Day: February 16, 2022

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 –

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 –

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.

ROC down Denmark to progress to men’s Olympic ice hockey semi-final at Beijing 2022


ROC are through to the men’s ice hockey Olympic semi final after squeezing past a spirited Denmark 3-1 at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games on Wednesday 16 February.

Four years after the Olympic Athletes from Russia won gold in PyeongChang, ROC will play in the last four for a place in the gold medal game. Earlier, Slovakia caused a major upset by eliminating the USA in the day’s first quarter-final.

ROC opened the scoring against Denmark in the first period through Vadim Shipachyov, but Denmark levelled it at 1-1 thanks to a Frans Nielsen strike.

The ROC outshot Denmark 40 to 18 over the 60 minutes and Danish goalie Sebastian Dahm lived up to his name making save after save.

Nikita Nesterov finally broke the dam again late in the second period and Vyacheslav Voinov made sure of the win for ROC with a wrist shot into the top corner on a powerplay, with 4:15 left on the clock.

Goalkeeper Ivan Fedotov was important for ROC too, and while he coughed up a couple of chances with some poor decision-making with his stick, he also came up with huge stops to keep his team ahead at 2-1.

Fedotov didn’t let in a single goal in 120 minutes of hockey in ROC’s first two group games – one of them against Denmark – and has been one of the outstanding young performers in Beijing, with a move to the NHL reportedly in talks.

In the end it’s the ROC who advance to the semi finals, but Denmark can be proud of their Olympic debut, making the quarter final and pushing the Olympic champs all the way.

Slovakia stun USA and progress to semi-final


Slovakia men’s ice hockey team are into the semi-finals of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games after eliminating Team USA in the quarterfinals on Wednesday 16 February.

After a tight and tense 2-2 in regular time and a deadlocked overtime period, Slovakia won in the penalty shootout.

The heroes for Slovakia were goalkeeper Patrik Rybar who stopped four of the USA’s penalty shots and Peter Cehlarik who scored his for a historic victory for the Slovaks.

The USA are out and Slovakia will play the winner of ROC-Denmark in the semi-final.

It’s an incredible moment for Slovakia who started the tournament poorly with two defeats in their first two games – a 6-2 loss to Finland and a 4-2 loss to Sweden.

But they managed to tighten things up and stunned reigning Olympic silver medallists from PyeongChang 2018 Germany 4-0 in their qualification playoff on Tuesday.

USA were tagged as favourites when they beat Canada in the prelims but Slovakia made life very difficult for a talented, youthful USA team, withstanding an early American onslaught to score first in the 12th minute.

Revelation Juraj Slafkovsky found space in front of the U.S. net and beat Strauss Mann with another precise wrist shot into the top corner for his fifth goal of the tournament.

At 17 years of age, Slafkovsky is one of the breakout stars of the Games, and his goal gave the Slovaks the confidence to begin dominating the U.S.

But just when it looked like the underdogs might head into the locker room with a goal advantage, up popped Nick Abruzzese to find Rybar’s five-hole less than a minute before the end of the first period to tie things up.

Abruzzese finished off a fine team goal after a great assist by Steven Kampfer and an even better pass from Matty Beniers whose quick hands opened up Slovakia.

The second period began just as tight with the Slovaks outshooting the U.S. but on 11:04 Sam Hentges collected out front, spun, and found the bottom corner with a backhand.

Nick Perbix and Nathan Smith picked up the assists on that goal.

The USA went in leading at the end of the second period despite being outshot 13-6 by their surging opponents.

Beniers hit the post halfway through the third period, so close to his opening goal in Beijing, and Slafkovsky was denied by Mann with a sharp save, but the 3rd period deadlock continued.

With the U.S. 44 seconds from the semi-final, captain Marek Hrivik stepped up and levelled it at 2-2 to send the game into overtime. The Slovakian bench erupted in celebration.

Ten minutes of overtime yielded no goals thanks to great work from Rybar, and he would be the hero of the shootout too, shutting out the U.S. with four penalty saves, and they missed one.

Cehlarik took the decisive shot and managed to beat Mann, before U.S. captain Andy Miele failed to equalise.

“Words just can’t describe how I feel right now, it’s a real tough pill to swallow,” said USA Coach David Quinn after the loss.

“I thought as the game went on we got away from doing the things we needed to do to have success. I thought we tried to force plays offensively, really fueled their offence and you could really feel the momentum change.

“To me the five-on-three was the turning point of the whole game. We had the chance to go up five-to-three and we just couldn’t do it.

“It was such an incredible group of players to coach and it just really stings that it’s over.”

The dream of a first ever Olympic medal for Slovakia is just one win away.

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