Like their first game against Switzerland, no one expected Sweden to lose to Austria. However, there were some key differences in their second appearance at the rescheduled 2022 World Juniors. Gone were the rusty, careless plays 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 over the full length of the game. The team got off to a very slow start against Switzerland, which nearly cost them on several occasions. It wasn’t until the third period that they finally looked like the Sweden team fans have grown accustomed to watching at the World Juniors, and they held on for a 3-2 lead.
Two days after that rough outing, they look almost completely different. They were disciplined, taking just one penalty all game, yet were physical, ensuring that Austria was never able to put together a play, 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 at getting through Calle Clang.
Passes were also much cleaner, which was essential early on as Austria was determined to tire out the Swedes. For most of the first period, three Austrians collapsed onto whichever Swede was carrying the puck, trying to force a turnover and get on the board quickly. But the effort had the inverse effect, as Austria looked gassed by the end of the period, and was never able to 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 unbelievable short-side goal in the third.
Sweden’s calm, measured approach and supreme puck control were difficult for the less-skilled Austrians to handle, and thus they resorted to trying to match them physically. For a while, they did, but with fatigue and frustration setting in, Austria began succumbing to penalty trouble, which the Swedes capitalized on. Three of the six goals scored were on the power play. Thankfully, Luca Auer played much smarter after getting handed a game misconduct against Germany, but it still didn’t result in a goal, as Sweden was just too strong a team.
Edvinsson Emerges as Sweden’s MVP
Few players looked good after the game against Switzerland. Oskar Magnusson was one player who stepped up as the rest of his team lagged and was noticeably all over the ice, chasing pucks and creating plays, but one player who was quietly keeping the team together was Simon Edvinsson. The lanky, 6-foot-6 defenceman logged an astounding 26:09 throughout the game and picked up an assist and took three shots. Only one player so far has played more in a single game, that being Latvia’s Ralfs Begmanis, who was on the ice for 26:42 against Canada.
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 first goal of the game. It seemed appropriate that he scored the first goal for Sweden, as he has been the glue for them at this tournament, holding them together even when they’re ready to fall apart. The Detroit Red Wings, who selected him with the sixth-overall pick in 2021, seem to have their future on defence all sorted out.
Aside from Edvinsson, Sweden’s defence did very well against Austria, moving the puck well and breaking up Austria’s plays all game. They emerged as key offensive contributors, too. Wraneschitz has established himself as an excellent high-volume goalie, thriving when he’s facing 30 or more shots a night, tracking the puck very well when it’s brought in close and rarely breaking position to challenge a shooter. So, after taking over 20 shots in the first period, yet only securing one goal, Sweden switched strategies and began firing more pucks from high in the offensive zone. The Austrian goalie wasn’t as confident with those shots, and suddenly, Emil Andrae had two goals and Helge Grans had an assist, proving that Sweden can score with any player on their roster.
Sweden Needs to Limit Breakouts
Sweden played a nearly flawless game, using patience and skill to overpower the Austrians and come away with a definitive win. Yet there are always aspects to improve, and one that may cost them against stronger teams like the United States 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 one shot sailing just over the shoulder of Clang and, thankfully, over the net. Austrian David Reinbacher had a strong game, too, using his speed to get to pucks just a fraction before the Swedish defender. Had he been someone like Thomas Bordeleau or Frank Coronato, the Swedes would have been in a lot more trouble.
Some of that responsibility falls on the defence, but as previously mentioned, they performed admirably this game, so the forwards need to step up and provide some more defensive support. Magnusson has already proven he can step up, and Liam Ohgren has been hailed for his two-way game, but the rest of the forwards have been somewhat quiet. If the Swedes want to compete for a medal, they’ll need to get every player contributing, not just the stars.
Sweden Looks Primed for the Playoffs
Despite some holes that need patching, Sweden still looks very dangerous halfway through the round-robin. Their biggest challenge will come tomorrow as they face the USA, who are also undefeated 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’ll need to bring everything they have to claim first place in Pool B, and the winner of that game will become one of the favourites to claim the gold medal.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.