Day: February 7, 2022

Swiss win, Finns 0-3

By Andrew Podnieks –

Switzerland defeated Finland at the Olympics for the first time ever, and in so doing earned their first win in Beijing after three losses. The thrilling 3-2 victory between two elite teams carving out an evermore intense rivalry also means the Finns are themselves now winless in three games. They had beat the Swiss the two previous meetings at the Olympics, 4-0 in 2006 and 4-3 in 2014.

The Group A standings now show the North Americans on top with perfect 3-0 records while the Swiss and ROC are next with three points each. Finland is fifth and last, still with zero points.

The win was sweet revenge for the Swiss, who lost to Finland, 3-1, in last year’s Women’s Worlds bronze medal game. One of the biggest differences was that today they had Alina Muller in the lineup. She was in the stands last Calgary in August, out with an ankle injury, but today she assisted on all three goals and showed calm and vision moving the puck around in the offensive zone.

“I watched the entire game today and that’s why I built these lines,” Swiss coach Colin Muller revealed. “I saw how the Finns came out hard. It’s difficult to play against them the first 10, 15 minutes. You have to stay as close as possible and then they may lose their focus.”

“We believed more in ourselves, played with more self-confidence,” Alina Muller said, comparing last year to tonight. “They are good when they have room and space, and we wanted to take that away from them so that they can’t execute their game plan. We wanted to pass to the open player as fast as possible and not play complicated. It worked well and we had a great performance from Andrea in the net. Without her we would be nowhere.”

The Swiss have now finished their preliminary-round games and will have to wait a day to see where they’ll finish in the Group A standings. Finland closes out their schedule tomorrow evening against ROC.

As Muller mentioned, the star of the game was goalie Andrea Braendli, who turned aside 38 of 40 often challenging shots. At the other end, the Swiss fired 24 pucks at Anni Keisala.

“We played together for the entire 60 minutes,” Braendli said. “That’s what made us successful today. We stuck together and fought until the end. There were a couple of saves where my teammates helped me out there. It wasn’t my save; it was our team’s save. That’s why we won the game.”

“We weren’t good today,” acknowledge Finnish forward Elisa Holopainen, who scored one of her team’s goals. “We can be a better team. Switzerland played better today; they scored the goals. It’s hard to say what happened, but we have to focus now on tomorrow and play our game.”

Although the Finns dominated the first period in both puck possession and territory, it was the Swiss who scored the only goal of the opening 20 minutes. The goal came during a five-on-three advantage midway through. Captain Lara Stalder won the faceoff to Muller, and as she moved in on goal she passed off to the more open Lara Christen, who rifled a shot over the glove of Keisala at 11:52. It was the 19-year-old’s first Olympic goal after having already appeared in four WW18’s and two senior Women’s Worlds. 

Later in the period the Swiss almost doubled their lead off a Finland turnover when Nicole Vallario spotted Lena-Marie Lutz wide open in front, but Lutz shot wide. The Finns outshot Switzerland, 13-3, but time and again they misfired or were foiled by Braendli. The Swiss goaler made a great pad save off a close-in try by Sanni Hakala, and she later made a save off a short-handed try from Tanja Niskanen. Braendli also had Lady Luck on her side early on when Hakala took a cross-ice pass and snapped a shot off the near post.

The second period saw a spate of minor penalties, four of the six assessed to the Finns, but Suomi tied the game at 7:49 with an extra skater of their own. A point shot didn’t get through, and while Braendli tried to follow the bouncing puck in front Nelli Laitinen found it and put a shot in over the goalie’s blocker. 

The Swiss came right back, though, on a delayed penalty. As Braendli hustled to the bench for an extra skater, Dominique Ruegg fired a shot through traffic that beat Keisala through the pads at exactly 10:00 to restore Switzerland’s one-goal lead.

But for all the Swiss’s resilience, it was Finland’s lack of discipline and inability to convert good chances that was the story. They had only three goals coming in to the game, and you could see why. Petra Nieminen and Jenni Hiirikoski also had some bad luck. Nieminen tired to make a pass across on a two-on-one, but Christen dove to block the attempt. The puck went off her stick and hit the post, and came back out to Hiirikoski who was stoned in front by Braendli. From good luck to bad luck in a matter of seconds.

And despite all of the penalties, the Finns had plenty of scoring chances short-handed. Noora Tulus broke up a play and raced the length of the ice, only to lose control on the deke. Moments later, Shannon Sigrist made a horrible pass in her own end which was intercepted in the slot by Elisa Holopainen, but she also was stopped by Braendli. Ditto for Michelle Karvinen, who had a chance just outside the crease but couldn’t score.

Stalder gave the Swiss some breathing room early in the third. With no one open, she came off the boards in the Finland end and skated to the middle, letting go a low backhand that beat Keisala at 1:21. It was a shot the goalie should have had, although Phoebe Stanz was stationed in front on the screen.

The Finns pressed, though, and got one back midway through the period. A scramble behind Braendli’s goal saw Viivi Vainikka nudge the puck out to the side of the goal where Holopainen roofed a high shot from close in to make it a one-gal game again at 10:11.

The Finns tried to get that tying goal but took another late penalty – their second of the game for too many skaters – which prevented any sustained pressure in the Swiss end. At the horn, the Swiss whooped it up, celebrating a big, emotional win, while the Finns skated sheepishly off the ice, looking for answers.

Olympics-Ice hockey-Gritty Sweden beat China 2-1 to keep hopes alive

By Amy Te nnery – WTVB News

A gritty Swedish team claimed their first win in the women’s Olympic ice hockey preliminary stage on Monday, edging hosts China 2-1 to keep alive their chances of advancing in the tournament.

China’s Kang Mulan got the scoring started with a stellar individual effort early in the first period, but Sweden’s Felizia Wikner-Zienkiewicz responded in the second, beating Chinese goalie Zhou Jiaying on her gloveside on a penalty shot.

Forward Josefin Bouveng found the back of the net a little over a minute later to provide what proved to be the slim margin of victory.

Playing in front of a wildly enthusiastic – albeit limited – home crowd at Wukesong Sports Centre, China pulled their goalie with less than three minutes left in the game but were unable to break through Sweden’s stout defence with the extra skater.

“Our players really showed their grit especially at the end of this game,” Swedish head coach Ulf Lundberg said.

“We wanted to get the first (goal) but China did and we had to be even stronger to turn the game around.”

Sweden will have less than 24 hours rest before they take on Nordic rival Denmark on Tuesday in their final preliminary game of the Olympics.

“It’s tight and I knew it was going to be tight,” said Lundberg. “That’s good for women’s hockey. It’s going to be a tough game tomorrow but we have confidence now after this game.”

The outcome was a bitter disappointment for China, who a day prior had toppled rival Japan in a tense shootout.

“I am so proud of my team,” China captain Yu Baiwei told reporters. “I think we did a great job the last three games and we beat Japan and that was a big win for us.”

Danes upset Czechs, stay alive

By Derek O’Brien –

Denmark’s chances of advancing to the quarter-finals in the country’s first-ever Olympic ice hockey tournament remain alive after a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Czechia. The Czechs could have secured their place in the elite eight with a win, but will instead need a result in their last game against Japan or get some help. 

The Czechs held the early edge in play but it was Denmark with the first good scoring chance, with Michelle Weis just firing wide from point-blank.

The Czechs opened the scoring just shy of the six-minute mark when Aneta Tejralova moved in from the point and converted a pass from Denisa Krizova, beating Cassandra Repstock-Romme over the right pad.

A couple of minutes later, Natale Mlynkova very nearly made it 2-0 when she made a move to her backhand to beat the Danish goalie but had her pocket picked before she could slide the puck into the open net. At the other end, Michaela Pejzlova was upended at her own blueline, creating a 2-on-nothing break for Denmark. Captain Josefine Jakobsen had the option of a drop pass but chose to hold and beat Viktorie Svejdova with a nifty backhand deke to tie the score.

The Czechs again got off to a fast start in the second period and regained the lead three minutes in when Tereza Radova found Katerina Mrazova with a backdoor pass. After misfiring on the one-time attempt, Mrazova took another whack at the puck and put it in.

However, the Danes answered answered again and, again, it was an unassisted goal resulting from a turnover. Just 1:27 later, Tereza Vanisova lost the puck in her own zone and Weis picked it up right in front of Svejdova, beating the Czech goalie again on the backhand.

Turnovers continued to plague the Czechs in the second period. Just shy of the game’s midpoint, Daniela Pejsova coughed up the puck to Josefine Persson. Skating in alone on the Czech net, she was denied by the pad of Svejdova. A few minutes later, the Czechs were pressing on the power play and Tejralova just failed to convert her second of the game when she couldn’t lift the backhander over Repstock-Romme’s outstretched pad.

Starting the third period on the power play, the Danes took their first lead of the game just 49 seconds into the frame when Jakobsen found Silke Glud for the one-timer before Svejdova could slide across.

At that point, in an effort to salvage some points that could be crucial in attempting to even qualify for the quarter-finals, let alone win the group, Tomas Pacina pulled the youngster Svejdova in favour of Klara Peslarova, the team’s usual starter.

The Czechs did get a few chances after that but simply ran out of time. 

Canada overcomes bizarre delay to beat Russian Olympic Committee in women’s hockey

John Molinaro –  CBC Sports

It appears as though nothing can slow down the Canadian women’s hockey team at the Beijing Olympics.

A lengthy delay to the start of Monday’s game against the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) hardly threw off Canada as it comfortably skated to a 6-1 win to remain perfect in Beijing.

Canada (3-0) plays the United States (3-0) on Tuesday in its final game of the round robin with first place in Group A at stake. The ROC’s record dropped to 1-2 with the loss.

“It could be a big match. It’s exciting. We have a huge rivalry with the U.S. and we’ve been building our game in every game of this tournament,” Canadian forward Sarah Fillier said.

Team Canada hasn’t been seriously challenged in Beijing, winning all three of its games by a combined score of 29-3.

The Canadians went three-for-five on the power play and out-shot the Russians 49-12. Goalie Emerance Maschmeyer made 11 saves for the win in her first start of the tournament.

Monday’s contest was delayed for just over an hour due to safety concerns, as the ROC had not provided Canada with its COVID-19 test results. Six members of the ROC team were placed in isolation last week after testing positive. The game eventually started with players on both teams wearing masks when they finally took to the ice and the game began.

“I think we knew [the game] would go on. We were just waiting for [the ROC test] results to come back and once they came back we were comfortable,” Canadian forward Natalie Spooner said.

“Our coaches and medical staff were not going to put us in a situation where we would not feel safe.”

Russian blue-liner Anna Shibanova said her team wanted to play, but that “everything was unclear.”

“We were asked to wait, we waited. We were asked to wait more, we waited more. Then there was the decision that we should put on masks. We put them on without any issue and came out,” Shibanova explained.

“I didn’t expect this but we have said all year that nothing fazes us and this didn’t faze us. Our GM said we were wearing masks and we were like, ‘OK, let’s go win a game in masks.’ Not a big deal for us, we have been training a lot in these. Just another opportunity to prove that we could get the job done,” Canada’s Brianne Jenner said.

“Maybe you lost a puck or two at your feet, but we don’t want to use it as an excuse, we want to come out and play a good, solid game. We had a couple of shifts we definitely want back but mentally we did a really good job adapting.”

The delay didn’t slow down Canada in the least, as Sarah Nurse and Fillier scored just 20 seconds apart inside the first two and half minutes of the opening period. Nurse beat ROC goalie Daria Gredezen with a high blast from inside the circle, while Fillier scored off a feed from Renata Fast.

Canada successfully killed off three penalties after that, and Maschmeyer made a great save on a ROC breakaway to close out the period.

Nurse’s aggressive forechecking deep inside ROC’s zone forced a turnover, allowing Jamie Lee Rattray to score on the power play to put Canada up 3-0 at 7:45 of the second period. Spooner collected an assist on the play, giving her a tournament-leading 10 points.

Erin Ambrose made it 4-0 a few minutes later when she beat Gredezen with a wrist shot from the point through traffic. 

ROC scored its first-ever goal against Canada at the Olympics later in the period, capitalizing on a turnover to go on a two-on-one rush before Anna Shokhina slipped a shot past Maschmeyer on the stick side and just inside the post.

“Team Canada and the United States are the two best teams in the world. To score against them is the perfect gift from this game for us,” said Russian forward Alexandra Vafina, who set up Shokhina’s goal.

Rebecca Johnston scored on the power play just 39 seconds into the third period off a tip-in to restore Canada’s four-goal advantage.

“This is all a bit new for me, this speed, this level. It was hard, but we still tried. We fought until the end, and all the girls did very well,” said Gredezen, who was replaced by Maria Sorkina for the second half of the game.

Canada added a third power play goal when Marie-Philip Poulin scored at 5:50 off a feed from Jenner to make it 6-1. It was the Canadian captain’s first goal of the tournament.

Fillier appeared to score her second goal of the game — and Canada’s fourth on the power play — but it was overturned for offside following a successful video challenge by the ROC.

Unlike the Canadian team, ROC players didn’t play with their masks on for the third period.

“The results came in and they were negative, and they said they were going to take their masks off. We figured we had them on for two periods so why not keep being extra safe for one period,” Spooner explained.

Translate »