Sweden dominantly won their opening game against the Czech Republic 7-1, in a game where the Scandinavians took control in the second and third period. The first period was much closer, however, and it the game could have been a lot different, had it not been for Swedish goalie Hugo Alnefelt.
Alnefelt Saves The Day
Picking a save as the turning point of the game might seem strange when you look at the scoreboard since Sweden absolutely dominated the Czechs. The only thing was that this domination only began in the second period. In the first period, it was close and it was potentially even the Czechs who looked like the better team in the second half of the period. After a strong Swedish start, Alexander Holtz was sent to the penalty box for a late hit. On this powerplay, the Czechs looked sharp, as a great passing move ended with a nice finish from Jan Mysak. Sweden managed to tie the game shortly after when Victor Soderstrom found Arvid Costmar in tight with a wonderful pass.
But seconds after having tied the game, the Czechs were on the attack once again. A fabulous cross-crease pass from Mysak landed on the stick of Michal Teply, who had a wide-open net to shot at. Without hesitation, he managed to elevate the puck perfectly, but somehow Alnefelt got across and got the glove on it. It was an incredible save from the netminder, but it had to be reviewed since it was unclear if Alnefelt had saved it behind the goal line. It turned out to be really close, but there wasn’t any conclusive evidence so the miracle save stood.
How It Could Have Changed The Game
However, what if the refs had given the goal for the Czechs and Alnefelt’s glove had been behind his goalline? This would have swung momentum back onto the Czech side and would have been a heavy blow to the Swedes. Having just found a way back into the game, seeing another goal against so shortly after would have been creating a feel of constant chasing, which can lead to frustration.
Meanwhile, the energy would be back with the Czechs who would have a feeling that they can find ways to beat Alnefelt, who before the game looked like one of the most impressive goalies in the league. To get two goals against a monster like him in a period, suddenly make him human. This would have given the Czech confidence to shot the puck more. This was one of the things that cost them in the final two frames. They stopped shooting on Alnefelt, and this save might be the reason why. They didn’t have faith that they could beat him cleanly, so they needed to play the perfect pass.
If the Czech goes into the final two frames with a lead they can also sit back and play a more defensively structured game, while awaiting a counter-attack, making them a lot harder to break down for the Swedes. Sure, a one-goal lead isn’t a lot, and Sweden could have won the game without a doubt even if Alnefelt allows the goal, but because of Alnefelt’s save, they could play without watching the time and a feeling of unjust.
Playing with a lead can give teams wins, and especially underdogs, who will defend harder than ever since they can sense the chance of an upset. While still the underdog in this game due to Sweden’s strong lineup and history of preliminary wins, Czech Republic isn’t exactly a minnow in hockey and they can absolutely give teams a scare. Give them a hand, and they can take the entire arm. Tonight Alnefelt was the reason Sweden didn’t have a close game against the Czechs.
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