Sweden notched its first win in its last Para ice hockey game at PyeongChang 2018 on Friday (16 March) in the game that mattered most for the country. With a resounding 5-1 victory over Japan in the seventh-place game, the sport’s founding nation achieved its goal at these Paralympics of finishing one spot higher than it did at the Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 Games.
Sweden scored more times in its victory over Japan than its other four games combined at these Paralympics, with former able-bodied ice hockey player Maximilian Gyllsten tallying his second goal of the tournament and veteran defencman Niklas Ingvarsson netting his team-leading fourth score.
“Our goal was to finish better than last time, and we did that,” Ingvarsson said. “Japan is a good team and was seeded higher than us and beat us last time we played them, so all of the guys had to fight very hard for this victory and I’m really proud of everyone on the team right now.”
It only took 52 seconds for Sweden to get on the board, with 24-year-old forward Gyllsten converting on a pass across the ice from Per Kasperi to connect for the second time this tournament and give his team the early advantage.
Just 1:25 into the second frame, Japan’s four-time Paralympic forward Kazuhiro Takahashi caught a crafty pass from Daisuke Uehara at the top of the crease to even the score. That did not seem to faze Sweden, as Ingvarsson came charging right back with a power-play goal on a helper from Kasperi, and then Kasperi converted on a chance of his own to double Sweden’s lead with less than three minutes remaining in the period.
Defenceman Marcus Holm netted his first goal of his fifth Paralympics midway through the final frame and then Ingvarsson scored his second of the day with 43 seconds to finish off the game.
The sport’s two oldest players at PyeongChang 2018 – both goaltenders – started the game. Sweden’s 53-year-old Ulf Nilsson and Japan’s 61-year-old Shinbou Fukushima both stopped the puck nine times.
Coached by Erik Vikstroem, Sweden will now leaving PyeongChang 2018 with momentum to build on for the next Paralympic cycle and strong players still on the rise in Gyllsten and Kasperi.
“It feels really good to go home with a victory,” Gyllsten said. “I think we found our best play at the end of the tournament and have now shown other teams that we came here to fight.
Every competition as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.