International Ice Hockey Federation

According to plan

According to plan

Swedes prepare for U18 Women’s Worlds

Published 23.12.2015 09:02 GMT-5 | Author Jeremy Darke
According to plan
Ylva Lindberg worked as an assistant coach at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship. Photo: Dave Sandford / HHOF-IIHF Images
It was the beginning of a new era for under-18 hockey in Sweden when ex-Swedish women’s national team captain Ylva Lindberg took over.

She took over at the helm after a five-year tenure from Henrik Cedergren.

Ylva Lindberg brought her 11 years of national team playing experience, two of those as captain, to a team that was looking to be the foundation of a new generation of junior women’s hockey in Sweden.

Since taking over the job as head coach in April, this year, Lindberg has been building towards a new future in junior women’s hockey in Sweden. Although, the first step will be to turn around the results of the last two years in the U18 Women’s World Championships where Sweden have placed sixth.

It will be unchartered territory for Lindberg when she heads to her maiden 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship in St. Catharines, Canada and does not hide behind the fact that she is learning the art of national team coach throughout the preparation process of the 2016 championships.

One of her first acts as new head coach was to get feedback off the 12 returnees, from 2015, on what they thought was needed to help grow this team and make it into the force that Swedish hockey is known for.

“The fact is, that in the beginning of the season when I started my work I called all of the players that had played before in the world championships, to ask them about their experiences,” explained Ylva Lindberg.

“I tried to create myself a picture of what we needed to work on, and what we need to change to make a better effort in the future. I have listened to the players and what they have had to say, and from that we have started this work.”

“Maybe we cannot see all of the results this year, but I hope next year and the years that follow that we see that the Swedish (women’s) junior hockey will get stronger.”

Lindberg’s influence has already paid dividends during Sweden’s two pre-championship tournaments in 2015. The young Swede’s placed second in the four-nations tournament that was held in Dmitrov, Russia in November, where they got wins against Germany 2-1, Finland 3-0 and went down to host nation Russia in a tough and tight battle 1-2.

They then backed up their solid second place in the four-nations with a dominant performance over Finland in a three-game series that was played in Orebro, Sweden just last weekend. The Swedes were victorious in all three games over their nearest rivals Finland, in a display of offensive power that saw 12 different goal scorers contribute to a 15 goal haul throughout the series, a statistic that gives the team confidence and shows that what coach Lindberg is embedding into her players is already sinking in.

“It is very, very important. I think the whole team gets more confident if they know that a lot of players can produce goals. And of course later in the tournament we need to score to win them. We have talked a lot about goal scoring and in modern hockey today it means a lot. You need to take the puck to the net and you need to be there, says coach Lindberg.”

It hasn’t just been the scoring that has been impressive for the Swedes during their preparation, 17-year-old, goaltender Ellen Jonsson is also proving that she wants and deserves to be the starter come January in Canada.

Playing as the back-up in Brynas Gavle in Sweden’s top women’s league, Riksserien, Jonsson has put up impressive numbers in her six starts, but her form when putting on the Swedish national jersey has been absolutely phenomenal.

In her four games played in, one against Russia and three against Finland, she has held a save percentage of 95 and a goals-against average of 1.25, which clearly boosts her claim to be the number one, not that coach Lindberg wanted to set anything in stone.

“The goalie is very important for us. If it is Ellen or another goalie in the net for us, if they can be there and create some comfort to the team and the defence then of course it is a big advantage.”

With the series against Finland being the last time the team will get together before they go into camp in Canada before the U18 Women’s World Championship, Lindberg was obviously pleased with the progression the team has made, but knows that there is plenty of work that still needs to be done if they are going to be a chance to compete for a medal.

“We have worked on our game and building a strong team every time we have been together, so it is going according to plan. I think we have a very good camp ahead of us in Canada before the tournament starts.”

“If you want to go far in the tournament you need to have good power play and penalty kill. That is something that we are going to work on during the pre-camp. We also are going to face the Canadian U18 team in an exhibition game so we are going to work on our defence really well.”

“We need to realize that we have a lot of work to do and we are going to face a lot of good teams. We need to be ready to work hard for every bit of the ice out there.”

Getting through the group stage of the tournament is as far as the Swedes are looking just now. They know whoever awaits them in the quarter-finals will be a tough opponent, but it will not matter if they do not get there in the first place.

“Our first goal is to win every game in the group, then we will see in the quarter-final. If we don’t win the games in the group we don’t have a chance to play a quarter-final. It is the first step,” says Lindberg. “I know very little about Switzerland and France, so I am very humble to go in there and try to focus on our game and do as well as we can. If we face Russia or Czech Republic (in the quarter-final) it is going to be a very tough game because they are two very skilled teams.”


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