“It’s very hard to say what I feel now. I’m just happy"
There was no better way to set up the last game, of the last day of the World Para Ice Hockey Paralympic Winter Games Qualification Tournament.
With the final PyeongChang 2018 spot at stake, Germany and Sweden dueled in a nail-biting game that saw the Swedes celebrate with their home fans. The moment enters as No. 46 on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) Top 50 Moments of 2017.
On paper, tournament host Sweden had plenty in their favour to secure a spot at the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games – home ice advantage, one of two teams in the tournament with A-Pool status and a history of Paralympic Winter Games experience.
But as the week-long competition in October went on in Ostersund, Sweden saw their dreams slowly slipping away.
The competition featured five teams – including Czech Republic, Germany, Japan and Slovakia – vying for the last three available spots at PyeongChang 2018.
A first-game stunning loss to Japan, followed by the ultimate tournament upset to underdogs Slovakia in overtime eventually put Sweden at the bottom of the standings.
The Czech Republic and Japan had already qualified during the tournament, setting up the bronze medal and deciding match-up between Sweden and Germany, the other A-Pool team in Ostersund.
Both teams were locked at 1-1 until the third period, and a lot happened in the last three minutes of regulation. Sweden’s Niklas Ingvarsson broke the tie, and the German squad began to fell apart as Per Kasperi drove a dagger through their hearts with two more goals.
Once finding themselves sitting in last-place, Sweden’s bronze medal victory was an even bigger celebration on the ice in front of their home fans as their PyeongChang 2018 hopes were kept alive.
It even left Swedish captain Peter Ojala in tears after the game, that he needed a moment to collect himself.
“It’s very hard to say what I feel now. I’m just happy. I never cry,” said Ojala after the win, and later revealed that he had been playing with a shoulder injury the entire tournament.
“It was broken in August and I tried to play one month ago and it was very hard,” he said. “[But] this meant everything. The shoulder is nothing. I think I can go to rehab now.”
Sweden will join Canada, the USA, South Korea, Italy, Norway, the Czech Republic and Japan at PyeongChang 2018.
The full rundown of the Top 50 Moments will continue until 31 December.