Sweden finished the 2023 World Junior Championship in fourth place after a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to the United States in the bronze medal game. They now return home as tournament hosts in 2024, in Gothenburg, hoping to put the mistakes of this event in the past and chase down their third gold medal.
Related: Revisiting Sweden’s World Junior Championship History
Today’s third-place game between two elite hockey programs was by far the most entertaining game of the tournament as Sweden and the United States racked up 13 goals in the final 40 minutes of regulation. Although Sweden fell behind by two goals on two separate occasions, they were always in it, capitalizing on many American turnovers.
Unfortunately, Sweden’s tournament ended without a medal for the fifth time since winning gold in 2012, despite the round-robin success (a 54-game win streak) the team has had over that time. As the boys pack their bags for one final time, we look at three key takeaways from today’s loss to the United States.
Fabian Lysell Ejected From Disasterous Tournament
Fabian Lysell plays in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins. The former first-round pick (21st overall) is having a productive season with the Bruins collecting 19 points in 20 games, one season after finding success in the Western Hockey League (Vancouver Giants) with 62 points in 53 games. Furthermore, at the 2022 World Junior Championship, he scored two goals and collected four assists for six points. However, his 2023 tournament was nothing short of a disaster.
Related: Team Sweden Players to Watch at 2023 WJC
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After dressing for all seven of Sweden’s contests, Lysell scored no goals or collected any points. Coincidentally, his last memory of being at the World Juniors will be a five-minute major he took for a headshot in the first period. Ultimately, his infraction left his teammates shorthanded and forced them to fight his battles after being ejected and in the shower before the five minutes were up.
Sweden had a chance to be in the gold medal game, and they also had an opportunity to have one of the best power-play units at the tournament. However, with no offensive contributions from Lysell, the Swedes struggled to score goals and relied too heavily on Carl Lindbom to make saves to carry the team.
It will be interesting to see how Lysell responds to his poor showing at the tournament when he returns to Providence and starts playing against men again. Recently, the Boston Bruins lost one of their top forwards, and internet chatter suggests that Lysell may get a call to the big club to add another body to the depth chart. Whether or not Lysell can put these two weeks behind him and find his scoring touch again will determine how he handles adversity.
Sweden’s Sloppy Play Leads to Entertaining Game
During the first period of the TSN broadcast, analyst Mike Johnson joked that all the United States needed to do was score three goals to win the bronze medal. Ultimately, he was referring to Sweden’s inability to score goals at the tournament because, outside of the opener against Austria (11-0), they failed to collect more than three against any other opponent. That is, until the bronze medal game.
Sweden and the United States lost semi-final games on Wednesday afternoon, setting up this matchup for bronze, which the Swedes hoped to defend as last year’s winner. However, after using up all their emotions and energy to get into the championship tilt, this consolation game had the potential to be a low-scoring affair. Instead, fans experienced the best game of the tournament as the two teams combined for 15 goals, with Sweden clawing their way back after being down two goals on two separate occasions to force extra time.
Ultimately, the United States scored the final goal, an overtime winner by Chaz Lucius, his third of the game. This final dagger resulted in Sweden returning home for the 2024 tournament without a medal, despite their best efforts. For the first time in two weeks, the team got goals from six different players, with San Jose Sharks prospect Filip Bystedt scoring his second of the game, a game-tying goal with 22 seconds left in regulation.
However, when people look back at the box score, they will see that Lindbom (.777 save percentage) had his worst game of the tournament, and the Americans scored eight goals. Furthermore, what will not appear on the scoresheet is how sloppy the entire match was from both sides, which resulted in an abundance of high-end scoring opportunities. Even though the teams finished with 36 shots apiece, the final score could have easily been in double digits if it wasn’t for spectacular saves and players taking penalties to salvage broken plays.
Sweden’s Penalty Kill Unravels in Finale
If anyone in the hockey community were to take anything away from Sweden’s performance at the 2023 World Junior Tournament, it would be three things. One of them would be that Lindbom has the potential to be a star goalie in professional hockey. Second, Ludvig Jansson was not a household name before Dec. 26; however, he should be getting a call from the Florida Panthers about moving to North America to further his development. Finally, the last thing anyone should remember is how Sweden was insanely good at killing penalties, boasting a 95 percent kill rate before the bronze medal game. However, the one thing that kept Sweden alive in every game they participated in imploded like a house of cards against a stronger United States team.
Sweden’s special teams have been a significant talking point all tournament, as they failed to capitalize on man advantages to win critical hockey games. However, their penalty killers kept them in games and served as a stopgap for opponents looking for a back-breaking goal. Yet, in their final contest with a chance to defend their bronze medal, the magic ran out, and the Swedes surrendered three power-play goals to the Americans.
Related: 2023 Guide to the World Junior Championship
Today, Sweden tempted the hockey gods by taking a tournament-high 29 penalty minutes in the first period before finishing the day with 33. Their endless parade to the box gave the Americans plenty of opportunities to put the game away; however, missed opportunities allowed Sweden to stay in the contest and eventually force overtime. Watching a team be so successful at one aspect of their game only to unravel when it mattered most was disappointing for fans.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.