvist, Per Hållberg, Magnus Johansson (A), Kenny Jönsson (C), Niklas Kronwall, Ronnie Sundin, Mattias Timander. Forwards: Nicklas Bäckström, Fredrik Emvall, Johan Franzén, Jörgen Jönsson, Andreas Karlsson, Joel Lundqvist, Jesper Mattsson, Björn Melin, Tony Mårtensson, Jonas Nordquist, Michael Nylander, Mikael Samuelsson, Henrik Zetterberg (A).
🇨🇿 Goaltenders: Milan Hnilička, Adam Svoboda. Defence: Jan Hejda, Tomáš Kaberle, Lukáš Krajíček, Zdeněk Kutlák, Zbyněk Michálek, Martin Richter, Martin Škoula. Forwards: Jaroslav Balaštík, Jaroslav Bednář, Jan Bulis, Martin Erat, Jan Hlaváč, Jaroslav Hlinka, Petr Hubáček, Zbyněk Irgl, Tomáš Plekanec, Tomáš Rolinek, Patrik Štefan, Petr Tenkrát, David Výborný (C).
|🇸🇪 SWEDEN (C)||vs.||CZECHIA 🇨🇿|
(since 20 May 2006)
||24 Feb 2006|
(+ 9 ties)
|First IHLC Meeting (SWE vs. CZE)
🇸🇪 SWE 4-2 TCH 🇨🇿 – 13 Feb 1949 – WC – Stockholm 🇸🇪
|Previous IHLC Meeting (SWE vs. CZE)
🇸🇪 SWE 3-0 CZE 🇨🇿 – 26 Apr 2006 – LGG – Stockholm 🇸🇪
|Last IHLC Game
🇸🇪 SWE 5-4 CAN 🇨🇦 – 20 May 2006 – WC – Rīga 🇱🇻
|Next IHLC Game
🇷🇺 RUS 4-3 SWE 🇸🇪 (SO)- 31 Aug 2006 – CPC – Linköping 🇸🇪