NORTH SYDNEY, N.S. – Felix Sandström was at his best for Sweden on Sunday afternoon, turning aside 32 of the 33 shots he faced to help Sweden beat the Czech Republic 3-1 in the opening game for both at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
While Sandström dominated the defensive zone, John Dahlström took care of the offensive one, as he was involved in all of the Swedish goals, finishing with a goal and two assists.
Sweden (1-0), the defending gold medalist, came out of the gate with the momentum, generating a number of chances early, and keeping the Czechs without a shot until the 11-minute mark of the opening period.
Linus Ölund was the only goal scorer of the first period, sending Sweden to the intermission with a one-goal lead, despite giving the Czech Republic (0-1) a pair of five-on-three advantages in the opening 20 minutes.
Both teams were anemic on the special teams, each going goalless on five opportunities with the man advantage. The Czechs came closest on a first-period power play, but the goal was called back as the referees ruled the puck had been kicked in.
After Dahlström doubled the Swedish lead early in the second period, David Kase pulled the Czechs back to within one at the 12:50 mark of the middle frame, setting up an exciting third period.
A 16-11 advantage in shots on goal in the final frame gave the Czechs multiple chances to tie the game, but Sandström – who was the Swedes’ back-up last year as an under-ager – stopped everything thrown his way in the third.
Oliver Erixon capped the scoring for Sweden with just one second left on the clock.
The Swedes won’t play again until Tuesday night (7 p.m. AT), when they face Quebec in North Sydney, while the Czechs head to Sydney, N.S., to take on Quebec on Monday afternoon (2 p.m. AT).
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)