At the 2006 World Championships, Sweden used a balanced offense and superb goaltending to defeat the Czech Republic 4-0 and win gold. Jesper Mattsson’s first-period goal was all that Sweden would need. Johan Holmqvist turned aside 15 shots for the shutout.
Who to Watch
Magnus Johansson has three goals and eight points. His 27 shots on goal are second on the team. Johansson has taken part in six World Championships, but this is by far the most productive he’s been. Johansson spent the 2008-09 season playing in the Kontinental Hockey League with Atlant Mytischy.
Keys to Bronze
Goaltending must be strong. Jonas Gustavsson played well despite losing to Canada 3-1. With a 2.83 goals against average and three wins, Gustavsson is making a case for future World Championship inclusion. However, since he's left the tournament to be with his ailing mother, Stefan Liv will need to make a fine showing between the pipes.
Score first. Sweden can score goals. They are third in goals in the tournament. Getting off to an early lead--especially in the bronze medal game--is essential. The last six bronze-medal winners have scored the first goal of the game, and in some cases that would be all they needed.
Create space for the best players on the ice. For Mattias Weinhandl, Kristian Huselius, or Magnus Johansson to be successful, they need to have the room to work their magic. This will be a close-checking affair by the Americans, but in order to get their powerful offense going, Sweden will have to work for their opportunities.
Win it in regulation time. Despite their difficulties, Sweden has played well in regulation. In fact the loss to Canada was their first regulation defeat in the tournament. Overtime and/or shootout losses to Latvia, USA, and Russia were tough.
Team USA won bronze at the 2004 World Championships in the Czech Republic. Andy Roach’s heroics in a shootout earned Team USA a 1-0 win over Slovakia. An upstart American side earned the right to play for a medal after defeating the heavily favored Czech Republic on home ice in the quarterfinals.
Who to Watch
Dustin Brown wears the C on his jersey and has earned it. Brown is coming into his own as a player and leader. Brown is not afraid to bang bodies when he has to. He is tied for the team lead in scoring with three goals and eight points. Brown has kicked his game up a notch at the World Championships and that will only benefit his chances of being strongly considered for the 2010 Olympics.
Keys to Bronze
Set the tone for the game. The USA must come out and control the game. They must finish checks and apply pressure in the Swedish end of the ice. The Americans are at their best when they have the opposition reacting to what they do.
Consistency is key. When these teams last met, the USA took a 5-2 lead on Sweden, only to see them come back with four unanswered goals to win 6-5. The USA must not let up at any point in the game. No lead is ever safe and this game will be closely contested.
Steady goaltending. Robert Esche performed valiantly in net against Russia. Save for some redirections, it could have been a different game. Esche must now close the tournament out with a strong showing against Sweden. Esche must erase memories of Sweden’s comeback win earlier in the tournament.