Swedes win bronze at U18 Worlds
by Chris Jurewicz|05 MAY 2024
It had to be Lucas Pettersson.

Throughout the bronze medal game, the Swedish forward had his looks. He appeared to open the scoring in the second on a one-timer that found the back of the net but the goal was called back due to an off-side. Early in the third, he had a partial breakaway, shot a puck that just missed the net and then tried to jam in the rebound into an empty net but Slovakia’s Andreas Straka got a stick on the puck to help out his goaltender and keep the game tied 0-0.

Finally, in a game where high-danger chances were at a premium – the type of game that doesn’t resonate with fans but one that goaltenders like and coaches love – Pettersson found some daylight, taking a drop pass from Alfons Freij off a faceoff and then walking in to the top of the faceoff circle and rifling a shot post in past Slovakia’s Alan Lendak. The goal gave Sweden a 1-0 lead en route to a 4-0 win and the bronze medal at the 2024 IIHF U18 World Championship. The final score wasn’t indicative of just how close the game was, with Slovakia outshooting Sweden 36-25 and the game tied 0-0 well into the third.

"Just be patient, that’s all we talked about," said Pettersson. "The goals were going to come as we were creating offence all the time. So just be patient."

Pettersson’s goal at 9:16 of the final frame forced the Slovaks to play with more urgency in trying to tie the game but Sweden’s Love Harenstam wouldn’t be beat on this day, as he turned away numerous Slovakian chances the rest of the way.

Harenstam robbed Tobias Tomik when he tipped Straka’s shot from the point to keep it 1-0 with under seven minutes to play. Slovakia would get a powerplay soon after but, as has been the case throughout the tournament, the Slovaks struggled with the man advantage. They didn’t score, dropping to 4-for-26 on the powerplay (15 per cent).

Sweden added the insurance marker at 16:24 when Melvin Fernstrom stole the puck from Slovakia, passed it to Jack Berglund for a slot shot. Although Alan Lendak made the initial save on Berglund, the rebound went right to Fernstrom who made no mistake and quickly snapped it in. At the other end of the ice, Harenstam threw his arms in the air, knowing how big the second goal was.

Berglund found Freij sneaking in from the point to make it 3-0 on a late Sweden powerplay and then Victor Eklund slid a shot through Lendak’s five-hole in the last minute of the game to conclude the scoring.

The loss is a heartbreaker for Slovakia, as it was trying to win a medal at the U18s for the first time since 2003. Perhaps the best news for the Slovaks is this year’s roster includes 10 players born in 2007 who can play at next year’s U18 Worlds.

Sweden has now medaled at six consecutive U18s, which includes gold in 2019 and 2022.

The Swedes outshot the Slovaks 8-7 in the second and had the better chances. Sweden was given its first powerplay earlier in the period but the Slovaks did a great job getting in passing and shooting lanes to limit opportunities.

With under four minutes to play in the second, Linus Eriksson fired a shot from the top of the faceoff circle that rung the outside of the post, prompting Lendak to tap his posts on the ensuing whistle (remember, a goalie’s best friend).

Slovakia’s Ondrej Maruna had a partial breakaway two minutes later but the puck dribbled away and he was forced to take a shot deep in the Sweden end, which was easily stopped by Harenstam.

The first period was played at a good pace and was quite even, with the Slovaks holding a 12-9 advantage in shots on goal but both teams focusing on preventing scoring chances rather than creating them.

Sweden had the best chance of the opening frame when Fernstrom was in close and spun to make a reverse pass to Berglund, who had a gaping net to shoot at but couldn’t pull the trigger on the rolling puck.
SWE vs SVK - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship