An eventful pair of semi-final games saw defending champion Sweden power past the USA with a 6-0 scoreline. Then Switzerland shocked Canada with a 3-2 victory to set up a repeat of the 2013 World Championship final.
Canada 2 Switzerland 3 (0-1, 1-1, 1-1)
Switzerland showed the way to defeat Canada when a combination of great goaltending, heroic defense and rigid discipline earned a 3-2 victory in Saturday’s World Championship semi-final.
Forward Nino Niederreiter summed up his team’s evening. “It was a fantastic game for us, we did a lot of good things right,” he said. “We got some lucky bounces and the game definitely went our way. Canada’s a great team and they played some terrific hockey but our goalie was phenomenal, he was the best player on the ice. It’s thanks to him we won the game.”
Goalie Leonardo Genoni certainly painted a masterpiece in the net, stopping 43 shots as the Canadians enjoyed plenty of puck possession in dangerous areas. But converting possession into goals was a real problem. The Swiss defended in numbers and, despite absorbing so much pressure, only took one penalty all night to deny the Canadians a chance to rev up its power play.
Then, at the other end, Switzerland was clinical with its chances. Tristan Scherwey shot over Darcy Kuemper’s glove late in the opening frame to stun the pre-game favorite. The game-breaking moment came in the middle frame, though. Bo Harvat had just tied the scores and it was starting to feel like a brave Swiss race was all but run. Then came Kevin Fiala, collecting the puck to the side of the net and setting up Gregory Hofmann with a tap into an empty net. The Swiss were back in front and this time they would not give up their advantage.
Fiala said: “It’s my first time in a final, my first time beating Canada, so I’m really excited. The key tonight was sticking together, all five players on the ice helping each other, blocking shots. Our goalie was great.”
For Canadian D-man Aaron Ekblad, the Swiss deserved the result on the night. “I think Switzerland played an unbelievable game,” he commented. “From the drop of the puck they came at us hard in every facet of the game and they played a better game than us. They got the better of us today, it might sting for a bit but they’re a good team and we wish them well.”
Gaetan Haas added a third, getting the faintest of tips on a Sven Andrighetto slap shot to make it 3-1 and, with Canada running out of time, a Colton Parayko rocket on that sole power play wasn’t enough to save the game. Switzerland returns to the final for the first time since 2013, and will face the same opponent here as it did in Stockholm.
For Niederreiter it’s a revenge mission: “The toughest memory was seeing them wearing their gold medals after they beat us. Hopefully we can do the same thing to them tomorrow.”
Sweden 6 USA 0 (1-0, 3-0, 2-0)
Saturday’s first semi-final ended in a blow-out for Sweden as the Tre Kronor kept alive the dream of back-to-back gold medals.
But the 6-0 scoreline over the USA did not seem at all likely in the early stages, with the Americans making a brighter start to the game. The Swedes stuttered in the first period, struggling to get its offense into gear and reliant on former Ak Bars goalie Anders Nilsson to keep the team in the game. A goal from Viktor Arvidsson in the 16th minute broke the deadlock, but hardly looked like a game-breaker.
“They came out hard, they had a great first period,” said Sweden’s Gustav Nyquist. “They were the better team, they carried the play and Nilsson came up huge for us in net, made some key stops and we went away from there.”
The middle frame saw Sweden run away with it. A short-handed goal from Magnus Paajarvi triggered a goal rush; two in 11 seconds saw Patric Hornqvist and Mattias Janmark haul the game away from the Americans. Goalie Keith Kinkaid sought to deflect questions about his own performance by talking up the clinical Swedish display.
“Sweden were skilled, they were opportunistic,” he said “It could have been 6-0 the other way but Nilsson played out of his skin.”
In the final stanza Sweden added two further goals through Arvidsson – an empty-netter in the 52nd minute – and Adrian Kempe to seal the rout. Nilsson stopped 41 shots to claim the shut-out. For Paajarvi, now in his third World Championship for the Tre Kronor, this team feels ready to do something special.
“Yes, it’s the best Swedish team I’ve ever been on,” said the 27-year-old, who finished last season with Ottawa Senators. “I think we’re fairly young but we’re established players. We’re not that many older guys but we still have a lot of experience in the team. It’s nice, we know each other really well and we’re working well together, but we’ve got one more game.”