Like their first game against Switzerland, nobody expected Sweden to lose to Austria. However, there were some key differences in their second appearance at the rescheduled 2022 World Juniors. Gone was the rusty, sloppy play of the first game, replaced with a well-oiled machine that shut down the game from the moment the Swedes stepped onto the ice. Austria tried to match them, but the skill difference was insurmountable for the underdogs, and Sweden cruised to a dominant 6-0 victory.
Sweden dominates for 60 minutes
One of the biggest factors in Sweden’s win over Austria was their consistent pressure throughout the match. The team got off to a very slow start against Switzerland, which almost cost them on several occasions. It wasn’t until the third period that they finally looked like Team Sweden fans have gotten used to watching the World Juniors, and they held on for a 3-2 lead.
Two days after that tough outing, they look almost completely different. They were disciplined, only taking one penalty the entire game, but were still physical, ensuring that Austria could never put a game together, let alone get a puck on net. In the first period, Sweden held the Austrians to just three shots, two of which came on the power play. Eleven shots got past them over the next two periods, but few had a real chance to get through Calle Clang.
The passing was also much cleaner, which was necessary early on as Austria were determined to wear down the Swedes. For most of the first period, three Austrians collapsed on any Swede carrying the puck, trying to force a turnover and get on the board quickly. But the effort backfired as Austria looked gassed at the end of the period and could never get it back. Sweden, on the other hand, continued to move the puck incredibly well, conserving their energy for the perfect moment, like Fabian Lysell’s incredible short-side goal in the third.
Sweden’s calm, measured approach and superb puck control were difficult for the less skilled Austrians to deal with and therefore they resorted to trying to match them physically. For a while they did, but as fatigue and frustration set in, Austria began to succumb to penalty trouble, which the Swedes took advantage of. Three of the six goals scored were on the power play. Thankfully, Luca Auer played a lot smarter after being fouled against Germany, but it still didn’t result in a goal, as Sweden were just too strong a team.
Edvinsson emerges as Sweden’s MVP
Few players looked good after the game against Switzerland. Oskar Magnusson was a player who stepped up when the rest of his team was lagging and was noticeable all over the ice, chasing pucks and creating plays, but one player who quietly held the team together was Simon Edvinsson. The lanky, 6-foot-6 defenseman logged an astounding 26:09 over the course of the game, picking up an assist and grabbing three shots. Only one player has played more in a single game so far, that’s Latvia’s Ralfs Begmanis, who was on the ice for 26:42 against Canada.
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While he only played 18:30 against Austria, Edvinsson still led the team in ice time and scored his first goal of the tournament, firing a rocket past Sebastien Wraneschitz from above the hash marks for the game’s first goal. It seemed fitting that he scored the first goal for Sweden, as he has been the glue for them in this tournament, holding them together even when they are ready to fall apart. Detroit Red Wings, who picked him with the sixth overall pick 2021, seems to have his future in defense ready.
Aside from Edvinsson, Sweden’s defense did very well against Austria, moving the puck well and breaking up Austria’s game all game. They also emerged as key offensive contributors. Wraneschitz has established himself as an excellent, high-volume goaltender who thrives when facing 30 or more shots a night, tracking the puck very well when carried in close and rarely breaking position to challenge a shooter. So, after taking over 20 shots in the first period, but still only securing one goal, Sweden switched strategies and started shooting more pucks from high up in the offensive zone. The Austrian goalie wasn’t as confident on those shots, and suddenly Emil Andrae had two goals and Helge Grans had an assist, proving that Sweden can score with any player on its roster.
Sweden must limit outbreaks
Sweden played an almost flawless match, using patience and skill to overpower the Austrians and come away with a definitive win. Still, there are always aspects to improve, and one that could cost them against stronger teams like the USA is the ability to limit breakouts and odd-man rushes. Austria’s best chances came when they were able to create a turnover and rush the net, with a shot sailing just over the shoulder of Clang and thankfully over the net. Austrian David Reinbacher also had a strong game, using his speed to get to pucks just a fraction ahead of the Swedish defenseman. Had he been someone like Thomas Bordeleau or Frank Coronato, the Swedes would have been in much more trouble.
Some of that responsibility falls on the defense, but as mentioned before, they performed admirably this game, so the forwards need to step up and provide a little more defensive support. Magnusson has already proven he can step up, and Liam Ohgren has been praised for his two-way play, but the rest of the forwards have been somewhat quiet. If the Swedes want to compete for a medal, they must get all players to contribute, not just the stars.
Sweden looks ready for the playoffs
Despite some holes that need patching, Sweden still looks very dangerous halfway through the round-robin. Their biggest challenge comes tomorrow when they face the USA, who are also unbeaten and have been far more lethal with the puck. Three players currently have two goals, which ties Sweden, but they have nine players with at least one goal, three more than the Swedes. They will need to bring everything they have to take first place in Pool B, and the winner of that game will be one of the favorites to take the gold medal.
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Dayton is an elementary school teacher by day and an avid hockey fan. Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors and the NHL Entry Draft.