Team Sweden opened up the 2021 World Junior Championship with a win against the Czech Republic on Saturday. Sweden picked up a 7-1 win over the Czechs, which gives them a 1-0-0-0 record.
Montreal Canadiens’ prospect and the Czech Republic’s captain Jan Mysak gave his team the early lead on the power play in the first period. Vancouver Canucks’ prospect Arvid Costmar tied the game for Sweden, followed by six goals more from the team – three in the second period and three in the third.
Special teams played a significant role in Saturday’s game. Czech Republic’s lone goal came on the power play, while Team Sweden capitalized on three of their six power-play opportunities. Albin Sundsvik scored a power-play goal to give Sweden a 2-1 lead in the second period, followed by Emil Heineman’s shorthanded goal to extend their lead to 3-1.
The Czech Republic had five power-play opportunities and scored on their first chance. They struggled for the remainder of the game to convert on the man advantage, which would’ve kept them in the game.
Sweden Rebounded From a Slow Start
Sweden did not play any pre-tournament games due to an extended quarantine. Members of the team’s staff testing positive for COVID-19 led to the cancellation of pre-tournament games. The Czech Republic beat Slovakia 6-0 in their only exhibition game.
Therefore, it was no surprise Sweden started slowly in their first game of the tournament. The Czech Republic drew three penalties in the first period, as they scored on their first power play of the game. The two teams were close in shots on net, as the Swedes had 14 shots on goal to the Czechs 12.
Sweden took over the game with a 4-1 lead in the second period. They continued to dominate in the third period, as they scored three more goals and outshot the Czech Republic 18-5.
Terror Twins Created But Failed to Convert
Lucas Raymond and Alexander Holtz are known as the Terror Twins and are the two players to watch for Team Sweden. The Terror Twins created a lot for Sweden but failed to score. Raymond did register an assist on Elmer Soderblom’s power-play goal.
It won’t be long until the Terror Twins start to convert on their opportunities. The two led Sweden to gold at the 2019 U18 World Championships. Raymond scored a hat trick in the gold medal game, which included the overtime winner. If the two could repeat their performance from 2019, Sweden could be taking home gold at the 2021 World Junior Championships (WJC).
Blue Line Led the Way
Sweden’s blue line led the way against the Czech Republic as Philip Broberg and Victor Soderstrom each had three assists. Tobias Bjornfot also added two assists, and Ludvig Hedstrom had an assist from the backend.
Sweden’s defence is the team’s strength this year, and that showed in Saturday’s game. Team Sweden had a lot of talent to choose from on the blue line. They cut Simon Edvinsson, who is second in TSN’s Bob McKenzie 2021 Draft rankings. Their talented blue line should continue to produce for them throughout the tournament.
Sweden Going for Gold
Sweden continued their winning streak of 53 games in the preliminary round of the WJC on Saturday. They have not lost a preliminary round game in 14 years but have only won the gold medal once during the streak.
Last year, Sweden finished third at the WJC. This year, Sweden seems to look good enough to win gold for the first time since 2012.
As for the Czechs, it’ll be tough to make it into the quarterfinal round since they are in the same group as Sweden, Russia, and the USA. The Czech Republic takes on Russia on Sunday night. As for Sweden, they take on Austria on Monday.
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Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.