Sweden is World Champion once again, claiming its second successive gold medal after a shoot-out win against surprise package Switzerland. Neftekhimik’s Dennis Everberg collected his second World triumph as part of the Swedish roster, while game-winning goalie Anders Nilsson is familiar to fans of Ak Bars after he helped them to the 2015 Gagarin Cup Final. Nilsson’s back-up, Magnus Hellberg, is another KHL representative, currently at Kunlun Red Star. Earlier in the day, Team USA claimed bronze with a 4-1 win over Canada.
A commanding goaltending display from Anders Nilsson and a shoot-out winner from Filip Forsberg earned Sweden back-to-back World Championship gold and left Switzerland broken-hearted.
The Swiss, chasing a first ever World Championship crown, led twice in regulation through Nino Niederrieter and Timo Meier but were pegged back on markers from Gustav Nyquist and Mika Zibanejad. Sweden might have won it in the last seconds of overtime when Adam Larsson thundered a shot against Leonardo Genoni’s post. Then came the shoot-out, with ex-Kazan goalie Nilsson winning four of his five duels ot ensure that Predators forward Forsberg could claim the winner.
Unusually, Forsberg admitted to improvizing his decisive shot: “I actually was going to go backhand but I changed my mind in the last second and it worked, so it's great,” he said. “I was open, I saw the spot, it's my usual spot so I liked that.”
The Swede paid tribute to a battling Swiss performance, both tonight and during the championship as a whole. “We would have wanted to win in regulation but we knew that this would be a tough game,” he added. “They pushed all their opponents in the tournament to tight games. They had a great defence and their goalie played great. We knew it was going to take a lot to get it done.”
Nilsson, who cancelled a planned vacation in Los Angeles to join up with the Swedish team, agreed that winning the championship was better than relaxing in California. And he also insisted he had no worries before the shoot-out.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” he said. “I know I had some good players, skilled players that can put the puck in the net. I think everyone went in there with a confident feeling. I was just trying to focus on my stuff.”
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A 4-1 victory for the Americans in Sunday’s bronze-medal game sent the USA home with the hardware. Canada finished in fourth place, failing to medal for the first time since 2014.
Both teams struggled to find their intensity in the early stages and the game was very different from the 4-4 thriller these North American neighbors shared in the group stage. The USA got the verdict in a shoot-out there and followed it up with another tight win. Two power play goals and two empty-netters made the difference; Chris Kreider scored twice and Patrick Kane picked up an assist to take him to 20 points for the tournament – the first time since 2008 that a player has scored so heavily.
Many American players dedicated the team’s medal to the late Jim Johannson, a stalwart of USA hockey as a player and administrator, who died suddenly in January. Connor Murphy summed up the thoughts of many when he said: “We knew that this was a special year with the passing of Jim Johannson. With what he did for this organization, we wanted to make sure we played hard and showed we were playing for him and each other and that we were able to go home with something.
“His death was shocking and terrible. He’s paved the way for a lot of where USA Hockey is today. You see guys like Patrick Kane coming to this tournament, it means a lot to a lot of people. It’s a special thing for a guy like him to come and show that he wants to compete for our country and do it for Jim Johansson.”
Kirovs Lipmans, former president of the Latvian Hockey Federation, received the Paul Loicq award at the annual IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Copenhagen. Lipmans, whose time in charge of Latvian hockey saw the Baltic nation establish itself in the Elite Pool and host the World Championship in 2006, received an award dedicated to those who contribute to hockey’s development off the ice.
Among Lipmans’ key achievements, the prize recognized his efforts in getting Dinamo Riga into the KHL and providing the opportunity for Latvian players to compete at the highest level in their own country.