By Adam Steiss IIHF.com

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.”