The bronze medal game is the one game in every tournament that every team hates playing, maybe with the exception of the relegation round. Having to find the motivation to compete for a medal that you didn’t enter the tournament to play for. Today, it was pretty obvious that both Sweden and USA needed to find the internal motivation to play well enough to not go home empty handed. Both of these countries have the mentality that they come to World Juniors to win gold, nothing else will be sufficient.
“Our goal is to always win medals and this year we didn’t. So obviously you want to evaluate where we’re at with different things but, you know, it’s tough when you’re at the top of the hockey world, there’s some really good teams and I think the US has a really good team” – Rikard Gronberg
To start the game, there were plenty of opportunities handed out from poor defensive play. USA had trouble in their own zone start the game. Nedeljkovic was able to play strong enough to weather the slight Swedish storm. Halfway through the period, Anders Bjork and Matthew Tkachuk scored to give the Americans the 2 goal advantage. Sweden backed off defensively and gave USA too much room, allowing them to take advantage of the handed opportunities. But, towards the end of the period, Sweden was able to beat Nedeljkovic scoring twice in less than a minute. Adrian Kempe, who played unusually disappointingly in the semi-final yesterday, beautifully set up William Lagesson from behind the net. Then Grundstrom and Eriksson Ek combine to beat a sprawling Nedeljkovic.
“It felt like we didn’t come up with motivation so… Or didn’t fight enough to win the game” – Joel Eriksson Ek
For both teams, it was probably a blessing in disguise that they went into the 2nd period tied. It gives them the opportunity to start over, regroup in the intermission, and come out strong. In the first period, it was very noticeable that Gronborg was using the Nylander-Asplund-Timashov line quite a bit, they generated a lot of chances in the offensive zone. Kempe had a strong first period as well. Even though Tkachuk scored, I found the Tkachuk-White-Matthews line to be less than stellar. They were trying to do too much, even though Wilson continues to go back to them every other shift. Milano hasn’t overly impressed me this tournament. He looks like he’s trying to do too much, make the fancy play when a simple game would be much more effective. But that leads me back to the theory I mentioned in my article from yesterday, this years tournament isn’t being dominated by the 19 year olds, or the pros, like it has in previous years.
“It’s not the [medal] we wanted but just to bring anything home from this tournament, you know, not a lot of people can say they did that. It’s a great experience overall and a great game for us.” – Auston Matthews
Two great goals from Boeser and Donato restored USAs two goal lead. USA has continued to sustain good pressure on Sweden throughout the second period. After a flukey turn of events, it looked like Nylander had tipped a Timashov shot from the point but, it was waved off for a high stick.
It’s interesting to note that Sweden opted to have Alex Nylander on their top power play unit instead of Gustav Forsling, which, personally, makes very little sense. I would be using Forsling as long as it takes to score a few goals but, it is only the second period. A lot can happen. Rasmus Asplund got his team into some penalty trouble halfway through the second period. While already down a man, he high sticked Nick Schmaltz, sending out the Swedish penalty killers for 4 more minutes. The American power play didn’t look overly dominating, despite having the man advantage for about 6 minutes. Sweden even got some decent scoring chances while killing the penalty. Within minutes of the penalty being killed, Anders Bjork scoring a pretty goal going bar down against Sandstrom. Carlo added another to close out the 2nd period. Early in the third period, Ryan Donato, and Tkachuk scored their second goals of the afternoon to make it 8-2 and the Swedish team looks dejected. They haven’t played this game with very much compete but, I suppose that’s what comes with playing a game they don’t want to be playing. Sweden eventually scored making it 8-3 which around a minute left. USA ran away with the bronze medal.
“We were just, we were obviously upset that we didn’t win yesterday so, I think that we just all were pretty determined to win this game and come home with something” – Anders Bjork
I ended up finding out the Swedish goal song (En For Alla For En – Tre Kronor & the Poodles). Even though Sweden didn’t medal, they still come in 2nd for best goal song. For what it’s worth, Canada’s goal song comes in 3rd because I’m not a huge Chelsea Dagger fan.
“We wanted to get the medal here but, i don’t know they were just better than us and they won” – Dmytro Timashov