Day: November 14, 2021

Swedish women return to Olympics

Swedish captain Michelle Lowenhielm celebrates the opening goal

By Martin Merk –

The Swedish women’s national team will be back at a top-level event after a three-year absence and has qualified for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games after beating France 3-2 in a winner-takes-it-all game at the Final Olympic Qualification Group E on home ice in Lulea.

The Swedes built up a 2-0 lead after 24 minutes of play and had more energy to take the win home. Sweden had to go through the Olympic Qualification for the first time and continues its streak of Olympic participation.

For two games both the Swedes and the French were used to be the dominating force in the game but this winner-takes-it-all battle started with two teams at par. Even though the Swedes were favourites on paper, the French also had their chances. Their probably best opportunity for a lead was missed with a two-on-one attack by Chloe Aurard and Clara Rozier midway the first period.

On the other side Lisa Johansson was close when trying to capitalize on a rebound but the puck landed outside the net.

At 12:30 the Damkronorna team made their home crowd in Lulea cheer. After a shot from Maja Nylen Persson, Felizia Wikner Zienkiewicz was looking for the rebound, skated with the puck behind the net and sent it back to Michelle Lowenhielm, who netted the puck into the top-right corner.

Three-and-a-half minutes into the middle frame the Swedes doubled the gap. Olivia Carlsson sent a diagonal pass from behind the net through the crease and Sara Hjalmarsson reacted fastest to extend the Swedish lead to 2-0.

But France was not done yet. After a lengthy battle around the neutral zone Lea Parment sent a pass to Rozier at the blue line who deked Swedish defender Johanna Fallman in the offensive zone and then beat goalie Sara Grahn with a precise shot for the 2-1 score to the happiness of the travelling French fans at the arena.

The Swedes made one further step toward Beijing early in the third period. After Linnea Johansson had won a face-off at 1:58, Jessica Adolfsson sent off a hard shot from the blue that went in deflected by Lina Ljungblom.

The French suffered another kind of setback a minute later. Rozier illegally hit Lisa Johansson, who got her hand hurt and had to visit the medical staff while Rozier got a major penalty for interference. While the Swedes didn’t capitalize on the five-minute power play, they also didn’t allow the French to have a single shot on goal during the first half of the third period.

With 4:17 left in the game and a penalty against Sweden’s Anna Kjellbin just expired, Lea Villiot found the hole through traffic at Sara Grahn’s near goal post to cut the deficit and make it a one-goal game again.

It became hectic last minutes, in which the French hurt their chances with two penalties while Sweden defended the 3-2 lead until the end before celebrating their qualification for the 2022 Olympics and a comeback with the top nations after relegation from the Women’s Worlds in 2019.

Czech women off to Beijing

By Derek O’Brien –

There was a big-game feeling in the air in Chomutov on the final day of qualifying for the women’s ice hockey tournament at the 2022 Winter Olympics, prior to the start of the all-important clash between the Czech Republic and Hungary. Two 2-0 teams that had come close before but had never reached the Olympics, but only one would make history while the other would have to wait another cycle.

But on this day, the Czechs weren’t in the mood for drama and made it clear right from the get-go that this spot was not up for dispute. They scored three times in the first period before cruising to a 5-1 victory, and punched their tickets to Beijing.

“We played extremely smart, extremely composed, we waited for our scoring chances,” said Czech head coach Tomas Pacina. “We played well offensively and scored on our chances, but also extremely well defensively. I’m very proud of the girls, very happy for Czech women and for women in general. Finally, Czech women’s hockey will be represented where it belongs, and that’s at the Olympic games.”

Just 1:24 into the game, Aneta Tejralova, fresh off a five-assist performance against Poland, added another helper to her total when she came out of the corner and found Klara Hymlarova at the far post for the tap-in, sending the already excited Czech crowd into a frenzy.

“I think the first goal really set the tone for the game in our favour,” said defender Sara Cajanova. “We increased our self-confidence, played our system to the fullest and made virtually no mistakes that could cost us the Olympics.”

Talking about the source of the team’s energetic start, captain Alena Mills said: “It comes from the group of girls we have and the coaching staff. We all work for each other, we all get along on the ice and on. We’re always singing, which makes for a fun game and you see the result. We’re a team and we can build on the little things, support each other and give each other energy.”

A Hungarian power play stemmed some of that early momentum but the Czechs soon went back to the attack again, and in the midst of a goalmouth scramble at 12:15, Lenka Serdar got her stick on the puck and whacked it inside the post to make it 2-0.

Hungary needed to stem the tide and had a chance to do something on the power play when Daniela Pejsova was sent off for interference at 13:45. But after Alexandra Huszak won the attacking-zone faceoff, Vendula Pribylova beat everyone to the puck at the point and was off to the races, beating Nemeth with a forehand deke.

“Obviously, we were the underdogs and it was a quick turnaround after playing late last night, so maybe our gas tank wasn’t quite full,” said Hungarian head coach Lisa Haley. “Playing against a team that has as much speed as the Czechs do, it was a mountain we couldn’t quite get to the top of. We couldn’t afford to fall behind like that. We needed to keep the game close into the third period, but that’s probably the best I’ve ever seen the Czechs play and they’re deserving of this.”

Hungary’s best chance of the opening period went to Reka Debasi, who was robbed by the glove of Klara Peslarova from point-blank range with just over five minutes to go.

After holding a 12-7 advantage in shots over the opening 20 minutes, the Czechs were even more dominant in the second with a 14-3 edge. By this time, they didn’t seem as concerned with adding to their lead as they were managing the puck, and didn’t generate a lot of great scoring chances.

They did score one goal in the 28th minute, with defender Samantha Kolowratova joining the rush to make it a 3-on-2, and converting the backhand pass from Noemi Neubauerova.

“We had our ups and downs,” said Hungarian defender Lotti Odnoga. “I think we could have attacked the net more and closed the gaps and stayed closer with them, but it doesn’t do much good to think now about what we could have done better. I think the Czechs just played better than us and it shows in the result.”

Hungary showed some life on a third-period power play but it came to an end when Hayley Williams was called for slashing while digging at a puck under Peslarova’s glove. On the ensuing Czech power play, Denisa Krizova put in a rebound with 4:30 to play.

The only question remaining was whether Peslarova’s shutout would remain, and with 2:01 to play, spoiled it, Huszak forced a puck over the goal line that the Czech goalie quickly pulled out, but video replay confirmed that it did indeed cross the line.

But that did little to dampen the spirits of the 1853 in attendance, as the tense pre-game air was replaced by one of anticipation. They stood for the final minute and as the seconds ran off, the celebration was on throughout the arena.

After the on-ice celebrations were done, the scene shifted to the Czech dressing room, which according to defender Pavlina Horalkova, included: “Singing, dancing, beer, champagne … I hope it never ends. Let’s keep it going! ”

Turning his attention to the Olympics, Pacina said: “We have a little bit of breathing room now as a coaching staff and we have a tough job to do picking the team. Two of our best players aren’t here. We’ll get together in December and we’ll centralize on January 5th, two weeks before we fly to the Olympics.”

Denmark realizes Olympic dream

Denmark’s women’s national team will compete in the Olympics for the first time in history.

By Adam Steiss –

The ladies in red are bound for Beijing! Securing an all-important point in its last game of the Women’s Final Olympic Qualification Group D, Denmark’s women’s national team will compete in the Olympic Games for the first time in history following a 3-2 shootout loss to Germany.

For Danish women’s hockey, never has a loss felt so good.

“Yeah definitely,” said Danish defender Amalie Andersen. “I was pretty much shaking the whole game but just trying to stay calm, breath and take it one second at a time.”

“It was crazy, everybody was really loud, crying and shouting, I’ve never experienced anything like that before,” said Sofie Skott about the team’s emotions after the clock ran out in the third period, giving Denmark its Olympic spot.

Denmark came into the game needing just a single point to reach the Olympic Games for the first time in history. The Danes so far were unbeaten in two games in Group D after defeating Italy 4-0 and Austria 1-0.

Down 2-1 in the third period, the Danes were fighting to equalize or go home empty-handed. On a 4-on-4, defender Silke Glud shot the puck on net, where it was deflected into the back of the goal by a German player to tie the game at 2-2.

That score would be enough as the Danes held on to force overtime and earn the most important point ever in the history of the Danish women’s program.

“Really admirable,” said head coach Peter ELander about Denmark’s performance. “We started out good but got on our heels in the second period and they got a 2-0 lead. We were resilient and the performance of the team was admirable.”

For Germany, the road to the Games was much more difficult due to the team having dropped its opener against Austria. In order to finish ahead in a tiebreaker, the Germans would either need to win in regulation and get a win from Italy, or defeat the Danes by a six-goal margin in the event of an Austrian victory against the Italians.

But before anything the Germans needed to solve Danish defence and goalie Cassandra Repstock-Romme, who together were riding a 120-minute shutout streak. A scoreless first period played into Danish hands, with shots even at seven apiece although Germany did get a pair of quality chances against Repstock-Romme.

German pressure continued in the second, and finally hit paydirt midway through the period. Tanja Eisenschmid got the puck coming down the high slot area and fired a shot that went past the net to the left of Repstock-Romme. The puck bounced up off the boards behind the net and landed to the stick of captain Julia Zorn who buried it into the back to the net for the 1-0 lead.

Then on a power play, Bernadette Karpff found teammate Lili Welcke at the bottom of the circle with a cross-ice great pass, allowing Welcke to fire it into the top corner on a one-timer.

But with 42 seconds left in the frame, the Danes responded and put a stop to the German momentum. A great individual effort by captain Josefine Jakobsen got the puck into the German zone and eventually to Malene Frandsen, who fired a laser from just inside the blue line past goalie Franzizska Albl. That goal gave the Danes a boost going into the final frame, where they got the second score and held on to force overtime and punch their ticket to their first-ever Olympic Games.

The successful qualification marks a historic double for Denmark’s ice hockey program, which back in August saw its men’s national team also earn an Olympic trip for the first time ever.

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