Month: February 2022 (Page 1 of 7)

Malaysia national team skating on thin ice

Source: The Sun Daily

 It’s been a rough ride for the national men’s ice hockey team ahead of their debut at the 2022 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Championship Division IV in Bishek, Kyrgyzstan, from March 3 to 9.

Not only the team has been hit hard by Covid-19, the virus has certainly taken a toll on their preparations especially the training sessions here, for the Kyrgyzstan’s outing.

Apart from the head coach, Gary Tan, who was appointed to helm the national team merely three weeks ago, five out of 20 players were tested positive for Covid-19.

“I couldn’t get much time to get to know my players as I was tested positive Covid-19 more than a week after I got appointed on Feb 6.

“The only thing I could do during my quarantine period was to coach them online instead of training physically on the ice ring…luckily, those who were tested positive are fine and can represent the country in Kyrgyzstan,” Gary told Bernama when contacted.

The hassle did not end there though.

After the tournament, which was supposed to be held in 2020, was delayed to this year, the 43-year-old coach lamented that the Movement Control Order which was enforced to contain the pandemic in the country before had restricted the squad’s preparation for the competition.

“While our players resumed their training last September, the other teams had prepared well for the tournament…some of them did not even go through lockdowns and train consistently as usual,” he added.

Apart from the head coach, Gary Tan, who was appointed to helm the national team merely three weeks ago, five out of 20 players were tested positive for Covid-19.

“I couldn’t get much time to get to know my players as I was tested positive Covid-19 more than a week after I got appointed on Feb 6.

“The only thing I could do during my quarantine period was to coach them online instead of training physically on the ice ring…luckily, those who were tested positive are fine and can represent the country in Kyrgyzstan,” Gary told Bernama when contacted.

The hassle did not end there though.

After the tournament, which was supposed to be held in 2020, was delayed to this year, the 43-year-old coach lamented that the Movement Control Order which was enforced to contain the pandemic in the country before had restricted the squad’s preparation for the competition.

“While our players resumed their training last September, the other teams had prepared well for the tournament…some of them did not even go through lockdowns and train consistently as usual,” he added.

“The preparations have been tough but kudos to my players as they have been working hard in training, be it online or physically,” he said.

Asked about his target, Gary pointed out that he’ll be elated if his team could register a win or two in the league-format tournament.

Not only that, Gary said he will ensure that Malaysia will give their opponents a run for their money in the competition which will be held at the Gorodskoi Katok rink in Bishek.

The Malaysian team, who will be flying off early tomorrow (March 1), will open their campaign against Kuwait on March 3, followed by hosts Kyrgyzstan (March 4), Singapore (March 7) and Iran (March 9).-

Singapore to make world championship debut in Division IV

By Laura Chia – The Straits Times

After winning a historic silver at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, national men’s ice hockey captain Daniel Chew was keen to continue the team’s upward trajectory.

But the pandemic stalled their progress for nearly two years, with the team returning to the ice only late last year.

But things are starting to pick up again, as they will make their world championship debut next month.

World No. 55 Singapore will take on Iran (unranked), Kuwait (51st), Malaysia (53rd) and hosts Kyrgyzstan (52nd) at the March 3-9 Ice Hockey World Championship Division IV in Bishkek.

The tournament had been scheduled for 2020 and later 2021 but was cancelled because of the pandemic.

This event is the lowest tier of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) world championship competitions, with the teams typically split by world ranking. There is also a promotion and relegation system between the four divisions. The winners of Division IV will be promoted to Division IIIB.

Chew, who is self-employed, told The Straits Times it has been a long wait and he hopes the team can come home with a medal.

The 42-year-old, who has been with the team since 2008, said: “It’s a great step for us because it shows that a small country like us can play in the world championship and that’s quite an achievement.”

This will also be Singapore’s first time competing in an international competition. They usually play only in the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia against other similarly lower-tier Asian teams.

Singapore Ice Hockey Association development director Joewe Lam is aiming for a podium finish for the team, but also wants the 20 players making the trip to learn from playing against higher-ranked opponents.

Lam, 33, said: “We can’t always be playing against teams in the region. We need to go out and play against better teams, learn how aggressive they are and how good they are, then apply it to our game.

“But although they haven’t been playing for a while, they have to stay positive and can’t be scared just because they’re playing better teams.

“Our team has a good mix of youth and experienced players so they balance each other out and they just have to play their game and see where it takes them.”

One of the players, Ryan Goh, felt this could be a big turning point for the sport.

The 18-year-old, who will be enlisting for national service after the tournament, said: “This will bolster our confidence as a team and help us take on bigger challenges. I’m excited but also nervous. We were a bit rusty when we returned to the ice but most of the team are quite fit and we got back our flow after a while.

“The rest of the teams will be in the same situation so the playing ground will be quite even and if we just do our best and play hard, I think we stand a fighting chance.”

Teammate Aaron Kok, who has been in the team since 2017, added that he hopes their stint will help fellow Singaporeans understand the sport better.

The 45-year-old, who works as a delivery man, said: “The sport is very interesting and fast-paced. We want to prove that even though we’re a small country, we do train hard and can make it to the world stage. Hopefully this attracts more people, especially the next generation, to learn the sport.”

To support the team’s trip, which is mainly self-funded by the players, visit this website.

Finns win historic gold in Beijing

The Finnish players celebrate in a group photo after a 2-1 win against ROC in the Men’s Gold Medal Game at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

It was classic blue-and-white magic. Hannes Bjorninen scored the third-period winner as Finland captured its first Olympic men’s hockey gold medal ever with a 2-1 victory over the ROC team on Sunday. Coach Jukka Jalonen’s team rallied from a 1-0 first-period deficit to give their nation of 5.5 million the thrill of a lifetime.

“It feels unbelievable,” said Sakari Manninen, who led Finland in Olympic scoring with seven points. “There’s so many feelings going on and you can’t describe all of them, but the first ones are that it is amazing. We did the hard work and got this gold medal.”

Just 31 seconds into the third period, the relentless veteran Finns pounced in the ROC zone. Assistant captain Marko Anttila, the giant hero of the 2019 IIHF World Championship gold medal run in Slovakia, accepted Atte Ohtamaa’s pass from the left point, circled to the middle, and fired a shot that Bjorninen tipped past Russian starter Ivan Fedotov.

“We were talking after the second period that we needed more shots and traffic in front of their goalie, and this guy [motioning to Bjorninen] was there, so it was a good goal for us,” Anttila said.

Even under the unprecedented circumstances of a global pandemic, Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium will always hold a special place in the hearts of Finnish hockey lovers. This gold medal has been nearly a century in the making. Finland joined the IIHF family in 1928, played its first World Championship in 1939 in Switzerland, and made its Olympic debut in 1952.

“It’s tough to find the words but we got what we came here for,” said defenceman Sami Vatanen. “We battled hard and we got the first Olympic gold medal in Finnish ice hockey history. So it’s something special and nobody can ever take it away from us.”

As widely predicted, this was a full-fledged defensive duel, fought in the trenches along the boards. Shots favoured the Finns 31-17.

Ville Pokka had the other goal for Finland, and Ohtamaa added two assists.

Mikhail Grigorenko replied for the ROC team.

“The game didn’t live up to our hopes,” said ROC captain Vadim Shipachyov. “In the third period, we gave up a goal on the first shift, and after that it was hard to get through the Finnish defence. We tried to fight back, we got the puck to their zone. We waited for them to make a mistake, but they played with discipline.”

Finland has finally cured its “close but no cigar” syndrome at the Olympics. In the 1988 tournament in Calgary, played under a round-robin format, the Finns edged the Soviet Union 2-1 to earn the silver medal. In 2006, Nicklas Lidstrom’s third-period goal and Henrik Lundqvist’s last-minute save on Olli Jokinen gave Sweden a 3-2 final victory and the Finns went home with silver. The Finns also own four Olympic bronze medals (1994, 1998, 2010, 2014).

It was the second consecutive Olympic final appearance for a Russian squad, although this time they settled for silver under rookie head coach Alexei Zhamnov. In the 2018 gold medal game in PyeongChang, the Olympic Athletes from Russia defeated Germany 4-3 in overtime on Kirill Kaprizov’s goal.

In 1992, the Commonwealth of Independent States captured the gold medal in Albertville. Prior to that, the Soviet Union captured seven Olympic gold medals. No team under the Russian flag has ever won Olympic gold.

Zhamnov gave the Finns credit: “I’m not surprised about the game. They had the most aggressive game at this tournament. Their style hasn’t changed. They identify the mistakes of the opponents and capitalize on them. We were not aggressive enough, thus the result.”

This is the ultimate feather in Jalonen’s cap. The 58-year-old Riihimaki native led the Finns to their second and third IIHF World Championship titles of all time in 2011 and 2019, and added a silver medal at last year’s Worlds in Riga. He also masterminded a World Junior crown in Helsinki in 2016. And Jalonen, who was behind the bench for the 2010 bronze medal in Vancouver, now owns an Olympic gold medal.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” said Finnish captain Valtteri Filppula. “They’re impressive. He’s built a system that is working. He has a lot of experience. He kept us calm and believing in the system.”

There was little to choose between Finnish starting goalie Harri Sateri and ROC’s Fedotov. Sateri had an excellent tournament, swapping roles with Jussi Olkinuora, whom he backed up last year in Riga. Despite losing in the final, the towering Fedotov made a name for himself in his IIHF debut at age 25, playing every game in Beijing.

“He’s been incredible, our best player for sure,” Grigorenko said of Fedotov. “Probably nobody on our team deserved gold more than him. But it’s a team sport and I guess we didn’t play well enough in front of him.”

Arguably, these two teams entered the Games as co-favourites for men’s gold, and it was fitting they fought it out in the end. Neither side boasted its biggest superstars. Filppula, who dominated on faceoffs in Beijing, was the best-known ex-NHLer with a Stanley Cup ring from the 2008 Detroit Red Wings and 1,056 career NHL games.

This was a battle of wits and grit between familiar foes. Not only do 17 Finns on the Beijing roster play in the KHL, but Jalonen also coached both Shipachyov and now-ROC GM Ilya Kovalchuk with SKA St. Petersburg in 2013-14.

“We got to this final and it is already an accomplishment if you are playing in the final,” said ROC assistant captain Yegor Yakovlev. “With one goal, it is hard to win. That is a fact.”

After a grinding start, the Finns got aggressive in the ROC zone. Bjorninen got two cracks at the puck right in front, forcing Fedotov to be sharp. But then the versatile, mustachioed Jokerit forward, who previously captained Lahti Pelicans, was sent to the sin bin for high-sticking Yakovlev behind the goal line at 6:59.

Just 18 seconds later, ROC cashed in with their first man advantage. Grigorenko waltzed into the right faceoff circle, scoped out the situation, and zipped a blocker-side shot past Sateri with Pavel Karnaukhov providing the screen.

It was the first goal and point of these Olympics for Grigorenko, a CSKA Moscow veteran who spent last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. It came on just ROC’s second shot of the game. Nikita Gusev, who had four points in OAR’s 2018 triumph over Germany, got his tournament-leading sixth assist on the play.

After ROC’s Damir Sharipzyanov was penalized for a huge cross-check on Leo Komarov, the Finns exerted good pressure with their first power play, but couldn’t find the range.

Finland outshot their opponents 15-6 in the first period, with ROC vying to clog up the neutral zone in a reversal of these teams’ usual roles. Bjorninen had a great chance on a give-and-go with Saku Maenalanen just before the buzzer but couldn’t convert.

“Even when [ROC] scored, everybody was just calm,” Manninen said. “You could feel it on the bench. Everybody was like, ‘Don’t panic, we will score, and we will win this game.’ And that’s what happened.”

In the second period, the Finns stayed gritty on the forecheck, and Pokka notched the equalizer with a drifting shot from the right point through traffic that dipped and fooled Fedotov at 3:28. Bjorninen atoned for his earlier errors with a nice backhanded pass to set it up.

“We talked about how we need to get shots through and guys in front of the net,” said Pokka. “I don’t score too many goals, but I was super pumped that I scored in an Olympic final and tied the game.”

It was Pokka’s first goal ever in senior IIHF competition. The defensive-minded Avangard Omsk blueliner played 28 Worlds games prior to his Olympic debut in Beijing.

More Finnish pressure followed when Kirill Semyonov was dinged for an undisciplined elbow on Valtteri Kemilainen. But the Russians were as ferocious in their shot-blocking as the Finns were at firing the puck. The trend continued at even strength.

The best second-period ROC chance saw Arseni Gritsyuk, the semi-final shootout hero against Sweden, navigating into the slot surrounded by Suomi sweaters and pivoting to zing a shot just past Sateri’s right post.

After Bjorninen’s third-period go-ahead marker, Finland had to tap into its reserves of sisu (Finnish for “grit”) as the Russians attacked Sateri’s crease vigorously. Fedotov made a couple of great saves off Maenalanen from the slot to keep it a one-goal game.

Filppula hailed the way Anttila stepped up with gold on the line: “The bigger the game, the bigger he plays. He’s a great teammate all around. He’s big when it matters.”

The Finns did everything but score during a power play with less than nine minutes left in regulation after Sergei Andronov tripped up Anttila. Shortly afterwards, veteran defenceman Juuso Hietanen rang one off the cross bar on the rush. Zhamnov pulled Fedotov late for the extra attacker, but his troops couldn’t get anything going, and the Finns went wild with joy at the final horn.

“We played against a very tough Russian team and controlled the game almost all the time,” Jalonen said. “They didn’t have many scoring chances and our goalie was excellent in the net. I’m happy for the Finnish people.”

Finnish supporters revere their first World Championship title from 1995, which featured a 4-1 gold medal win over Sweden and a top line of Saku Koivu, Jere Lehtinen, and Ville Peltonen. It’s hard to imagine just how much they’ll celebrate this Winter Games gold, both now and in the future. With or without NHLers participating, it’s a crowning glory.

Finland only beat the Soviet Union once (1988) in seven Olympics meetings dating back to 1960. In the post-Soviet era, Finland’s record against Russian squads stands at six wins and three losses. The Finns have now won the last four Olympic meetings. The last one was the famous 3-1 quarter-final victory in Sochi.

Sunday was an historic day all around, as Slovakia also won its first Olympic medal, shutting out Sweden 4-0 in the bronze game.

The Finns head into the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Tampere and Helsinki with hopes of becoming the second team ever to win the Olympics and Worlds in the same year and the first to complete the feat on home ice. Sweden is the only nation to “do the double” before, in Turin and Riga in 2006.

Slovakia wins first ever Olympic medal

Slovakia’s Juraj Slafovsky (right) celebrates with teammates after scoring on Sweden in the bronze medal game.

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Two goals in the second period and solid defence in the final 20 minutes gave Slovakia a 4-0 win over Sweden in the bronze-medal game at the National Indoor Stadium tonight. This marks the first ever Olympic medal for the Slovaks. In 2010, they had a 3-1 lead in the third against Finland but ended up losing, 5-3. There was no such collapse today.

Juraj Slafkovsky scored twice, and Patrik Rybar recorded the historic shutout.

As is often the case with bronze games, it took a while for the teams to get going. The opening 20 minutes was tame and uneventful, with the exception of one dangerous flurry around the Sweden goal. Juraj Slafkovsky made a little drop pass to Marek Hrivik, and he snapped a quick shot off the post. Moments later, Mislav Rosandic had a point-blank shot, but there were half a dozen bodies between him and the net, and his shot didn’t get through.

Sweden had the only power play on a rare minor to goalie Patrik Rybar for tripping, but nothing came of that. It was Rybar’s second minor of the tournament. The only other goalie penalty this Olympics was incurred by China’s Jeremy Smith.

The Slovaks picked up the pace in the second and took control with two goals. Slafkovsky scored his tournament-leading sixth at 3:17 on an odd play, the kind of goal that only goalscorers get. He got control of the puck in his own end and roared up ice, cutting down the left wing. He was angled towards the boards by Swedish defender Christian Folin, and in that moment Slafkovsky let go a shot. The puck was on end, and it then hit Folin in the leg and fooled Johansson.

Sweden then had a flurry of chances, but Rybar was rock solid. The Slovaks went up 2-0 on their second of two quick power plays. Pavol Regenda fought off two Swedes in the corner to get the puck, and he made a sharp pass out to the side for Samuel Takac. His shot beat Johansson to the short side post, a shot the goalie should have saved. It was Slovakia’s first power-play goal of the entire tournament.

The history and drama and pressure of the game built as the third period progressed. Sweden made their hardest push yet, but the Slovaks were relentless. You could see how much victory would mean to them. They had a chance to put the game away midway through the period when Peter Cehlarik created a breakaway, but he was stoned by Johansson. 

Sloafkovsky and Regenda scored empty-net goals 18 seconds apart to seal the win and start the celebrations.

ROC through to 2022 Olympic final with penalty shootout win over Sweden

Source: Tass News Agency

Russian ice hockey players reached the final of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games after defeating the Swedish national squad in a penalty shootout during their semifinal encounter on Friday.

The score in the match was opened less than 15 seconds into the middle period with ROC Team’s Anton Slepyshev netting the puck. Sweden’s Anton Lander tied the score of the match with a goal on the 47th minute of the closing period.

The score of 1-1 remained throughout the following extra-time period time, but Team ROC eventually defeated the Swiss squad on a penalty shootout 3-2.

ROC ice hockey team is now set to face Finland on February 20 for the gold medal of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. The national ice hockey team of Finland advanced to the final match of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China with the 2-0 win over Slovakia earlier on Friday.

The final ice hockey match of the 2022 Olympics is scheduled for February 20, while the game for the bronze medal will take place on February 19.

At the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea’s PyeongChang, the Russian national ice hockey team played under the status of Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) and eventually won the Olympic gold defeating Germany 4-3 in sudden death overtime in the final match.

Finns edge Slovakia in tense semi to reach men’s ice hockey final

Source: Olympics.com

Finland just shaded a tense and strategic contest with Slovakia 2-0 – the second goal coming after the Slovaks had pulled their goalie with under a minute to go – at the National Indoor Stadium on Friday (18 February) to seal a berth in the gold-medal game (on 20 February).

The Slovaks still have another game to play at these Olympics – as they chase what would be a first-ever medal for the nation in the game for bronze on Saturday (19 February).

“It’s huge, of course. Going to an Olympic final is like a dream,” said Finland’s Sakari Manninen, scorer of the first goal. “You dream of those kind of moments, but at the same time [I try to] focus on the right things, not think about it too much and prepare for the next game.

“We know that we have really good defence, that is our strength,” added Manninen ahead of Finland’s third gold-medal game in history. “We are ready on that but we need to play with the puck more in the offence, create penalties and get the opponents a little bit tired.”

The Finns – the oldest team at this men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament with an average age of 30 – played a cautious game after opening the scoring. They kept the Slovaks – who eliminated medal favourites USA in a shock shootout win in the previous round – and their 17-year-old phenom Juraj Slafkovsky from getting into any real attacking rhythm.

Undefeated here at the Beijing Olympic Games and already with a 6-2 win over the Slovaks in group play, it was no surprise when Finland drew first blood.

With four minutes to go in a defensive and cautious opening period, former St. Louis Blues defenseman Petteri Lindbohm’s shot from just inside the blue line was saved by the outstanding Slovak goaltender Patrik Rybar.

Veteran forward Manninen jumped on the rebound to draw the puck back and slide it into the net from close in (1-0).

The only other goal of the game came in the dying seconds of the third and final period when, after Slovakia pulled Rybar to gain an extra skater in a hunt for the equaliser, Finland’s Harri Pesonen raced in on the open net to tap in and seal the contest for the Finns (2-0).

“It is a tough pill to swallow,” said Slovakia’s Marek Hrivik after the game “We had them under a lot of pressure but we could not score. We had some opportunities and we’ll have to tighten up a few things [before the bronze-medal game].”

The second semi-final game of these Beijing 2022 Olympics will be played later today with defending champions ROC and Sweden facing off at the National Indoor Stadium. The winner of that game will meet the victorious Finns in the gold medal-game while Slovakia will play for a first-ever Olympic medal in the game for bronze against the loser.

Finland have won a pair of men’s ice hockey silver medals (in 1988 and 2006) and four bronzes. When they play on the last day of competition here at the Beijing Games, they will be chasing their first-ever gold.

Poulin leads Canada to gold again

By Lucas Aykroyd – IIHF.com

Talk about revenge and rising to the occasion. Legendary captain Marie-Philip Poulin stepped up with two goals and an assist as Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 to win the 2022 Olympic women’s hockey gold medal on Thursday. Utterly relentless, the Canadians regained the title they lost to the Americans in PyeongChang four years ago.

“I’m so proud of this group, from players to staff,” Poulin said. “We stayed united since 2018. It would have been easy to go our own way, but to be honest, we put our heads down. We went to work. And it really showed tonight.”

This is one of international hockey’s most intense rivalries, and the North American superpowers put on another memorable show at Beijing’s Wukesong Sports Centre. It was pure elation for Canada and anguish for their archrivals, who got a goal from Amanda Kessel with 13 seconds left to make it close, but couldn’t complete their rally from a three-goal deficit.

“When we finally won, I was crying, happy and relieved at the same time,” said Natalie Spooner, who had a personal Olympic peak of 14 points in Beijing. “The past four years have been tough. The group has been so special. This has been the icing on the cake for everything we’ve worked for. Today it was just about our plan and the way we’ve been playing at this tournament. We were dominant. We played the way we need to play to.”

Canada’s Sarah Nurse added a goal and an assist to set a new Olympic single-tournament points record (18), surpassing the mark (17) set by Hayley Wickenheiser in 2006. With 13 assists, Nurse also broke Wickenheiser’s 2006 record for most assists (12) in one Olympics.

Canada has now won five out of a possible seven Olympic gold medals since the inaugural women’s tournament in Nagano in 1998. The U.S. captured Olympic gold in 1998 and 2018, while Canada triumphed four straight times from 2002 to 2014.

“There’s no quit in this team,” said U.S. captain Kendall Coyne Schofield. “We showed this tonight. We scored with 12 seconds left and we just ran out of time.”

Four-time Olympian and all-time U.S. great Hilary Knight had the other goal for the Americans, who outshot Canada 40-21.

“Obviously we came up short,” said Knight, who paced her team with six goals and 10 points. “We did not get the puck to the net enough. I don’t think we played up to our potential.”

As in Canada’s 4-2 group-stage victory over the U.S., Canadian goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens was outstanding with 38 saves, winning her duel with U.S. starter Alex Cavallini.

“The big thing for us was quality over quantity,” Nurse said. “I know today the Americans had a bunch of outside shots, but when you have the best goaltender in the world in Ann-Renee, you’re not going to score from the outside very often.”

“It’s tough,” Cavallini said. “To get that many shots, I feel like I didn’t hold it in there for the team today. I’m a bit numb right now, but I’m proud of our team for getting that goal at the end. We felt we were right there on the cusp of it, and enough of the bounces didn’t go our way today.”

The Canadians also won their first IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship since 2012 in August in Calgary, ending the U.S.’s hopes of a sixth straight title with Poulin’s 3-2 overtime winner.

These Olympics saw overwhelming Canadian two-way dominance. Coach Troy Ryan’s team went undefeated with a roster including 10 first-time Olympians. The top six tournament scoring leaders were all Canadian. In the final, Canada outdid the Americans with speed, physicality, and faceoff prowess (65 percent to the U.S.’s 35 percent).

“The biggest emotion is happiness,” Ryan said. “The work they put in on a daily basis to make this possible during the last four years was enormous.”

Just past the two-minute mark, the U.S. had the best early chance when Hannah Brandt rang one off the outside of Desbiens’ right post from close range. However, Canada controlled the puck more and the U.S. didn’t record a shot until more than 11 minutes in.

Near the seven-minute mark, Natalie Spooner thought she’d drawn first blood for Canada. Sarah Fillier provided the screen on a long shot by Melodie Daoust, the MVP of the 2018 Olympics and 2021 Women’s Worlds, and Spooner hammered the rebound high into the net. However, the U.S. challenged the play because Nurse was offside, and the goal was nullified.

Nurse, a former University of Wisconsin star, promptly atoned for her error. Off a faceoff in the U.S. end, Poulin got the puck back to Claire Thompson, and her shot from the side boards was deflected in by Nurse in front before Cavallini could react at 7:45. For the Winter Games rookie Thompson, it was her 13th point in Beijing, adding to her all-time Olympic single-tournament record for defenders.

Poulin made it 2-0 unassisted at 15:02. In the U.S. zone, she stripped Kelly Pannek of the puck from behind, circled into the middle, and surprised Cavallini with a long shot that slipped through on the blocker side.

“We call her ‘Captain Clutch’ for a reason,” Spooner said of Poulin. “I’m happy to play with her and not against her.”

This was the fourth consecutive Olympic final in which Poulin has scored. No other player – male or female – has equalled that feat. The Quebec native scored twice, including the winner, in both 2010 (Vancouver) and 2014 (Sochi) and added a single in a losing cause in 2018 (PyeongChang).

When Coyne Schofield took the game’s first penalty for putting the puck over the glass 24 seconds later, it hinted that this might not be America’s day.

U.S. coach Joel Johnson drastically shortened his bench, relying on his top two units. On a rare shift in the last  minute of the first, 22-year-old power forward Grace Zumwinkle, who tied Knight for the U.S. lead in goals (four) at the 2021 Women’s Worlds, tried to jam in a wraparound, but Desbiens locked it down.

“It was disappointing,” Johnson said. “In too many games we were not able to score in the first period. It’s difficult to take because overall we played pretty well and generated good offence, had good goaltending, good defence.”

In the second period, Canada kept coming. Poulin’s stretch pass gave Brianne Jenner a breakaway, but top U.S. defender Lee Stecklein came back and Jenner, who was named MVP with an Olympic record-tying nine goals, fired high and wide. Fillier set up Spooner on a 2-on-1, but Cavallini slid across to stop it with her right pad.

At 9:08, Poulin put Canada up 3-0. Nurse pulled up on an odd-player rush and sent the puck over to Jenner for a one-timer. The puck caromed right to Poulin on the left side and she zinged it home for her 17th Olympic goal of all time. Poulin also had 17 points at the 2022 Olympics, second only to Nurse.

Canadian forward Rebecca Johnston, a four-time Olympian like Poulin, hailed her captain: “She’s just a competitor. She’s someone that thrives in these tight situations. She’s so successful at it.”

The Americans tried desperately to get back into it. Roque attacked the Canadian net with a great wraparound attempt that fell short. Coyne Schofield and Jesse Compher collided with Desbiens. Johnson even tried giving offensive blueliner Caroline Harvey some ice time after benching the 19-year-old ever since the group-stage loss to Canada.

With 1:25 left in the second period, Knight gave the U.S. some life with a shorthanded marker to cut the deficit to 3-1. On a 2-on-1 rush with Brandt, she barged to the net to tuck in her own rebound past Desbiens. 

Knight appeared in her American record 22nd Olympic game, passing fellow legends Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero (21 apiece). At 32, Knight, a four-time Winter Games medalist (one gold, three silver), is the oldest U.S. women’s hockey player ever at the Olympics. 

In the third period, the veteran U.S. stars continued to press.

Alex Carpenter, who led the U.S. with four goals in 2014 but was left off the 2018 gold-medal team, put one off the post and then was stoned by Desbiens when she got in tight a minute later. Knight powered to the net on the backhand, but Desbiens denied her as the eight-time World Champion knocked her net off the moorings.

“We love each other and are willing to go through a wall for each other,” Knight said of her teammates.

It will remain unknown how the U.S. could have fared with superstar playmaker Brianna Decker in the lineup. Decker broke her leg in a collision with Finland’s Ronja Savolainen in the opener. Since the U.S. did not bring a taxi squad to Beijing, nobody ever attempted to fill Decker’s very big skates.

“Look at the adversity we’ve faced,” Coyne Schofield said. “You lose your best player. It never broke us. We stayed through it. We had a lot of grit and it showed what this team is made of.”

Johnson pulled Cavallini for the extra attacker with just over three minutes left. There was added drama when Poulin was sent off for tripping at 18:35. after running over the U.S.’s Cayla Barnes in the neutral zone.

The Americans mounted a furious last-minute push. Desbiens lost her goal stick and Kessel whacked in a rebound. But that was as close as they’d get. The Canadians flooded the ice to throw away their gear and hug one another, while heartbreak was plain to see on the Americans’ faces.

“When the final buzzer went, I was crying and it took me a minute to regroup a little bit,” said Fillier, who dazzled as a 21-year-old Olympic rookie with eight goals, second only to Jenner, and 11 points. “It still doesn’t seem real to have this gold medal around my neck and it’s such a special feeling.”

This was the sixth out of seven Olympic finals with a Canada-U.S. matchup. The lone exception was 2006, when Canada beat Sweden 4-1. In every previous Canada-U.S. final, the margin of victory was either one (2002, 2014, 2018) or two (1998, 2010) goals.

The Canadian women set a new single-tournament Olympic goals record (57) in seven games. The previous high was 48 in five games, set by Canada in 2010.

The road to this epic confrontation wasn’t easy for either side. The pandemic compelled the cancellation or postponement of Women’s Worlds in 2020 and 2021 and created less-than-optimal training conditions. The 2019 dissolution of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) was followed by strife between the PWHPA (Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association) and the PHF (Premier Hockey Federation, previously the National Women’s Hockey League). But getting to Beijing made it all worthwhile.

“Four years ago after our silver medal, I thought it was my last game but I’m really glad I came back,” Desbiens said. “I didn’t have fun back then, and I can tell you today, this is the most fun I’ve had in a while. This group, my teammates are special, and they’ve made the game I love fun playing again.”

In men’s hockey, the only nation to win Olympic gold and World Championship gold in the same year is Sweden (Turin 2006 and Riga 2006). With Women’s Worlds now set to take place in Olympic years for the first time ever, the Canadian women have an opportunity to “do the double” at the 2022 Women’s Worlds in Denmark (Herning and Frederikshavn, 26 August to 4 September). 

An exciting future lies ahead for women’s hockey, both in IIHF competition and in pro leagues. This 2022 gold medal game was another big step toward maximizing the sport’s global reach.

Sweden ousts Canada from Olympic men’s hockey tournament

Team Canada forward Corban Knight (9) is stopped by Team Sweden goaltender Lars Johansson (31) during first period men’s quarter-final hockey action at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Tuesday in Beijing, China. Sweden won 2-0

By Joshua Clipperton – The Canadian Press 

Canada is heading home from the Olympics without a men’s hockey medal for the first time in 16 years.

Lucas Wallmark scored midway through the third period as Sweden defeated Canada 2-0 in the quarter-finals at the Beijing Games on Wednesday.

Lars Johanssen made 22 saves for the Swedes, who will meet the Russian Olympic Committee on Friday in the semifinals. Anton Lander added the clincher into an empty net.

Matt Tomkins made 24 stops for Canada.

Wallmark’s winner came off a sloppy sequence for the Canadians where Andrew McBain and Eric O’Dell couldn’t get the puck out of the defensive zone. Wallmark stripped the latter and fired a shot off Tyler Wotherspoon’s stick and past Tomkins with 9:45 left in regulation.

Canada tried to press, but Lander iced it with Tomkins on the bench for an extra attacker with under two minutes to go.

The goal tied Wallmark with Slovakia’s Juraj Slavkovsky for the tournament lead with five.

Thursday marked the countries’ first meeting at the Olympics since the 2014 gold-medal final in Sochi when Canada beat Sweden 3-0.

NHLers did not participate due to COVID concerns

That also marked the last time NHLers took the ice at a Games.

The league skipped the 2018 event for financial reasons before withdrawing from 2022 because of COVID-19 concerns that forced dozens of postponements and battered its December schedule.

Sweden advanced to the quarters in Beijing as the No. 4 seed, while Canada had to play an extra game — a 7-2 victory over China — in Tuesday’s qualification round after finishing fifth of 12 teams in the round robin.

Canada won Olympic gold with its NHL players in 2010 and 2014 before securing bronze four years ago with a roster of mostly European-based professionals. The country’s NHLers lost in the quarters to Russia in 2006 after topping the podium in 2002 for the first time in 50 years.

Despite winning three of its four games heading into Wednesday night at National Indoor Stadium — including two victories over a Chinese program making its Olympic debut as hosts — Canada never really got going in Beijing.

Mason McTavish, the No. 3 overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks at the 2021 draft, had just one assist despite playing on the top line with Eric Staal, who’s looking for an NHL contract, but like his team, failed to impress for much of the tournament.

Josh Ho-Sang — viewed as another offensive threat ahead of the tournament — started alongside Staal and McTavish, but was demoted to the 13th forward spot after two games.

Owen Power, the top pick in 2021 by the Buffalo Sabres, had some early struggles, but grew into the tournament as games progressed on the top defence pair.

The Canadians lost to the United States in round-robin play, which forced them to suit up for the qualification round against China. Canada got the job done, but was unconvincing, especially early, before having to play the rested Swedes just 24 hours later.

While the Swedes will play the ROC in one semifinal, Slovakia, which stunned the United States with a 3-2 shootout win in the quarter-finals, will meet Finland in the other semi.

Goals came in 3rd period

And while Tomkins and Edward Pasquale were mostly solid in goal, the fact Devon Levi — the MVP of the 2021 world junior hockey championship putting up big numbers in the NCAA — didn’t see a minute of action raised eyebrows both in China and back home.

“An amazing experience, incredible honour to be here at the Olympics and have the chance to wear the Maple Leaf and represent the country. That’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life,” Tomkins said following the loss.

Tomkins, a 27-year-old from Edmonton in his first season with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League, had to make a good save after Canada iced the puck seven seconds into the first period.

The North Americans came out hitting on the smaller NHL-sized ice, but the Swedes didn’t back down in delivering their fair share in return.

Canada killed off a penalty for an overzealous McBain hit, while the Swedes did the same later in the period against a power play that connected four times Tuesday against China.

The grinding chess match continued into the second before Sweden had a couple chances where Tomkins once again had to be sharp.

The Canadian netminder stopped Pontus Holmberg on the doorstep before also denying Lander, who played 215 games with the Edmonton Oilers, with his blocker.

Johansson didn’t have a lot to do through 40 minutes at the other end, but had to scramble on a point shot that struck his blocker and was briefly loose behind Sweden’s goaltender before he smothered the puck.

Landon Ferraro skated on the third line for Canada in his first action of the tournament after Ben Street took an awkward hit from Chinese captain Brendan Yip late in the qualification-round game.

The gold-medal game is slated for Saturday at the National Indoor Stadium.

Finns fly to bronze

By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com

Finland defeated Switzerland, 4-0, tonight at Wukesong Sports Centre to win its fourth Olympic bronze medal. They scored at even strength, short-handed, and two on the power play, and were masterful at shutting down the top Swiss trio all game long.

“The first period wasn’t the best we had, but we talked about that in the first intermission and the second period was our best in a long time,” said Finland coach Juuso Toivola. “The players were so ready, so eager to get the bronze medal. That made it easy for me to coach the team. I’m honoured to be the head coach of that team. It’s a great privilege.”

Indeed, the Finns won in a manner similar to Canada’s men at last year’s World Championship–taking a medal after losing the first three games of the tournament. Just as special, coach Juuso Toivala arrived in Beijing as an assistant coach but had to take over after Pasi Mustonen was forced home to deal with a family emergency. Toivola coached the 2011 Finnish U18 women’s team to bronze and now joins a small group of coaches to win women’s medals at two events.

“It was a shock for everybody,” Toivola said of the last-minute change. Everything happened so fast. We talked openly about that. We talked a lot and I think it helped. We faced the fact that it’s the situation.”

“It was a tough game, but we got a really good job,” added Finnish forward Viivi Vainikka. “We just wanted to play a simple game in the last period. Just not make any mistakes and just play simple. I think that was the key for us for today.”

It was the first ever meeting between the teams for bronze, although previously the Finns had finished third three times (1998, 2010, 2018) and Switzerland once (2014). 

For Finland, the win means Jenni Hiirikoski and Michelle Karvinen are now the most decorated European women at the Olympics in hockey, both having won three medals.

“I think we had a really good plan for this game and we stuck to it,” captain Hiirikoski said. “We struggled with scoring last time, so now we found ways to score a little more and also to defend better. That has always been our strong side, so we came back to that.”

Anni Keisala stopped only 15 shots for the shutout while Andrea Braendli was sensational in the Swiss net, facing  47 shots.

“It didn’t work out as well as we had hoped, but we battled hard,” Braendli said. “We worked together as a team really well. We had a tough loss at the start and then we battled back with two wins against Finland and one in the quarter-finals. It’s heartbreaking, but I think we’ll learn from this.”

“It’s hard right now,” said Alina Muller, who finished the tournament as the highest-scoring European player with 10 points. “It’s disappointing. I think we had a really good chance to win the medal. We had a young team. They were just battling. They were going hard, I’m really proud of them. In the end, we can be proud of how far we have came here but right now it’s just really hard. In the end today, our line needed to produce a little more. The Finns did a really good job, getting the loose pucks and always dumped and forechecked. We did a good job. Braendli kept us in the game. With her we have a chance to win every game, but in the end the Finns were better.”

While the Finns rolled over four lines and produced a balanced attack, the Swiss had only one line to rely on–Alina Muller-Lara Stalder-Phoebe Stanz. In fact, that line accounted for 10 of the team’s 13 goals in Beijing, and coach Colin Muller played Alina Muller and Stalder as much as he could. It just wasn’t enough, and the Finns were letter perfect inside their own blue line.

It was clear from the outset this would be a closely-fought game, and in the early going the Swiss looked to be the better of the teams. They had more of the puck and territory, but they also couldn’t generate a clear scoring chance. When they got the first power play thanks to a Tanja Niskanen interference penalty on goalie Braendli, they did little, and Finland’s PK did a masterful job. 

The game’s first goal came off the rush on a play that hardly looked dangerous. Elisa Holopainen carried the puck into the Swiss end and set up Noora Tulus for a shot. Braendli made the save but went down with a defender, and Viivi Vainikka knocked in the loose puck at 11:36.

The Finns then had a power play of their own which proved ineffective, but Switzerland couldn’t penetrate the Finnish end. Suomi took control of the game in the second, and it was only the superb goaltending of Braendli that kept this a one-goal game. Early on she stopped a Sanni Rantala point shot and then stoned Nelli Laitinen on the rebound. She made great saves on Holopainen and Vainikka, and when Sanni Hakala tried to jam the puck in, Braendli stood her ground. Vainikka and Laitinen then worked a two-on-one beautifully, but again the goalie was there to stop the Laitinen shot. 

All the while the Swiss couldn’t muster any offence. Colin Muller double-shifted Muller and Stalder, giving them different linemates, but they couldn’t get near Keisala’s net. And then in a flash, the Swiss had their best chance of the game. The puck bounced over the stick of Minnamari Tuominen at the Switzerland blue line, and Lena-Marie Lutz skated the length of the ice on a clear break. She didn’t get her shot high enough, though, and Keisala got her glove out to make the critical save.

Shots through two periods favoured Finland by a whopping 34-9 margin, but it was still just a 1-0 game. Early in the third, however, they doubled their lead with a key short-handed goal. A penalty for too many skaters against the Finns gave the Siwss just the chance they needed to get back in the game, but it was Finland that scored.

Sinja Leeman lost the puck at the Finland blue line and Susanna Tapani took the puck up ice on a two-on-one with Petra Nieminen, only Nicole Vallario back. When Vallario slid to take away the pass across, Tapani wired a shot over Braendli’s shoulder at 3:24, her sixth goal of the Olympics. That was the dagger to the Swiss heart.

Eight years ago, the Swiss overcame a two-goal deficit in the third against Sweden to win bronze. Not so this year. Laitinen added a third goal at 14:24 on a power play, her big blast beating Braendli over the glove and putting the game out of reach.

“It was a big relief for me,” Laitinen said of her nice shot. “I had a lot of chances today, and luckily that one went in.”

Michelle Karvinen closed out the scoring with another power-play goal with only 56.6 seconds remaining.

“The Finns did a good job taking us out of the game,” Stalder said. “It didn’t work out for us offensively. They eliminated us. I wanted to show my best hockey today and I couldn’t perform it. But in such an important game you need it, and it’s not acceptable. In the end, they were smart; they were physical. They got under our skin. It was the small details that decided it. We had that breakway. If it had gone in, it would have been 1-1 and it could have changed the momentum. Over 60 minutes they deserved to win.”

Finns march on to semi-final

Finland’s Miro Aaltonen (#15) celebrates after opening the scoring in the quarter-final game against Switzerland.

By Any Potts – IIHF.com

Clinical finishing and traditional resilience saw Finland advance to the semi-finals with a 5-1 victory over Switzerland. Three goals from 12 shots saw Jukka Jalonen’s men into a 3-0 lead early in the second period and that proved sufficient to sink Switzerland and set up a meeting with Slovakia in the final four.

Finland went with the same skaters that defeated Sweden in an overtime thriller in the final game in Group C, with Jalonen bringing back goaltender Harri Sateri in place of Jussi Olkinuora. Switzerland, who played yesterday in the qualification round against Czechia, started with Reto Berra in goal today and returned forward Dario Simion to the team in place of Joel Vermin. 

After an even opening, the Finns assumed control with a pair of quick goals midway through the first period. Miro Aaltonen, one of many KHL-based players on this team, got the first when he gobbled up the rebound after Berra padded away Niklas Friman’s shot. Two minutes later, defenceman Mikko Lehtonen doubled the lead and gave Switzerland a big headache.

Down 0-2 to a Finnish team renowned for its defensive discipline is always a tough place to be. And Switzerland’s problems were exacerbated by a misfiring offence. Throughout the tournament, goals have been a problem for the Swiss, who managed just three markers in three group stage games. 

And things didn’t get any better for Patrick Fischer’s team at the start of the second period, when Hannes Bjorninen’s interception in centre ice left Michael Fora trying to defend a two-on-one break. Bjorninen had the perfect feed for Marko Anttila to shoot home number three.

That was the end of Berra’s game, with the Swiss bench eager to shake up a game that was rapidly getting out of reach. Leonardo Genoni took over, and immediately found himself busy. Finland generated a flurry of chances with Leo Komarov causing trouble on the doorstep and Aaltonen flashing in a dangerous shot in the second phase of play.

Once in front, the Finns tend to cling, limpet-like, to their advantage and the second period of this game was no different. As always, Jalonen’s team was drilled and disciplined, squeezing the life out of Switzerland’s offence and offering few scoring chances.

However, Lehtonen shot the puck over the plexi for a cheap delaying the game penalty late in the middle frame, and that offered the Swiss a chance. It was a lifeline eagerly grasped, with veteran Andres Ambuhl pulling a goal back off Enzo Corvi’s feed to give his country hope going into the third period.

Ambuhl’s second goal in two days gave Switzerland hope and Fischer’s team made a fast start in the third period. In the opening minute of play, Gregory Hofmann was buzzing around in front of Sateri’s net, asking a couple of questions of the Finnish goalie. And the Sibir Novosibirsk netminder was beaten soon afterwards, but Denis Malgin’s shot dinged off the piping and bounced safely back into play.

The momentum was building in Switzerland’s favour, but 49th-minute tripping call on Denis Hollenstein allowed Finland to regroup and take some of the sting out of the game.

As the action ended its closing moments, Switzerland then had a power play chance of its own. That proved decisive – but not in the manner Fischer & Co had hoped. Genoni went to the bench to produce a 6-on-4 power play, but the two-man advantage could not fashion a good chance and when Harri Pesonen returned to the ice, he helped to set up Iiro Pakarinen for an empty net goal that killed Switzerland’s chances.

Adding insult to injury, Teemu Hartikainen added a second empty-netter on 56:47 to put a favourable gloss on the final scoreline.

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