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Super Swedes come close to ice hockey double

26 Feb 2006
Turin 2006, Ice Hockey, Sweden

Sweden's ice hockey players had a truly exceptional tournament, excelling in both the men's and women's tournaments.

The competition only really kicked into life in the quarter-finals, by which time Finland had appeared to be the most likely winners. The Finns won all five of their games in Pool A and then beat the United States in the semi-final.

The victory over the USA was a close 4-3 match, while Sweden had a more comfortable victory, pushing Switzerland aside 6-2. Perhaps the star match of the round was the third, in which Canada and Russia came face-to-face.

For the first two periods, it was tense and scoreless. But then the Russians took the lead, and extended that to hold on for a 2-0 win. The Czech Republic beat Slovakia in the other quarter-final.

The semi-finals came as an anti-climax. Sweden steamrollered the Czechs 7-3, thanks to seven different scorers, while Finland brushed aside Russia with a 4-0 victory that was as comfortable as it sounds.

The final, though, was a cracking match, with the lead swinging one way, then the other. After two periods, the score was 2-2, but Sweden's Nicklas Lidström scored just ten seconds into the final period to give the Swedish men a lead they would never relinquish, despite frenetic attack from the Finns.

In the women's competition, Sweden recorded another memorable victory, by beating the USA in a semi-final shoot-out. Sweden came into the game having lost 25 consecutive matches to the US, and were soon 2-0 behind. Yet they showed great resolve by levelling the score, thanks to a double from Maria Rooth.

The Americans swarmed forward, looking for the winner, but it never came. The match was instead decided by the shoot-out, with all four American athletes missing out as Sweden won 2-0.

It was the first time that the Americans had lost a match in an international competition to anyone except Canada. Perhaps drained by their exploits, Sweden couldn't summon quite the same resolve in the final and lost 4-1 to Canada. And yet, faced with that incredible losing run to America, the silver medal was surely far more than any Swedish fan had expected before the competition began.                                                    

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