Month: February 2017 (page 4 of 5)

Russia sweeps in Sweden


In the Euro Hockey Tour Russia succeeded by winning all three games of the Sweden Hockey Games and winning the Euro Hockey Tour before the last tournament in the Czech Republic.

The Russians played their first game on home ice in St. Petersburg beating Finland 2-1 before heading to Gothenburg where they won 4-2 against host Sweden and with the same score against the Czechs to claim first place.

The other teams had one win against each other with the Czechs claiming second place after improving their head-to-head goal difference following a 7-1 win against Finland. Sweden finished in third place.

Kirill Kaprizov, who captained his country to World Junior bronze recently, was Russia’s scoring leader with three goals and four points followed by Anatoli Golyshev.

Russia sent men’s teams to two tournaments. While the national selection succeeded in Gothenburg, the B-team, labelled as “Olympic selection”, participated in the Slovakia Cup where it finished in third place. Host Slovakia beat the Russians 6-2 in the semi-final of the opening day after Switzerland had edged Belarus 4-2 in the earlier game.

Total EHT 2016/17

Russia 24 Pts
Czech Republic 12 Pts
Sweden 9 Pts
Finland 9 PTS

Switzerland qualifies for Olympic Games

By Adam Steiss

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

By James

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”. 

Czechs outlast Denmark

By Adam Steiss

The Czech Republic and Switzerland will play for the right to advance to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea.

The Czechs put away a pesky Danish team 4-3 on Saturday evening at the Women’s Final Olympic Qualification, and will now face the tournament hosts in a winner-take-all game tomorrow.

Coming into the game at the bottom of Group C, the Danes were hoping to play the spoiler role against the Czechs, who needed a win to keep pace with the tournament-leading Swiss.

Denmark gave their higher-ranked opponents all they could handle, hanging around on the scoresheet all game and cutting the lead down to one goal midway through the third with a goal from Amalie Anderson.

But the Czechs were able to hold off Denamrk the rest of the way, setting up the clash with Switzerland. 

Denmark struck first with an early 5-on-3 opportunity, and the underdogs went ahead as Josefine Jacobsen fired a shot that was deflected in front by Michelle Brix for the opening goal several minutes into the game.

But the Czechs came back with a goal from Vendula Prybilova, who cut in from the right circle towards the net and sent a wristshot from the high slot past goaltender Lisa Jensen for the tying goal going into the first intermission. 

Early in the second period, a bad stroke of luck for the Dane saw defenceman Josefine Asperup inexplicably launch the puck towards Jensen, catching her goalie unawares as the puck bounced into the net giving the Czechs the 2-1 lead.

Then with eight and a half minutes remaining and the Czechs on a man advantage, Samantha Kolowratova gained possession at the point and let a shot right through Jensen for the 3-1 lead.

But the Danes weren’t ready to call it quits, taking advantage of a two-on-one rush which ended on the stick of Josefine Persson cutting the lead back down to one. But soon after the Czechs replied with their own odd-man rush, Prybilova firing a shot from the side of the net that Jensen couldn’t control and went in through the five-hole, giving the Czech forward her second goal of the game.

The Czech Republic now moves to 2-0, the same record as tournament hosts Switzerland, their next opponent and the team they need to get through in order to qualification for PyeongChang 2018.

Swiss one win away

By Adam Steiss

Switzerland is very close to a return to the Olympics, following a 4-1 win against Norway that puts the women’s team one victory away from PyeongChang 2018.

Tournament leading scorer Lara Stalder scored her second hat trick in as many games, as the Swiss overwhelmed Norway offensively, outshooting them 45-17. 

“It was a big effort from the team, and from Lara obviously,” said veteran defenceman Christine Meier. “We all worked hard on the ice and we earned this win. One last game and we’ll be ready for that, our power play has been excellent and we just need to keep focus.”

Up 2-1 in the third period, a late penalty allowed Switzerlands’ top power play line of Stalder, Alina Muller, and Evelina Raselli to add the insurance marker, Muler serving up Raselli with a smooth cross-ice pass for the 3-1 lead. An empty netter from Stalder sealed the deal.

“We understand each other on the power play and shared the puck really well,” said Stalder. “Since the Christmas break I feel that I’ve been on a roll, just taking it shift by shift. Tomorrow it’s the Czechs and looking forward to that.”

The first goal of the game came on the man advantage – with a blast from the point by Stalder two and a half minutes into the game – and looked to put the host Swiss in the driver’s seat early.

A few minutes later, on a breakaway Norway forward Line Bialik went for the triple deke but was saved by Schelling. However the Swiss netminder wasn’t able to corral the puck, and a scramble in front led to a Silje Holos goal on the rebound for the 1-1 equalizer.

At the other end of the ice the Swiss spent the rest of the period pressuring Norway goalie Ena Nystrom, who held fast despite her team giving up three consecutive power plays.

But having been outshot 20-9 going into the second period, Team Norway needed to turn things around and get pucks on the Swiss net. Still the Norwegians weren’t able to solve Schelling, who is playing in her first major tournament since coming back from a leg injury.

“It is nice,but it the same time it can be hard to get into the game.” said Schelling of her team’s effort to limit Norway’s chances. “When they were coming they had good chances, but at the same time it was so nice to see my girls do so well at the other end.”

The second period saw more of the same, with Switzerland controlling possession and Norway struggling to stay out of the box.

With just under several minutes left in the period, after Schelling made a great point black save Anja Stiefel moved the puck up to forward Lara Stalder, who slid past the Norway defenders along the boards, cut towards the net and fired a wrister past Nystrom for the 2-1 lead.

Stalder now has an incredible seven goals of the tournament putting her atop the scoring table with eight points in two games.

“Lara’s an amazing player,” said linemate Alina Muller, who along with Meier are second and third on the scoring table with four points each. “It’s her second hat trick of the tournament, and hopefully tomorrow she can get her third.”

With a second straight victory, the 2014 Olympic bronze medallists hold their 2018 Olympic destiny in their hands. Win tomorrow against the Czechs, and they’re in.

“If we can play with speed they will take penalties,” said Alina Muller. “We know we can play well and we know we can beat them, it’s just a question of who wants it more.”

Japan powers past France

By James Armstrong

Hanae Kubo scored a power play goal in the third period to lead Japan to a 4-1 win over France in the Final Olympic Qualification Group D.

With Japan holding a slim 2-1 lead, France was pressing for an equaliser and had several good scoring chances on Japan goaltender Nana Fujimoto.

But with 8:50 remaining, Emmanuelle Passard took a penalty for holding and Kubo capitalized on a shot from the high slot that beat France goalie Caroline Baldin with seven minutes left in regulation.

“We wanted to put it away earlier than that to be honest,” Japan coach Takeshi Yamanaka said. “But Kubo came through with a clutch goal and that took the pressure off.”

Rui Ukita added another for Japan late in the third, poking in a rebound after Baldin made the initial save.

France coach Gregory Tarle said he was proud of his team’s effort.

“It was a good game between two good teams,” Tarle said. “When we were down 2-1, we pushed to tie it up in the third and had our chances. I’m very proud of our team.”

Japan will next face Germany on Sunday with the winner qualifying for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Germany beat Austria by the same score in Saturday’s first game.

Japan got the scoreboard just 2:21 in when Ami Nakamura took a pass from Kubo and rifled a close-range shot past Baldin.

Haruka Toko widened the lead 3:28 into the second period, lifting a backhand into the top corner after picking up a loose puck off a turnover.

“We got off to a good start,” Yamanaka said. “It was good to score early and get a 2-0 lead in the second period. France got a little momentum there when we took some penalities but we were able to put it away in the third.”

France pulled to within one midway through the second period on a power play. Marion Allemoz took a slap shot from the top of the faceoff circle that beat Fujimoto high on the glove side.

Kubo, who scored a hat trick in Thursday’s 6-1 win over Austria leads the tournament with four goals.

“It was great to score in a situation like that,” said the 34-year-old veteran.

Eight teams will play in the women’s tournament in Pyeongchang. The United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland have already qualified along with South Korea which earns a spot as the host nation. Japan will take on Germany in the last game of the Final Olympic Qualification, a win sending the Group D hosts to Korea.

Germany defeats Austria

By James Armstrong

Germany scored two quick goals in the third period to defeat Austria 4-1 in their second game of the Final Olympic Qualification Group D.

Daria Gleissner scored on a power play with seven minutes left in the third and Kerstin Spielberger widened the lead just 22 seconds later with a backhand from close range that beat Austria goaltender Theresa Hornich.

“We had a lot of chances to score in the first two periods but couldn’t take advantage,” Gleissner said. “So that third goal was the one that opened things up and allowed us to win.”

Germany will face host Japan on Sunday with a chance to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games.

The Germans took the lead midway through the first period when Andrea Lanzl beat Austria goaltender Theresa Hornich with a wrister high on the stick side.

But Austria came right back less than a minute later when Esther Kantor picked up a generous rebound and jammed it home.

Austria was penalized with just over six minutes remaining in the first and Germany took advantage with Tanja Eisenschmid scoring on a slap shot from the blue line.

Germany beat France 3-2 in its first game while Austria was trounced 6-1 by host Japan.

Austria was penalized three times in the second period but Germany couldn’t take advantage of their power play opportunites. When they did get a scoring chance, Hornich was there to make a big save.

“Sometimes your power play works, sometimes it doesn’t,” Germany coach Benjamin Hinterstocker said. “It’s not something I’m worried about.”

Eight teams will play in the women’s tournament in Pyeongchang. The United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland have already qualified along with South Korea which earns a spot as the host nation.

Japan, which plays France on Saturday, will present a big challenge for the German team.

“Japan is bringing a great effort to every game,” Hinterstocker said. “They are highly skilled and fast so I’m looking forward to playing against them.”

Only the winner of Group D will qualify for the 2018 Games.

N.Korean female ice hockey team’s visit to S.Korea in April remains unconfirmed

By George Da Silva – National Teams of Ice Hockey

South Korean, North Korean national female hockey teams are due to play April 6th at the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A In Gangneung, South Korea.

The Participating of the North Korean national women’s ice hockey team has not been discussed and there is a good change that the North Korean team may not be able to compete at the World Championships.

The North Korean Ice hockey Teams Men & Women are not competing at the 2017 Asian Winter Games due to Japan stance Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons tests.

Later Japan allowed North Korean athletes and officials to participate in the 2017 Sapporo Asian Winter Games later this month as an exception to the entry ban on North Korean citizens, government sources said.

The punitive measure was put in place as part of sanctions for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons tests and rocket launches.

Seven athletes two figure skaters and five short track speed skaters will compete at the Asian Winter Games.

North Korea at the 2011 Asia Winter Games where they won one bronze

Herning native Ostergaard has lot to look forward to

By Martin Merk

Her Olympic Qualification campaign didn’t start ideally as Denmark lost 6-1 to Switzerland but Henriette Ostergaard has still a lot to look forward to.

Like in men’s hockey, women’s hockey is having an upward trend in Denmark. Ranked 15th to 20th between 2007 and 2012, the Danes finished the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship campaign 10th to 12th overall in the last few years and got a shot in the Final Olympic Qualification to compete for a spot in PyeongChang 2018. But in their first game against Switzerland, a bronze medallist at the last Olympics, they were shown that there’s still a discrepancy to the top nations.

“The discrepancy is probably the reality. We knew they’re a good team, we’ve never played them before,” Denmark captain Henriette Ostergaard said.

The Danes tried to play well on defence but had unlucky bounces in the first period and broke down under heavy pressure late in the second.

Although things are improving, the women’s hockey family in Denmark is still not that big with 428 registered players in the country. Some of the top players therefore try to get the challenge abroad like the 26-year-old did with a couple of years in the top Swedish league and in the NCAA Division III.

“I played in Sweden and in the States for a few years. My career is coming to the other end,” said Ostergaard, who now plays her club hockey in Herlev.

“Women’s hockey is not a big sport in Denmark. There are a lot of good leagues around in Europe but Denmark is probably not one of the best leagues. We have a lot of girls who play in Sweden and even a few who’ve been in the States. The Danish league is okay but we have more and more players moving out to get better, which is good for the national team.”

With the numbers slowly but gradually going up every year, Danish women’s hockey is growing and Ostergaard hopes that hosting the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Copenhagen and Herning will animate both boys and girls to start playing the coolest game on earth. As a native of Herning, next year will be even more special for her.

“It’s huge for the city. They’re going to play both in Copenhagen and Herning but the Danish team will be playing in Herning, it will be our home city. I think it’s going to be huge. It’s going to be a big thing for Danish hockey in general,” Ostergaard said about having the biggest annual winter sport event in her hometown on the Jutland peninsula.

“We’re going to have a lot more people who are going to start playing and we can focus on women’s hockey that way as well. It’s huge for us to get it and it’s going to be a great event, they’ve already started working on it. It’s going to be good.”

You can count in Ostergaard for being at the event and she can even imagine that she and her teammates will take an active role.

“A lot of us are probably going to be there for volunteering and to show up as a team. I’m from there so probably I’ll be working for them. A lot of the girls also have brothers who play on the men’s team,” she said.

The volunteer registration is open and more information can be found here.

While looking forward to a big year for Danish ice hockey in general, Ostergaard’s focus will be on the next game of the Final Olympic Qualification Group C in the Swiss mountain resort town of Arosa, on Saturday against the Czechs, who started with a 5-0 win against Norway.

“We played the Czechs a few times now. We match them a little better [than the Swiss], we know them, we know what to expect, we know how hard they come out. We definitely know more what to do in that game,” she said, keeping hopes for a spot in PyeongChang 2018 alive.

And come spring there will be another chance for the Danish ladies to move up to the top level as they will compete in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division I Group A in Graz against Japan, France, host Austria, Norway and Hungary.

Kubo leading the way for Japan

By James Armstrong

With a hat trick in her team’s 6-1 win over Austria in the Final Olympic Qualification Group D, Hanae Kubo solidified her place as Japan’s top player.

The 34-year-old native of Tomakomai, Hokkaido, now has 32 goals and 62 points in 63 games since her first call-up to the national team way back in 1999.

Kubo was a member of the Japan team that surprised many by qualifying for the Sochi Olympics with a 5-0 win over Denmark.

As happy as she and her team mates were to make their second Olympic appearance, the end result of five losses in Sochi was not easy to take.

Kubo scored one goal and added two assists in Sochi. The veteran forward is now leading her team’s efforts to qualify for the Pyeongchang Games and a chance for some redemption.

“I wasn’t able to give 100 percent in Sochi and you can only make up for that at the Olympics,” Kubo said after her three-goal performance in her home town. “I want to make sure we win and book our tickets here.”

Japan will play France on Saturday before wrapping up the tournament against Germany on Sunday. Germany beat France 3-2 in its first game. Only the winner of Group D will qualify for Pyeongchang.

Japan, which will be bidding for its third Olympic berth following Nagano and Sochi, has been making steady progress and is currently seventh in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking.

The team is coached by Takeshi Yamanaka, who played for Japan’s men’s team at the Nagano Olympics.

Yamanaka has built a team that takes advantage of speed and fitness and so far the strategy is paying off.

“We feel we have the ability to win all three games here if we play to our strengths,” Yamanaka said.

Eight teams will play in the women’s tournament in Pyeongchang. The United States, Canada, Russian, Sweden and Finland have already qualified along with South Korea which earns a spot as the host nation.

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