Date: February 18, 2018

Canada Earns Quarter-Final Bye After 4-0 Shutout Over South Korea

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

Team Canada has finished the round-robin with a 4-0 victory over South Korea, earning a bye to the men’s Olympic quarter-finals in the process.

Canada was dominant out of the gate as expected, taking 15 shots in the first eight minutes alone. Matt Dalton, a Canadian-born ex-pat representing South Korea at the Olympics, put on a shot, making 18 saves in the opening 20 minutes. For Dalton, his performance was similar to how he played against Canada at the Channel One Cup in December, where he stopped 53 shots in a 4-2 loss, one of the greatest games ever played by the Koreans.

The 14th opportunity would be the one that would finally break the Clinton, Ontario native. At 7:36, former Montreal Canadiens prospect Christian Thomas ripped a hard wrist shot over Dalton to make it 1-0 for Team Canada, with the goal being Thomas’ first at the tournament.

Korea looked strong in the first half of the second period, with a couple of power plays giving them a chance. But Canada would still get the game’s second goal after Eric O’Dell knocked the bouncing puck out of the air in the crease past Dalton’s right pad, with the fourth liner scoring his first Olympic goal to make it 2-0 for the Canadians.

Canada needed a four-goal differential to secure a bye to the quarter-finals, and they reached that goal before the game came to a close. At 3:43, Derek Roy sent Maxim Lapierre down the wing unchallenged. Lapierre somehow squeaked the puck from a tough angle underneath Dalton’s left pad and in, giving Canada the 3-0 lead with most of the third period left to play. Gilbert Brule would score one late and Kevin Poulin would save all 19 shots directed his way, giving Canada the 4-0 victory and a bye to the quarter-finals.

Canada will now focus their attention to the quarter-finals on Wednesday when they battle the winner of Finland vs South Korea in the qualification round on Tuesday, getting an extra day of rest before their first elimination game.

Sweden’s 3-1 win over Finland earns top spot

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By Andrew PodnieksIIHF.com

Zackrisson made a diving stab at a loose puck at 8:53 of the final period, smacking it in before goalie Mikko Koskinen could get over to make the save.

The win earns Sweden a bye to the quarter-finals and placement in the top-division in the overall preliminary-round ranking while Finland now has to play an extra game in the elimination qualifying round on Tuesday.

“It’s a face-off situation,” Zackrisson described of his winning goal, “and we put the puck to the net. It was just a battle to get to it and put it in. I tried to reach it and got my stick on it. It’s pretty cool to score in the Olympics. And it’s put the team into the quarter-finals is also great. We wanted to win the group and we’ve done that.”

Today was an anniversary that the Finns might have celebrated had they won. It was 20 years ago today, in Nagano, that Suomi last beat Sweden in the Olympics. Since then, the rivals have played three times, Sweden winning them all (2006, 2010, 2014).

Tonight’s game produced only 42 shots, Sweden holding a 23-19 edge.

The Swedes thought they had opened the scoring midway through the first period on a power play, but video review showed that Par Lindholm tipped the puck in with his stick above the height of the crossbar.

Just four minutes later, though, they put the puck in the net and it counted. The play started in the Sweden zone when goalie Viktor Fasth made a nice pad save off a shot from Petri Kontiola.

Linus Omark picked up the rebound and skated up ice with linemate Anton Lander, feathering a perfect pass to Lander in full flight through the middle. Lander burst in on goal and fired a low shot between the pads of Koskinen at 14:53 to make it 1-0 for Tre Kronor. Fasth earned an assist on the play for his “save pass.”

The Finns replied early in the second when Joonas Kemppainen batted a bouncing puck over the goal line at 1:32. The rest of the period was typical, close-checking Finland-Sweden hockey, with few scoring chances, lots of pushing and shoving after whistles, plenty of dump-ins and line changes without many quality scoring chances.

The best of the bunch was a great pass by Sakari Manninen to Jarno Koskiranta who was heading hard to the net. Koskiranta made a perfect re-direct of the pass, but Fasth got his right pad out to make a superb reaction save and keep it a 1-1 game.

After going ahead on Zackrisson’s goal in the latter half of the third, there were some tense moments for Tre Kronor. The Finns had a late power play and in the last 30 seconds of it pulled Koskinen to create a six-on-four, but to no avail. When Sami Lepisto incurred a penalty for the Finns, it sealed their fate.

Oscar Moller finished the scoring with an empty netter with 4.3 seconds remaining.

Czechs topple Switzerland

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By Callum Ng IIHF.com

In a short tournament, finding cohesion is critical.

And the Czechs again proved to be a patient group, as they relied on their structure to overturn Switzerland 4-1 on Sunday, finishing the preliminary round unbeaten at 3-0.

Michal Repik scored two goals and Dominik Kubalik tallied the game winner. Pavel Francouz made 28 saves for his third win.

“We move to the quarterfinals. That was our goal. We are happy we made it,” said Repik.

The Czechs will take Group A with today’s win, and skip the playoff qualifications.

They entered Sunday as an emerging contender in the Olympic tournament, lifted in the standings by a 3-2 shootout win over Canada the day prior.

The Swiss had one loss and one win on their tournament resume, with a lopsided falter against the Canadians before a trouncing of host Korea.

They remain stuck at third in Group A, and destined to play in the playoff qualifications.

“We’ve played three games now. We know where we stand now,” said Swiss captain Raphael Diaz.

“We have to be honest with each other. We’re still in the tournament here.”

The Czech’s opening goal was scored in the first period on a power play, after some excellent early skating.

Repik punched a one-timer from the slot over the reaching right arm of Jonas Hiller at 7:09.

But the Swiss pushed back.

At 14:47, Thomas Rufenacht evened things up with a heavy one-timer.

It wasn’t a power play goal, but it was close to one, as Tomas Zohorna had exited the penalty box only eight seconds prior.

The Czechs would take eight minutes worth of penalties in the first period, but it ended tied 1-1, with Switzerland outshooting the Czechs 14-8, mainly on the wings of three unsuccessful power plays.

The second period produced no goals, and it was tight until later in the period when the Czechs began to control play.

They outshot Switzerland 11-7 in the second, as the Swiss became weary from continuous Czech possession.

“That’s how we’ve played the whole tournament. We just play steadily and try to win the games,” said Czech captain Martin Erat.

Early in third period Dominik Kubalik broke the 1-1 draw. The 22 year-old Czech snuck in close to Hiller’s right, and deposited a slick Jan Kovar pass into the Swiss net.

“My goal, 95 per cent of it was Jan Kovar,” said Kubalik. “It was a back-door pass and I just put it in.”

Swiss head coach Patrick Fischer pulled Hiller with over three minutes left in the third period, and then again after the first Czech empty net goal, scored by Roman Cervenka. 

Repik scored his second of the game, into the second empty net.

Of note, every Czech goal scorer has professional hockey experience for a Swiss club team.

Ayaka’s OT strike sinks Sweden

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By Andy Potts IIHF.com

Japan followed up its Group B victory over Korea with an overtime success against Sweden. That’s the first time the Japanese have defeated a European nation in Olympic play, and puts Takeshi Yamanaka’s team on course for its best ever Olympic placing.

Olympic match-ups between these two countries have a habit of being tight. In Sochi, Sweden took a 1-0 verdict in its opening game of the tournament, then just over a week again it was 2-1 to the Swedes as Group B started out in Gangneung. This time, it was 1-1 in regulation before Ayaka Toko’s overtime effort gave Japan the win.

And Toko believes that future Olympic campaigns can bring even more success for the team, talking optimistically of competing for hardware in Beijing 2022. “This time we only got to the preliminary round, but next time we’d like to aim for a medal,” she said. “Our main goal was to play good defensively and I think we did that well, but we need to score more goals. It’s hard to have a balance of both, but we’ll try to do better next time.”

Her decisive moment came after three minutes of the extras. Captain Chiho Osawa circled around the back of the Swedish net and laid the puck deep for Toko to unleash a slapshot that found its way into the back of the net after beating Sara Grahn on the blocker side. Cue delight for Japan, claiming its first ever Olympic hockey victory over Sweden – men or women – at the sixth attempt. But there was further disappointment for Sweden, which has now suffered three straight defeats here in Gangneung.

Pernilla Winberg, at her fourth Olympics, summed up the mood among the Swedish players and talked about what might be needed to bring about improvements in the future.

“This is never fun. We didn’t do our job out there,” she said. “We didn’t score on our chances. It’s hard to win games when you’re up and down so much.

“We need more money into our program and focus on developing girls. It’s hard to say what’s gone wrong, but Canada and the U.S. centralize all year and we work all day and train at night. It makes a difference.”

Japan believed it had taken the lead late in the first period after Haruna Yoneyama’s rush ended with Osawa firing home a wrist shot from the deep slot. But Moeko Fujimoto’s efforts to screen Swedish netminder Grahn sparked a coach’s challenge from the Damkronorna bench, and the video review chalked off the play due to goalie interference. For Swedish coach Leif Boork, this was a better outcome than his attempt to challenge a Finnish goal in yesterday’s quarter-final; on that occasion, the Swedes failed to persuade the officials of their case.

Any lingering sense of injustice among the Japanese was quickly channelled into scoring a legitimate goal, and early in the second period Japan went ahead for real. Shiori Koike was the scorer, the defender bagging her second goal of the Games with an impressive finish on the backhand after she pivoted onto Yoneyama’s feed.

Sweden, looking leggy after its loss in the quarter-final just 24 hours earlier, began to rally. Emilia Ramboldt saw a fiery shot flash narrowly wide before Lisa Johansson tied it up with a short-handed goal. The Swedish forward spotted a piece of poor control as Japan looked to build an attack, and was onto the loose puck in a flash, leaving Ayaka Toko trailing in her wake. But there was still plenty of work to do as she set off down the ice to send Nana Fujimoto the wrong way and tie the game.

The third period could not break the stalemate. Japan had its better chances early and late: Hanae Kubo shot narrowly wide from a good position after some slick build-up play, and Osawa shot straight at Grahn with barely 30 seconds to play. In between, Sweden had opportunities to win it when Maja Nylen Persson’s slap shot was pushed away by Fujimoto and Johanna Olofsson’s deflected effort almost deceived the goalie.

Japan now advances to face Switzerland in the play-off for 5th/6th place. For defender Akane Hosoyamada, that represents real progress. “We were hoping to go to the medal round, but for our Japanese national team, this is a great result,” she said. “To finish 5th or 6th is very satisfying. For upcoming generations, this will give our program more respect.”

Sweden meets Korea in a battle to avoid finishing eighth and last in this year’s tournament.

Germany Finishes Round-Robin With First Victory

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

The final day of round-robin action in South Korea began with an overtime victory for Germany, defeating Norway by a score of 2-1 on Sunday.

Norway had 31 PIM by the time had hit the 30-minute mark of the period, meaning the team that had just one goal coming into the game would spend a good chunk of Sunday down a man. At 12:53 in the second, just as a penalty to Norway was coming to a close, Patrick Hager made his opponents pay by scoring on his own rebound, tapping in the puck past Lars Haugen in close to make it 1-0 for the Germans.

The second period was highlighted by a controversial hit by Norway’s Tommy Kristiansen. Kristiansen, one of the most physical players to ever represent his nation in international hockey, was ejected after a hit to the head of German blueliner Sinan Akdag.

Alexander Prince Fredrik Ramprecht Reichenberg has gotten some attention for having one of the best names in the Olympics, but he also became popular for scoring Norway’s second goal of the tournament. Just seven seconds after his team won a faceoff in the offensive zone in the third, Reichenberg placed a perfect shot under the glove arm of Danny aus den Birken, tying the game up for Norway at 45:19.

The game would require shootout to decide the victor, the third time that has happened in a 24 hour span. Three German forwards would find the back of the net in the skills competition, but it would be Hager who would score the one that counted, giving his country the 2-1 victory.

Both Norway and Germany will wait to find out their qualification round placements for when the tournament returns to action on Tuesday, with Norway still in search of their first victory of the tournament.

Swiss win classification, 2-0

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By Andrew Podnieks IIHF.com

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the game was that Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling was given the day off by coach Daniela Diaz.

Janine Alder started her first senior game, and this was a reward for incredible patience. Alder was the backup at the 2014 Olympics as well as the 2015 and 2017 Women’s Worlds, not playing one minute.

Indeed, Schelling had made an incredible 28 straight starts in OG/WW competion for the Swiss. The last time she didn’t start a game was April 3, 2013, a 13-0 Swiss loss to Canada in which Sophie Anthamatten and Dominique Slongo shared the duties.

“It was a very good experience,” Adler enthused. “It was just awesome to get game time and it all worked out perfectly. It’s one of the best days of my life, getting to play and then having such a good performance from everybody.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s been difficult,” Adler said about being with the team for so long without playing. “You’re always eager to play. You always want to play, but it’s so great being here. It’s great to watch Florence practice, great to watch her play. I’ve learned so much from her, and her confidence on the ice. Hopefully I’ve taken a little bit of that and learned from her. Maybe now I’m ready for that next step and I can bring it on the ice, too.”

For the Koreans, there were some noteworthy achievements. This was the smallest margin of defeat for the team, and their 19 shots tied their personal best.

As well, goalie So Jung Shin was excellent, stopping 49 of 51 shots, many from close range. This was also a team record.

“The Korean goalie was so strong today,” Adler added. “She had so many big saves. I take my hat off to her. She had so many shots to face.”

The bitter disappointment of losing the quarter-finals game was still noticeable, but the Swiss pulled together and beat a determined Korean team. The win means the Swiss have qualified for the 5th-6th placement game on Tuesday while the hosts will play in the lower 7th-8th game.

“It was a tough loss yesterday,” Swiss defender Christine Meier acknowledged, “but we knew we had to carry on. The first 20 minutes were pretty hard because we only played yesterday, and we were a little tired.”

The Kwandong Hockey Centre was packed with thousands of schoolchildren waving flags and urging on their team, and although the Koreans had several decent scoring chances, they couldn’t do enough to pull out a victory.

They did play solid defence, though, andit wasn’t until late in the first that the Swiss got on the board. That goal came on a power play. Nicole Bullo made a great pass to Sabrina Zollinger who was skating towards the goal and redirected the puck deftly beyond the reach of golaie So Jung Shin at 16:35.

The second period was much the same, but Korea moved the puck with more confidence and skated into the Swiss zone with purpose. Jongah Park had a nice chance from the slot, but her shot found the stomach of Alder.

Then, the Swiss got another late goal, this time off the rush. Evelina Raselli was in position to claim a loose puck, and she wired a hard shot over the out-stretched glove of Shin at 18:52 for a 2-0 lead.