A strong first-period effort was the difference as Sweden sailed to a 4-1 win over Slovakia on Friday in men's hockey action.
With the loss, Slovakia has fallen to 0-2 and will play in the qualification round next week to try and force a spot in the quarterfinals. Sweden has guaranteed themselves a top-two spot in Group C with the victory.
A great puck-moving play at 11:22 resulted in a goal for Sweden. Lukas Bengtsson got the puck deep into the zone to Max Friberg, who had a few defenders crowding him. Friberg then found Joakim Nordstrom standing alone and set him up for a seemingly open-net goal, putting the Swedes on the board first.
Sweden would take a commanding 3-0 lead into the first break of the game. Lucas Wallmark's third of the tournament would double Sweden's advantage after he used some extra space on the power play to send a shot over Matej Tomek's arm and in at 18:10. Then, with five seconds left in the first, Friberg scored a goal of his own to finish the period while pouring more salt in the wound for Slovakia.
The Slovaks made a goalie change in the second to try and spice things up, pulling Tomek in favor of Patrik Rybar, Slovakia's third goalie to play in five periods of play. Slovakia saw an increase in offensive opportunities, outshooting Sweden 16-9, but couldn't find a way to beat Magnus Hellberg in the second.
Carl Klingberg would add Sweden's fourth goal on an empty-netter, but the Slovaks wouldn't leave without something to celebrate. With just over a minute left in the game, 2022 NHL draft prospect Simon Nemec kept the puck from crossing over the blueline and found fellow 17-year-old Juraj Slafkovsky in the slot. Slafkovsky spun and beat Hellberg to end the shutout, with Slafkovsky scoring his third of the tournament – and Slovakia's third goal, period. At that point, though, the damage had already been done and Sweden was able to hold on for the 4-1 win.
Both teams will finish the round-robin on Feb. 13, with Slovakia playing Latvia in the early game before Sweden battles Finland in the mid-day contest.