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Sweden takes Championship gold

  • 2006-05-24
  • By Julia Balandina

SCANDINAVIAN GOLD: Sweden celebrates a well-earned victory after beating the Czech Republic.

RIGA - May 21 marked the World Championship's final day and a thrilling victory for Sweden. The Scandinavians crushed the Czech Republic with a 4:0 win, becoming the first nation to win gold at the Olympic Games and a World Championship title in the same year. It had been eight years since the Swedes claimed a World Championship. Today they carry four titles in 16 years, and retain their number one spot in the world rankings 's obtained after winning the Turin Olympics.

But let's be honest… not everyone was convinced Sweden would go all the way, especially after tying Switzerland in the preliminary round and losing to Slovakia in the qualifying round. Those who doubted the blue-yellow-blue were silenced on May 21.

Niklas Kronwall and Jesper Mattsson led the Swedish attack with one goal and several assists, alongside Fredrik Emvall and Jorgen Jonsson who also scored for the team. Swedish goalkeeper Johan Holmqvist made 15 saves in his second game of the tournament, while Milan Hnilicka tallied up 22 stops for the Czech Republic. In the end it was total victory for Sweden. International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel presented the World Championship trophy to captain Kenny Jonsson, who hoisted it into the air with undeniable joy.

Standing alongside each other during the tournament awards, the Swedish players took turns kissing their glistening award. They had even more to celebrate with teammate Johan Holmqvist being named Best Goalie and Niklas Kronwall winning Most Valuable Player and Best Defenseman. Canada's General Manager Ken Holland was called to accept the Best Forward Award on behalf of Sidney Crosby, who showed exceptional performance during the tournament. The Czechs' silver place finish marked their second consecutive World Championship medal. The team took the honor with pride, although clearly upset over their failed bid to win back-to-back titles for the first time since 2001.

But the Canadians were the most disappointed, walking away medal-less for the first time since 2002. Their fateful match against Finland was rough from the beginning, as both teams were visibly aggressive after failing in the semi-finals.
Finnish goalie Fredrik Norrena made 37 saves during his third game of the tournament, blanking a Canadian team that had scored at least four goals in each of its previous eight games. In his turn, Canadian goalie Alex Auld replied with 28 stops. But in the end, victory went to Finland.

Now that the 70th World Ice Hockey Championship is over, Riga has said goodbye to the best teams out there, and fans will look forward to next year's tournament in Moscow. Looking back, organizers say the event was a success.
"I am very satisfied with the championship in Latvia," IIHF president Fasel told the Baltic News Service. "Both officials and volunteers did a great job."
"Of course, it's the fans that made the biggest difference. They are fantastic," he added. "The atmosphere in Riga is special 's one can feel it. People love ice-hockey here."