Day: February 12, 2017

Switzerland qualifies for Olympic Games

By Adam Steiss IIHF.com

Switzerland has punched its ticket to Korea, defeating the Czech Republic 4-1 and qualifying for the country’s fourth straight Olympics.

Swiss star forwards Alina Muller and Lara Stalder each scored twice, while Florence Schelling allowed an early goal but shut the door down on the Czechs the rest of the way to earn Player of the Game honours.

“Unbelievable, its what we’ve been dreaming of since last summer,” said Stalder, who finished the tournament as the top point scorer with eight goals and four assists in three games.

“I’m really tired, and happy! We gave it all in the end,” said Muller. “Everyone in the room deserved this, it would have been so hard to miss the Olympics and I’m happy that the Swiss can participate.”

Going into the third period holding a slim 2-1 lead, the outcome was far from certain as the Swiss were battling a hard-nosed Czech team playing fast north-south hockey.

But Muller, who has been unstoppable on the Swiss power play in this tournament, scored her second goal of the game, with a shot from the side of the net on the man advantage to give Switzerland some breathing room early in the period. 

The Czech’s best opportunity to cut the lead came midway through the third, but Simona Studentova’s open shot on a breakaway rang off Schelling’s right post. After the missed chance, the Czech offence fell silent and Stalder finished things off with an empty netter sending Switzerland to PyeongChang 2018, the country’s fourth straight Olympic Games.

“It’s amazing to win it here at home, amazing too that so many people came out to cheer us on,” said Schelling after the game. 

The Swiss came into the game as the clear favourites, veterans of three Olympics and Sochi 2014 bronze medallists. However, Switzerland’s only other game against the Czechs at the senior women’s level came at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, a 3-1 Czech victory.

In front of a loud crowd of local fans in the Swiss ski resort town of Arosa, the Czechs had a tall order to fill, trying to contain a team that has scored ten goals in two games and led by forwards Lara Stalder and Alina Muller who combined for 12 points in that span.

The game was fast paced right from puck drop. In the first period, an aggressive Czech Republic forecheck kept the Swiss hemmed in in their own zone. The Czechs had a great opportunity to take some momentum away from the hometown Swiss with an early power play, but Tereza Vanisova missed on an open shot in front of the net.

The hard work paid off though late in the period, when a deflected clearing attempt gave the puck to Katerina Mrazova in front of the net. Her shot was stopped by Schelling, but Aneta Ledlova was there for the rebound and put the Czechs up 1-0.

A Lara Benz hooking penalty put the Swiss on their heels, but the team was able to get out of the period down by just a goal.

For most of the second period, the Czechs continued to do all the right things – hard forechecking and consistent shot blocking – to frustrate the Swiss star forwards. But the Swiss finally hit paydirt with 5:41 remaining, when tournament top scorer Lara Stalder found her linemate Alina Muller with a precision pass to the side of the net for the one-timer.

Then the vaunted Swiss power play struck with just 18 seconds left in the period. This time it was Muller setting up Stalder for a blast from the point to put the Swiss up 2-1 going into the third, a lead the Swiss would never relinquish. 

“They’re fantastic, the way they played this whole tournament was absolutely amazing,” said Schelling of Muller and Stalder. “In my opinion they won the tournament for us, they have all doors open to them and if they play the way they have in this tournament then we are going to be really good in the future.”

Although the team finished one win short of the Games, the Czechs battled hard and took a major step forward in the country’s women’s hockey development with a strong showing at the Olympic Qualification. 

“I definitely think we left it out there, too bad we didn’t score more goals on the power play but I’m definitely proud of our team,” said Czech captain Alena Polenska. “We have a young team but the girls work hard and leave everything out there and I hope we get another chance in four years.”

Japan beats Germany, qualifies for Olympic Games

http://www.iihf.com/typo3temp/pics/3e73158a29.jpg

By James ArmstrongIIHF.com

With Japan holding a slim 2-1 lead, Kubo’s blast from the top of the faceoff circle with 5:17 left in the third period gave the hosts a two-goal cushion and sent them to their third Olympics following Sochi and Nagano.

It was Kubo’s tournament-leading fifth goal of the tournament. The 34-year-old forward scored a hat trick in the 6-1 win over Austria on Thursday and added another goal in the 4-1 win over France on Saturday.

“Kubo came through like she has all tournament,” said Japan coach Takeshi Yamanaka. “She just knows how to score in important situations and played a huge role for us.”

Germany pulled their goaltender with two minutes remaining and desperately tried to get back in it but Japan’s defence stood tall.

“I put the players out I knew I could count on and they did a great job,” Yamanaka said of the final two minutes.

As impressive as Japan was on offense, they gave up only three goals all tournament and finished with the maximum nine points.

Japan got on the scoreboard first when Moeko Fujimoto stuffed a backhand from close range past German goaltender Jennifer Harss at 12:16 of the second period.

Just over two minutes later the hosts doubled the lead on the power play. With Tanja Eisenschmid serving a two-minute penalty for hooking, Shoko Ono tapped in a rebound from the side of the net.

Germany responded with a power play goal of its own late in the second to cut the lead to 2-1.

Eisenschmid took a pass in the high slot and sent a wrister to the top corner with 3:30 remaining.

The first period was high-paced with few whistles. Japan came close eight minutes in on a 2-on-1 break but Kubo was denied by Harss. Akane Hosoyamada rang a slap shot off the crossbar with seven seconds left in the first.

Japan took two penalties late in the first period but Germany was unable to take advantage.

“To beat Japan you have to take advantage of your chances,” said German coach Benjamin Hinterstocker. “We tried everything to beat them. Both teams had chances, it was a high-tempo game and both teams had a chance to win.”

Eight teams will play in the women’s tournament in Pyeongchang. The United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland had already qualified along with South Korea which earns a spot as the host nation.Joining them now will be “Smile Japan”.