Month: February 2018 (Page 2 of 8)

Canada Loses Ben Scrivens But Still Shutout Finland to Advance to Semifinals

By Steven Ellis –

Canada needed just one goal to secure their place in the Olympic semifinals, beating Finland by a score of 1-0 on Wednesday evening in South Korea.

While there weren’t a whole lot of big offensive opportunities in the first 40 minutes, Canada lost one of their most important players after a collision early in the second. Ben Scrivens would have to leave after Eric O’Dell pushed Veli-Matti Savinainen into his netminder, with Scrivens getting hit in the shoulder area. He would hang around for another play before getting taken out in favour of Kevin Poulin, who got a shutout in his lone start against South Korea to end the opening round of the tournament.

The goalie switch seemed to make Canada play a much stronger, aggressive game, especially when it came to their offence. After taking just four shots in the opening period, Canada controlled possession with an 18-9 advantage, yet neither team figured out how to put the puck past either goalie.

Canada finally found a way to break the deadlock a minute into the third period. O’Dell did a good job of winning the faceoff back to Maxime Noreau at the point, and almost immediately, the former Colorado Avalanche prospect blew a wicked slap shot over the blocker arm of Mikko Koskinen and in to make it 1-0 for the two-time defending Olympic champions. It was the only goal that Canada needed in the game, with Poulin putting on a perfect performance in relief to lead Canada to the victory and to help them advance to the semifinals.

With the win, Canada will play for a medal for the third straight Olympic tournament, having won the past two gold medals in Vancouver and Sochi. Finland will fail to win a medal for just the third time since 1988, winning two silvers and four bronze medals in that time span.

Finns edge OAR for bronze

By Lucas Aykroyd

This represented a major bounce back after a disappointing fifth-place finish four years ago in Sochi. It was a joyful moment for coach Pasi Mustonen’s team, which came to Korea expecting to medal and came through in the end.

“Winning a medal was our goal coming into the Olympics, and we know on a good day we have a chance even against the U.S. or Canada,” said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. “But the U.S. was really good [to beat Finland] in the semi-final, so this was what we wanted to win today.”

The Finns also came third in the inaugural Nagano 1998 tournament and in Vancouver 2010.

Susanna Tapani set the pace with a goal and an assist. Her 2-0 marker, just 10 seconds into the second period, set a new Olympic record for the fastest goal from the start of a period. The old record of 19 seconds belonged to Slovakia’s Janka Culikova, who scored in the third period of a 5-2 loss to Switzerland on 17 February, 2010.

Petra Nieminen and Linda Valimaki also scored for Finland. Top Finnish netminder Noora Raty, who played every game, outduelled her counterpart Nadezhda Morozova. Shots were even at 22 apiece.

“This is awesome!” said Raty. “It’s one of the best days of my life. We’ve been waiting for this for four years, ever since Sochi. We beat Sweden in overtime in Vancouver, and that was a great feeling to beat your biggest rival. But we were underdogs in that game; we were favourites today, I think, so there was more pressure.”

“We played together, and we played as a team,” said Valimaki. “That’s the main reason we won. It’s an amazing feeling, and now we can celebrate the medal.”

Lyudmila Belyakova potted a goal and an assist for the OAR team and captain Olga Sosina had a single.

“In a way, the tournament was still successful for us, but if I had a medal around my neck I’d be a lot happier now,” said Sosina.

Indeed, it wasn’t all bad news for the red-and-white squad, which played better than in the 5-1 group stage loss to Finland. Fourth place marks the best Olympic finish ever for a Russian women’s team. Russia came fifth in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Finnish forward Riikka Valila is the last remaining active player from the 1998 Olympics, which she led in scoring. At 44, she continues to excel. Her top line with Tapani and Michelle Karvinen was dangerous throughout the game.

“After Sochi, everything was chaos, but then we started to build our team, both the players and the organization,” said Valila. “Our goal was to win a medal for the last four years. “

This was a tightly contested affair after both teams lost their semi-finals 5-0, Finland to the Americans and the OAR women to the Canadians.

Facing the tournament’s most-penalized team, the Finns drew first blood on their first power play. Minnamari Tuominen stepped in from the centre point to loft a backhand and Nieminen deftly tipped it in mid-air past the Russian netminder for her third goal of the Games at 2:23.

It was the second time Finland’s youngest player has opened the scoring in these playoffs. The 18-year-old Nieminen also did it in the 7-2 quarter-final win over Sweden.

“We had a lot of good scorers in the tournament, and we have a new generation coming, like Nieminen and the younger girls,” said Hiirikoski. “It’s nice to see them step up as well.”

The Russians had their chances as the period went on. Raty came out to block Belyakova on an OAR outnumbered rush. Later, Alevtina Shtaryova wristed one that hit Raty’s glove and then the post. In the last minute of the first, Ronja Savolainen capitalized on a Russian pratfall to go one-on-one with Morozova, but the puck drifted off her stick.

To start the middle frame, Finland got a two-goal lead thanks to its top line. Off the opening faceoff, Karvinen and Tapani executed a lovely give-and-go, and Tapani scored high to the stick side.

The Russians didn’t capitulate. At 2:40, Sosina one-timed Belyakova’s cross-ice pass over Raty’s glove to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Finns overcompensated with physicality and the OAR team hemmed them in with an extended power play, including a 5-on-3 for 0:39, but couldn’t tie it up.

Finland grabbed a 3-1 lead at 12:18. Venla Hovi went cross-ice to a streaking Valimaki and she cut to the net made a great backhand deke to beat Morozova.

With just over two minutes left in the second, Belyakova’s hip slammed into Raty’s head as she split the Finnish defence on a wild rush. The Finnish netminder was all right, but Belyakova headed off for goalie interference.

At 6:03 of the third, Belyakova executed the play she wanted when she got in for another solo rush and tucked a backhand home to make it 3-2 on a Russian power play.

“They played well, especially in the third,” said Hiirikoski. “They did everything to score but we just needed to move the puck and control the puck in their zone.”

With five minutes left in regulation, Finland’s Isa Rahunen took a bodychecking penalty on Anna Shokhina in the corner. It could have proved costly, but since Shokhina promptly bopped Hiirikoski with a high-stick, the Russian advantage was nullified.

Assiduous Finnish checking kept the OAR team from pulling Morozova until an icing call on Finland with nine seconds left. Off the faceoff, the Finns tied the puck up along the boards, and celebrated with gloves and sticks cast away when the horn sounded. Karvinen leapt into the taller Mira Jalosuo’s arms for a hug while the goalies exchanged chest bumps.

Shokhina was assessed a major and game misconduct for kicking at the end.

All game long, Russian supporters among the Kwandong Hockey Centre crowd of 3,217 fervently chanted their country’s name. However, while the OAR men’s team was busy demolishing Norway 6-1 in a quarter-final, the women weren’t able to defeat their own Nordic opponents. Russian women’s hockey still needs the right kind of support to hit the next level.

“We have a very good team, a very young team with a lot of potential,” said Sosina.

It was the first Olympic bronze battle between these two sides. At the Women’s Worlds, Russia beat Finland for third in the 2001, 2013, and 2016 bronze medal games. Finland returned the favor in 2011 and 2015.

Finland owns 12 Women’s World Championship bronze medals, more than any other nation. Despite losing 3-1 to the U.S. and 4-1 to Canada in the group stage prior to a 5-0 quarter-final loss to the Canadians, the Finns remain the team most capable of challenging North America’s hegemony. They will host the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship and hope to take that next step in front of their loyal fans.

“We want to be the best,” said Karvinen. “We’ve been trying to catch up with the U.S. and Canada. Some games we do, but we couldn’t in the semi-finals. But the future will change. We’re hungry and we have the support.”

Russia Cruises to Semi-Finals After Big Win Over Norway

By Steven Ellis –

The first semi-final matchup for Friday has been confirmed after Russia defeated Norway by a score of 6-1 on Wednesday afternoon in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Russia was dominant from start to finish, taking a 19-2 shot advantage and a 3-0 lead into the first intermission alone. It all started when, at 8:54, former NHL top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko scored off of a lucky bounce, beating out a few Norweigan players before sending a wild wrist shot over Lars Haugen, giving the Russians the early 1-0 lead.

At 13:25, some great passing between Sergei Mozyakin and Pavel Datsyuk resulted in Russia’s second marker. This time, Nikita Gusev would score his first goal of the tournament on the power play after Mozyakin’s shot from far out went off the boards and right to Gusev. Gusev, property of the Vegas Golden Knights, scored from a tough angle, just squeaking it pats Haugen to make it 2-0.

Just before the end of the period, Russia scored again. This time, Slava Voynov made it 3-0 after some beautiful passes from Gusev and Kirill Kaprizov found its way to Voynov in the high slot. Voynov made no mistake with a perfectly-placed wrist shot to end the period and the night for Haugen, one of the top goaltenders of the tournament.

Norway was hoping to at least get one on the board, and that’s what they did at 7:21 in the second. Alexander Bonsaksen would make it 3-1 after his shot completely fooled Russian goalie Vasili Koshechkin, who was looking the wrong way on the shot.

But Russia quickly scored a pair of goals to make it 5-1. At 8:35 on the power play, an Ilya Kovalchuk feed to Sergei Kalinin in front resulted in Kalinin’s first goal of the tournament, only to have Nikita Nesterov score another power play goal at 13:06. Ivan Telegin would score one late in the third period to complete the game, giving the Russians the 6- victory on Wednesday evening.

Russia will turn their focus to the semi-finals on Friday, where they hope to secure their first championship game appearance since 1998 in Nagano, Japan. They’ll take on the Czech Republic at 16:40 local time, a rematch of the gold medal game 20 years ago.

Czechs Perfect in Shootouts After Win Against USA

By Steven Ellis –

The first quarter-final game of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament in PyeongChang, South Korea required extra time to declare a victor, with Petr Koukal scoring the game-winning goal to give the Czech Republic the win and a spot in the semi-finals on Friday.

Perhaps the most dangerous duo at the 2018 Olympics included Ryan Donato and Troy Terry, who have managed to find each other in most American scoring chances. At 6:20, Terry waited out a defensive effort by the Czechs before finding Ryan Donato in front of the net. Donato would re-direct the puck past Pavel Francouz just in front of the net, giving USA the 1-0 lead early in the game.

But nine minutes later, the Czechs answered back. Two players with similar names, Jan Kovar and Jan Kolar, connected after Kovar won the puck in a faceoff back to the point. Kolar would crush a hard shot past Ryan Zapolski with a bomb blast from the point, tying the game up at one apiece.

The second period would see the teams trade goals again to make it 2-2. At 8:14, Thomas Kundratek picked up the puck at the blueline after a bit of a scramble in front with Martin Ruzicka giving it to his defenceman with a good shot. Kundratek took advantage of Zapolski not fully being in the right position in his crease, giving the Czechs their first lead.

But at 10:23, the Americans scored to knot the contest back up, this time thanks to a fourth-line forward. Former Atlanta Thrashers centreman Jim Slater would get one shorthanded after sending a nice shot past Francouz, scoring his first Olympic goal just months after considering retiring from the game for good.

For the first time in the playoff round, a shootout was required to see which team would advance and which team would go home early. Petr Koukal scored the lone goal in the shootout, winning the game and ending the tournament for the United States.

With the win, the Czech Republic will meet up with the winner of the 16:40 local time match between Russia and Norway in the semi-finals on Friday, also at 16:40. This is the first time the United States will not make the final four since 2006, while the Czechs are looking for their third Olympic medal after a gold medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2006.

Germany Stops Swiss in Overtime to Advance

By Steven Ellis –

Germany is off to the quarter-finals after beating their Swiss rivals 2-1 in overtime on Tuesday.

Switzerland found themselves down early in the game after Cody Almond was ejected from the contest for a hit to the head. As punishment, Germany scored a minute later on the power play when Leonhard Pfoderl one-timed a feed from Frank Hordler, blowing a slap shot past Jonas Hiller and in to make it 1-0 for the Germans.

It continued to stay a physical game after that, but Simon Moser’s goal at 23:40 came while both teams were at even strength. A great effort by the Swiss forwards to keep the puck active below the goal line eventually resulted in Moser tapping in the puck in the empty cage, with a bit of help of a German defender who knocked down his own goalie before Switzerland tied the game up at one.

The low-scoring affair would require overtime to decide, but it didn’t take much of the extra frame. Yannic Seidenberg would pick up the rebound with 26 seconds complete in overtime, giving Germany the win and sending Switzerland home early.

With the win, Germany will battle against Sweden at 21:10 local time on Wednesday, with hopes of making a surprise run to the Olympic semi-finals on the line.

Finns Flatten Korean Comeback to Advance to Quarter-Finals

By Steven Ellis –

South Korea’s men’s Olympic hockey dream is over after Finland defeated the host country 5-2 on Tuesday evening in PyeongChang.

As expected, it didn’t take much time for Finland to score first. The opening goal of the game came at 4:42 on the power play when Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen made a 75-foot backhand pass from the boards to Petri Kontiola, who wasted no time sending a hard shot past Matt Dalton to make it 1-0 for the Finns.

Tolvanen, one of Finland’s best players back at the 2018 World Juniors, continued to prove why he is one of the top players in the tournament. At 3:44 in the second period, he helped Kontiola score his second goal of the tournament after feeding him the puck to the right of the Korean net. Kontiola would shoot the puck towards the net, only to have it bounce off of Korean defender Bryan Young in front, bouncing off his skate and in.

Not to be outdone by his young Finnish counterpart, Miro Heiskanen made it 3-0. Of course, he’d receive a pass from Tolvanen, but he would do a good job of fighting off a Korean defender before rifling the puck over the glove of Dalton, putting Finland up by three.

It looked like Finland was about to run away with the game, but South Korea had completely different plans. At 10:06, following an onslaught of pressure by the Koreans, Canadian-born Brock Radunske found a way to squeak the puck under the right pad of Mikko Koskinen and in to give Korea just their second goal of the Olympics, coming at a time where they needed it most to send the hometown fans into a frenzy.

Finland still looked like the better team, but two minutes later, the Koreans scored again to bring themselves within one goal. This time, Jin-Hui Ahn, who has never really been much of a scoring threat for the Korean national team, scored his first ever Olympic goal after sending one high over Koskinen, putting the Olympic hosts within one past the halfway mark of the game to give them a legitimate shot.

Korea, however, could not improve on their momentum and would fall down to far away to catch back up. For the third time on Tuesday evening, Finland would score on the power play, this time with Jusso Hietanen jamming in the rebound after Oskar Osala touched it seconds prior, giving the Finns the 4-2 advantage. Sakari Manninen would get an empty-netter for FInland in the dying seconds, helping cap off a 5-2 win for Finland.

The Finns will now turn their focus to Team Canada on Wednesday evening at 21:10 local time, a team they’ve had many big battles against over the past few years. For South Korea, the team exceeded anyone’s expectations, standing their own against Canada, Finland and the Czech Republic while playing the top hockey nations for the first time ever at a major tournament.

Norway Qualifies For First Olympic Quarter-Finals

By Steven Ellis –

For the first time in the nation’s history, Norway has made it to the final eight of men’s hockey at the Winter Olympics following a 2-1 overtime victory over Slovenia on Tuesday.

The first 40 minutes saw just one goal scored, an important one for Slovenia, who was missing Ziga Jeglic after he was suspended for the remainder of the tournament using a banned substance. At 6:38, Jan Urbas scored on the power play after one-timing a pass from Jan Mursak near the point. Urbas, a dangerous shooter with Slovenia, managed to get the puck just under Lars Haugen’s left pad, the lone mistake the Norweigan goalie made in the game to put Slovenia up ahead.

A strong goalie battle between Haugen and Gasper Kroselj was one of the main reasons why the score was so low heading into the third period. But at 43:06, Tommy Kristiansen, who was ejected after a headshot against Germany earlier in the week, would put up the first goal for Norway after taking a feed from Martin Roymark, beating Kroselj blocker side to make it 1-1 to keep Norway’s chances alive.

For Haugen, the Norweigan netminder has been the story since the team began to play at the tournament. The team had just four goals in their first four games of competition, and Haugen had to be strong in each of those games to make up for the lack of scoring. On Tuesday, Haugen made 33 saves, including multiple stops on Mursak, Slovenia’s most dangerous forward.

One of the questions heading into the tournament was if this would be the final Olympic tournament for Patrick Thoresen. Assuming Norway even makes it to China in 2022, Thoresen would be 39 years old, and while he’s still a productive player, things can change over the next four years. A former NHLer, Thoresen scored just one goal against Sweden, with Norway struggling to find their offence in the game.

It was fitting that the former Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers forward was apart of the game-winning goal in overtime. Just three minutes in, Thoresen was stopped by Kroselj before a scramble in front ensued. The puck made its way out of the crease area and on to the stick of Alexander Bonsaksen, who sent one past Kroselj, who had time to recover, to give Norway their first Olympic victory outside of a consolation game.

With the win, Norway will have the honour of facing Russia at 16:40 local time in PyeongChang in the second quarter-final game of the day. It’s their first Olympic victory since 1994 and will be their first time they’ve ever qualified for the quarter-finals, a game that will go down in history for the Nordic nation.

Swiss come fifth

The Swiss edged Japan 1-0 for fifth place on Tuesday. Goalie Florence Schelling set a new Olympic shutout record with her fifth all-time

By Lucas Aykroyd

Schelling also leaves these Games as the all-time Olympic wins leader (10) and tied with Canada’s Kim St-Pierre, Sweden’s Kim Martin and Finland’s Noora Raty for the most Olympics among goalies (4). Of course, the 2014 Olympic MVP would have preferred a repeat of the team success of Sochi, where Switzerland earned an historic bronze medal.

“I’m very proud of the team, the way we stepped up after being so disappointed,” said Schelling.

Evelina Raselli scored the first-period winner.

“Right now, winning fifth place really isn’t bad, and probably in a week it will feel awesome to think about getting fifth place in the Olympics,” said Raselli. “But it’s still not a medal.”

Switzerland won both its placement games, including a 2-0 shutout over host Korea by rookie Olympian Janine Alder. There are, naturally, regrets over the missed opportunity in a 6-2 quarter-final defeat against the Olympic Athletes from Russia. But nonetheless, the Swiss women’s program is heading in the right direction.

It was a good tournament for 19-year-old Alina Muller, who leads all skaters with seven goals and 10 points, and Christine Meier, who tops the tournament in points for defenders (8). In fact, Meier’s eight assists are the third-highest ever in one Olympics, tied with Canada’s Cherie Piper (2006). Hayley Wickenheiser set the record with 12 (2006).

Japan matched its sixth-place finish from the inaugural 1998 Olympic women’s hockey tournament on home ice in Nagano. That featured just six teams, and the competition has gotten stiffer in the last 20 years, so the 2018 result is more impressive. Smile Japan, indeed.

“Not the result we were hoping for, but after we didn’t make it through the qualifiers, I think getting to the fifth-place game was a pretty good job,” said Japan’s Akane Hosoyamada. “We should be pretty proud of ourselves.”

As usual, Japanese starter Nana Fujimoto was solid, as shots favored Japan 20-14.

“I hope that the younger generations feel that they can keep coming up and competing at this level,” Hosoyamada added. “I hope we were good role models for them and inspired more people to start playing hockey.”

In front of 3,958 fans at the Kwandong Hockey Centre, the Swiss got the start they wanted. Raselli pounced on a loose puck at centre ice and swept in for a breakaway goal at 3:19. Yet clearly emboldened by their first Olympic win over Sweden (2-1 on Sunday), the Japanese kept attacking throughout the first period.

“It was my mistake for the goal, which was hard, and then throughout the game we couldn’t get past their goalie,” said Hosoyamada. “She’s a great goalie. She’s always going to get the first shot. So we have to get coverage in front of the net, get the screens, get the rebounds and we just couldn’t get the second shot on the net today.”

A scoreless second period picked up toward the end as Japan pressed for the equalizer with Sabrina Zollinger in the box for cross-checking. Even with a 7-1 shots edge in the middle frame, the Japanese couldn’t solve Schelling.

The Swiss initially thought they’d taken a two-goal lead about five and a half minutes into the third. Muller smartly centered the puck while sliding on her knees and Stalder put it in the net, but it was waved off as Isabel Waidacher had violated Fujimoto’s crease.

With a display of warrior bravado, Japan pulled its goalie for the extra attacker with 2:12 left. But Phoebe Staenz’s relentless puck pursuit in the dying moments kept the shutout intact. Schelling smiled and pumped her arms at the final buzzer.

“It’s been a great experience to play at the Olympics,” said Hosoyamada. “It was my dream since I was little. I’m so grateful that I was here, a part of this team and this environment, but I hope I’ll get the chance to come back again, maybe in Beijing.”

Switzerland won its second straight game over Japan at these Games. The Swiss prevailed 3-1 in round-robin play on 12 February. Switzerland also has a perfect 8-0 record versus Japan at the Women’s Worlds, dating back to 1990.

Will Schelling be back for a fifth straight Olympics? “I’m not really thinking about my future yet. I’m just happy being here right now, enjoying it and soaking up everything right now.”

Americans advance

By Andrew Podnieks

Troy Terry led the way with three assists for the Americans, who now face the Czechs for a place in the semi-finals.

“That’s my identity as a player,” Terry said. “I mean, I can score, but I’m more of a playmaker and a passer, and I thought I’ve had a pretty good tournament. Tonight I was just able to make a little bit cleaner plays and guys were able to finish on them. When you play with guys that can score like that, it’s fun.”

Slovakia will likely finish in 10th place and are finished for the 2018 Olympics.

“It’s not bad, but we are not happy,” said Ladislav Nagy. We could have finished first in our group, and we lost it. We should have beat Slovenia and we would have been fine.”

It was a game that started slowly but produced some fireworks in due course. The scoreless first period gave was to a four-goal second, which began with a quick strike by the U.S.

Terry had a breakaway that was stopped by Jan Laco with a Bower-esque pokecheck, but Ryan Donato got to the rebound and snapped the puck into the open side at 1:36.

Just 26 seconds later the Slovaks found themselves in a major hole thanks to a breakdown in discipline. In the offensive end, Ladislav Nagy crashed into goalie Ryan Zapolski to earn a minor, and as play moved into the Slovak end Michal Cajkovsky elbowed Donato in the head, earning a match penalty.

Zapolski was dazed by the hit, which caught him in the head, and needed several minutes to recover.

“He hit my head and I just pinched my neck a little bit, but my head is fine. It wasn’t a concussion or anything like that.”

The U.S. wasted no time in converting the five-on-three into a goal, James Wisniewski capitalizing on Terry’s nice no-look set-up pass. Fortunately for Slovakia, this was the extent of the damage from these penalties.

Midway through the period, though, the U.S. went up 3-0 thanks to a Mark Arcobello one-timer in the slot off another Terry feed.

The Slovaks got on the scoreboard at 16:54 on the power play when Peter Ceresnak stepped into a shot from the top of the circle.

The U.S. got an insurance goal at 9:52 of the third off the rush. Brian O’Nell took a hard check for the team along the boards before passing to Broc Little, who found Garrett Roe in front. Roe made no mistake with his quick re-direct to make it 4-1.

Donato got his second of the night late in the third on a power play to close out the scoring.

“We have to win now to keep moving on, so I think that’s something that shows how strong this team is and how resilient we are, said Zapolski. “We had our best game today, and I think our best period of the tournament was the third period tonight so it was really important for us to have that type of game.”

Swedes sign off with win

By Andy Potts

Sweden’s women wrapped up their Olympics with a comfortable 6-1 victory to secure seventh place – but it was a plucky Korean performance that caught the eye at Kwandong Hockey Centre.

The host was unable to pull off the shock win that it had dreamed of, but still made life tough for the Swedes as it recovered from the loss of an early goal to tie the scores through Soojin Han. The game remained live until deep into the second period as Sarah Murray’s team signed off with a performance that offered great encouragement for a roster ranked 22nd in the world and facing the #5 team in the IIHF rankings.

And the sense of pride spilled over at the end of the game. Goalie So Jung Shin – whose stats did not fully reflect the contribution she made behind an overworked defence – was cheered off the ice, while hard-working forward Jingyu Lee was the last to leave the field of play, departing amid a fluttering sea of white and blue Unified Korea flags.

Lee, who battled tirelessly in search of a goal that never quite came, embodied the spirit of a Unified Korean team that deservedly captured the hearts of hundreds of fans who remained on the concourse long after the arena was emptied to support both the athletes and the symbolism of this unique union of North and South.

Randi Heesoo Griffin, scorer of Korea’s first ever Olympic goal during the group game with Japan, was looking forward to tapping into that excitement to support the development of Korean hockey.

“I certainly hope that it keeps people excited about the game and gets more kids playing, because we really need that,” she said. “That’s a huge part of the mission of our team, and that’s something that isn’t changing after these Olympics are over. A lot of girls on the team are involved in coaching kids, and we talk all the time about how we can keep this momentum going for women’s hockey in South Korea.”

Griffin added that, with the off-ice hullabaloo about the Unified Team dying down, it had been fun playing the final game in front of a large crowd “of people who were here for the hockey and here to support us”.

For Sweden, a country that came here with medal ambitions, this was absolutely not the game it wanted to be a part of – and at times it showed. Korea, eager to wrap up its Olympics on a high, was out to exploit any lethargy on the opposition’s part, and for a time there was even a possiblity of a major surprise.

Fanny Rask acknowledged that it had been a chastening couple of weeks in Gangneung after her team finished in seventh place. “It’s kind of hard, because we worked really hard for this,” she said. “It’s not the tournament that we expect from ourselves. We have higher expectations from ourselves. It’s really hard. I’ve tried not to think about it too much because it will be really, really hard when you know how much you’ve put in.”

The Koreans could, maybe should, have opened the scoring here. A 5-on-3 advantage for 50 seconds early in the game was the perfect platform to get the host ahead. Instead, though, the chance went begging: Korea failed to test Minatsu Murase in the Swedish net, and came no closer than a Lee slapshot that flashed just wide.

If you don’t score on them, they’ll score on you. Sweden, back to full strength, wasted little time in proving the truth of that old adage. Rask sent Sabina Kuller away into oceans of space on the left-hand flank; Kuller relished the opportunity to thump home her first goal of the Games in the sixth minute. With Korea’s proven lack of firepower, it felt like an early end to the competitive action.

But another Swedish penalty transformed the mood as Korea snatched a tying goal. Captain Jongah Park made it, darting behind the net from the left channel then sending a fine pass back in the direction she came for Soojin Han to squeeze in a shot from a tight angle. It was a moment to cherish: a quality goal to delight the home crowd, and for the first time in this tournament, Korea had played itself back into a game.

It nearly got even better. Lee robbed defender Johanna Olofsson deep in Swedish territory and went straight to the net, only to clip the outside of the post. There was a growing feeling that the shock might just be on.

That dream took a beating late in the opening frame as Sweden converted a power play chance. Korea struggled to clear the puck from its zone, and when play came back to Emmy Alasalmi on the point, she fired home a delicious one-timer to reinstate the Swedish lead.

Once in front, Sweden’s confidence increased and Shin was by far the busier goalie in the second period. Korea managed just two shots on goal in the middle frame as the pressure piled up around Shin’s net. The host was not afraid of the dirty work though, with Heewon Kim’s willingness to put her body on the line seeing her pick up an injury when a slapshot crashed into her.

In the end, though, the pressure told as Sweden scored a fine goal. Rask, Emma Nordin and Erika Grahm produced a passage of tic-tac-toe that might have come straight out of a Soviet playbook; the bewildered Korean defence was left watching by the time Grahm applied the coup-de-grace to make it 3-1.

Now there was no way back for Korea. Sweden added another goal through Annie Svedin early in the third. Her shot dinged into the angle of post and bar, but a video review confirmed that the puck had crossed the line. Rask, who scored the first goal of the 2018 Olympics, got her second of the tournament when she made it 5-1 with 10 minutes to play before Lisa Johansson wrapped up the 6-1 scoreline late on.

But the emphatic victory could not quiet the questions about where Sweden’s women’s program goes from here. Grahm admitted that there was uncertainity about the future – but sounded a defiant note.

“After this season, we need to think about what happened and then we can look to the future,” she said. “Right now I’m going back home to play with my club team. Hopefully we can end it up better there and after that, I don’t know. But I want definitely more than this.”

Meanwhile, Rask called for more backing for the women’s game. “I think we need support from our clubs and from the federation so that we can focus on just playing hockey and not worry about our future,” she said. “So we can just focus on getting better and have time to rest and not be stressing out about life itself.”

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