Sweden shuts down Slovenia
Sweden shuts down Slovenia
Steen gets winner as Cinderella run ends
The Swedes will face the winner of Finland-Russia in the semi-finals.
Showing great patience, Sweden played its most complete game of this tournament thus far. They put this one away with four third-period goals.
"We had our fair share of chances to expand the lead," said Alexander Steen, whose late first-period goal proved to be the winner. "Their goalie made some big saves. We stuck with it, kept our foot on the gas, and started putting the puck in during the third."
"We're ready to step it up," added Sweden's Marcus Kruger. "We've been playing against three pretty similar teams in our last three games, so we know it's going to be very tough to step up a notch for Russia or Finland. This late in the tournament there are only going to be hard games."
It’s been feast or famine for Tre Kronor in Olympics featuring quarter-finals, which began in 1992. They won gold in 1994 and 2006. The Swedes were eliminated in 1992 (by Czechoslovakia), 1998 (by Finland), 2002 (by Belarus), and 2010 (by Slovakia), finishing fifth each time.
Slovenia deserves to be extremely proud of its historic Olympic performance. Beating Slovakia 3-1 in the round-robin and Austria 4-0 in the qualification playoff game was more than anyone predicted for this state from former Yugoslavia, making its Olympic debut while sitting 17th in the IIHF World Ranking.
"It’s been a great tournament for us," said Ziga Jeglic, whose tournament total of two goals and two assists led the Slovenes. "We’ll have our heads up high when we come home."Continue reading
"I was really impressed," said Swedish assistant captain Daniel Alfredsson of Slovenia. "I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never played against them, but we scouted them pretty well and we knew they were a feisty team. I can see them getting better and better, especially as guys get experience on the big stage."
With only 148 registered male players, Slovenia had just one NHLer (Anze Kopitar), while Sweden, the defending World Champions, had just one non-NHLer (Jimmie Ericsson). Eventually the talent gap would take its toll.
Carl Hagelin had two goals for Sweden, while Loui Eriksson chipped in a goal and an assist, and Daniel Sedin also scored. Star defenceman Erik Karlsson added a pair of helpers, which temporarily tied him for the tournament scoring lead with the U.S.'s Phil Kessel (seven points).
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who has started every game for Sweden, got his second tournament shutout with 19 saves to 33 for Slovenia’s Robert Kristan.
At times, the Swedes appeared not to be taking their opponents seriously enough in the early going. They were turning the puck over and their puck movement wasn’t crisp.
In an Olympic quarter-final, Swedish fans can never help wondering if another upset like Belarus’s famous 4-3 win over Tre Kronor at the 2002 Olympics is in the works. Alfredsson is the lone 2002 holdover, although Henrik Zetterberg, sidelined since Sweden’s opening win over the Czechs, also played against Belarus.
But there would be no shocker today.
With 1:10 left in the first, Sweden drew first blood with the man advantage, as Alfredsson blasted one off the end boards and the puck caromed out to Kristan’s right, where Steen put it in from a bad angle.
"He’s got a great shot," Steen said of Alfredsson. "We’ve been using that a lot."
In the second period, the better-trained Swedes calmly and systematically wore their opponents down. The Slovenes played tough man-on-man defence in their own end, but still were outshot 16-5 in the middle frame.
Midway through the period, Slovenia's Sabahudin Kovacevic surprised Hagelin with a late blind-side hit in the neutral zone and received an interference penalty. Facing Slovakia, Kovacevic received a one-game ban for an illegal hit to the head of Tomas Kopecky.
At 1:42 of the third, Daniel Sedin and Eriksson hooked up to give Sweden a 2-0 lead. Sedin looped behind the Slovenian net and reversed the puck to Eriksson, who then found Sedin in the slot, and he made no mistake with a wide-open net.
Eriksson made it 3-0 Sweden at 8:04 when Nicklas Backstrom found him cruising unobstructed toward the Slovenian net, and the Boston Bruins sniper zipped it over Kristan's glove.
Hagelin gave Sweden a 4-0 lead at 11:27 when Jimmie Ericsson centered it to him from behind the net, allowing him to whip it home blocker side.
"We lost our composure and we lost our power, and they started scoring," said Jeglic.
It was 5-0 Sweden with 3:50 remaining when Hagelin went to the front of the net and redirected a Karlsson feed past Kristan. Farewell, Slovenia.
"Sweden was just better all over the ice," said Jan Mursak. "There was nothing we could do. If someone would have given us one win at the beginning of the tournament, we would have taken it. We actually won twice and made it to the quarter-finals, so we're happy with the way things went."
Never before had these two nations met at the Olympics. In World Championship play, Sweden won both previous encounters, 8-2 in 2002 and 2-0 in 2013.
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