By Yoo Jee-ho – Yonhap News
South Korea suffered a second straight loss to Sweden in their women’s hockey friendly game here on Saturday.
World No. 5 Sweden defeated the 22nd-ranked South Korea 4-1 at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul.
In their first showdown on Friday, Sweden blanked South Korea 3-0 while outshooting their opponent 40-13.
With South Korea on the brink of getting shut out again, captain Park Jong-ah got her team’s lone goal at 15:38.
South Korea hosted Sweden for two games here in preparation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next February. Gangneung Hockey Centre will also host hockey games during the Olympics.
Sweden once again came out firing from the first period, and South Korean goalie Shin So-jung again had to battle to keep her team in the game. Shin, named the top South Korean player of the game on Friday, frustrated one Swedish shooter after another with an array of saves. But it was a flukey shot that solved Shin late in the first.
At 16:26, Sabina Kuller received a pass from Sara Hjalmarsson to the right of Shin just outside the crease, and flipped the puck on a backhand over Shin’s shoulders to put Sweden ahead 1-0.
Shots were 19-7 for Sweden after the opening 20 minutes. The Swedes consistently found open teammates thanks to a combination of their sharp passing and South Koreans’ poor defensive coverage. For the second straight game, they were quicker to loose pucks and used their considerable physical edge to win battles in the corners.
Sweden doubled its lead just 2:37 into the second period, as Hanna Olsson scored from close range after taking a feed from Erica Uden-Johansson. With Olsson left alone at the top of the crease, South Korean defenseman Cho Mi-hwan stood watching the play unfold and failed to keep the Swedish forward in check.
Sweden enjoyed some extended shifts in the offensive zone during the period, cycling the puck down low and buzzing around the South Korea net for minutes on end. That left South Korean players gassed, and when they did secure the puck they had little left in their tanks to go on counterattacks and instead settled on clearing the puck out of their own zone and getting a line change.
Shin had to bail out her teammates on several occasions in the second period, most notably when she denied Rebecca Stenberg on a one-on-one chance with 1:42 left following yet another defensive miscue.
South Korea managed just two shots on the Swedish goalie Louisa Berndtsson in the middle frame, while giving up 20 on the other end.
Shin stopped Lisa Johannson near the top of the crease about four minutes into the third period to keep it a two-goal game. But Sweden extended its lead to 3-0 at the 11:10 mark, as Maja Nylen-Persson’s point shot traveled through the screen and ended up in the back of the net.
Annie Svedin made it 4-0 Sweden at 15:29 with a slap shot from just outside the right faceoff circle, after Sabina Kuller won the draw cleanly.
But just nine seconds later, Park Jong-ah gave home fans something to cheer about. After Sweden won the faceoff at center ice, Johanna Fallman stumbled and fell to the ice while skating back into her own zone. Park pounced on the loose puck and skated in on Berndtsson, before snapping a shot past the goalie.
South Korea head coach Sarah Murray said she was pleased with the way her players started the game, but she wanted to see more “consistency” from them.
“We need to maintain our momentum,” she said. “When things don’t go our way, we need to make sure that we maintain our consistency and don’t dip up and down.”
Park, the goal scorer, said she was elated to get the team on the board, because scoring against the world No. 5 had been one of South Korea’s collective objectives.
“I couldn’t have scored that goal on my own,” Park said. “I think we all saw some hope that if we try hard, we’ll have our chance to shine.”
South Korea and Sweden will face each other again in Group B during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, where they’ll also play Switzerland (No. 6) and Japan (No. 9) in the preliminary stage.
South Korea will later set up camps in France and the United States, and face Switzerland, France (No. 13) and top-division U.S. college teams.
For more tune-up games, South Korea will also compete in a four-nation tournament in Hungary in November and have more training in New York and Minnesota in December.