Tue, May 23, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Sweden finishes up strong

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP This was the first team to win the World and Olympic competition, and the Swedes demonstrated absolute dominance during the final

AP , RIGA, LATVIA

Sweden shut out defending champion Czech Republic 4-0 on Sunday to win the World Championship and complete a unique double three months after capturing Olympic gold.

It was the eighth world title for Sweden, which had eight Olympic champions on its roster. In the Winter Olympics, Sweden beat Nordic rival Finland in the final.

No team had managed the elusive double in international hockey. There have been six previous occasions when the Olympic tournament and world championship were played as separate tournaments in the same year.

"It's fun to be part of hockey history," Sweden coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson said. "It's been great working with these guys and my staff.

"I think we played more or less a perfect game today. After taking a 2-0 lead we had a good control of the game," Gustafsson added.

Sweden was missing one of its top goalscorers, Mika Hannula (four goals), who was suspended one game after cross-checking Sidney Crosby into the boards in the semifinals against Canada.

But Sweden's "Tre Kronor" did fine without him.

Jesper Mattsson, Fredrik Emvall, Niklas Kronwall and veteran Jorgen Jonsson, playing in his 11th worlds, gave Sweden a 4-0 lead after the first two periods.

After a cautious start from both teams, Mattsson opened the scoring at 14:36 in the first period, knocking in a rebound over goalie Milan Hnilicka and into the net.

"Niklas Kronwall came down the right wing and he tried to shoot the puck and I think it hit the defenseman's leg and the rebound out of that came right to my stick and I don't know where the puck went, it went up in the air and it's unbelievable," Mattsson said.

"World Championships is really big back home in Sweden. I think the last time we won was 1998 so it's really big. I can't really understand it yet. Probably a couple of weeks before I do."

Emvall made it 2-0 just 37 seconds later, deflecting a shot past Hnilicka.

Kronwall gave Sweden a 3-0 lead 4:07 into the second period, skating unchallenged into the Czech end and beating Hnilicka with a backhander.

"We just felt like there was nothing to hold back," Kronwall said. "It was the last game of the season and the world championship final. You're not tired at all, you just try to put that away and go out there and work hard.

"I think we got a lucky bounce there on the first goal, and after that we just kept working. We got the second one again. When we got the third goal, it felt pretty safe after that," Kronwall added.

Kronwall, one of four players from the Detroit Red Wings on Sweden's roster, was selected as the most valuable player in the tournament.

"It's flattering, but it's a team effort," Kronwall said. "In my opinion, [Sweden defenseman] Kenny Jonsson should have that award, but it is what it is and I'm happy to be where I'm at right now.

"We're going to celebrate this tonight here in Riga. Tomorrow we're chartering a plane to go back to Stockholm to celebrate with the people."

With the Czechs shorthanded, Sweden scored again at 17:01 with a one-timer by Jorgen Jonsson, Kenny Jonsson's brother.

Goalie Johan Holmqvist earned his second shutout in seven games, making 15 saves. Sweden outshot the Czechs 26-15.

Earlier, defenseman Petteri Nummelin set up three goals to lead Finland over Canada 5-0 in the bronze-medal game.

"It's been a good hockey year for Finland," coach Erkka Westerlund said. "We made history today. It was the first time a country medals in the Olympics, under-20 and under-18 world championships, and the world championship."

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