By Andy Potts – IIHF.com
Sweden secured its quarter-final spot – and a match-up with Canada in the last eight – thanks to a hard-fought victory over Denmark in the final game in Group B. The Swedes were on the brink of elimination from the tournament after dropping their first two games, but back-to-back wins over China and the Danes puts the Damkronorna into the knock-out phase.
It was a Scandinavian showdown to determine third place in Group B. Any kind of win would be good enough for Sweden, while Denmark needed to prevail inside 60 minutes to prolong its first appearance at the Games. China still had an interest; if Denmark won in overtime, the Dragons would cling on to third.
Sweden belatedly revived its Olympic campaign with victory over the host nation yesterday and looked to build on that here. And the bare stats from the first period might suggest that the Damkronorna did exactly that. After just three minutes, the Swedes got in front when Denmark coughed up the puck in its own zone and Emma Nordin pounced for her first goal of the tournament.
However, it was hardly a dominant start from the team in yellow. Denmark had three power plays in the first 10 minutes and carved out a big chance on the first of them when Michelle Weis forced Emma Soderberg into an important save to keep the scoreboard blank. Sweden, though, came into the game with a perfect record on the penalty kill and again kept things tight. Denmark struggled to make a big impression, but there was one opportunity when Josefine Jakobsen’s shot got away from Soderberg, only for Josefine Persson’s attempt to squirt wide on the follow up.
Late in the opening frame, Sweden came close to increasing its lead when captain Michelle Lowenhielm stormed out of the corner and had Cassandra Repstock-Romme at full stretch to make a pad save before dinging the rebound against the post. But Denmark finished strongly, with two good chances for Persson.
The second period remained highly watchable, with both teams having presentable chances. Denmark missed a chance to tie it up when Silke Glud struggled to control a bouncing puck and flashed a shot over an open net. At the other end, Nordin was denied her second of the night in a one-on-one.
The tying goal arrived in the 35th minute thanks to good work from Lilli Friis-Hansen behind the net. She got the puck out to Jakobsen who fired a diagonal shot that Julie Oksbjerg steered home at the back door. That goal was greeted with delight not just by Denmark, but also by the Chinese fans in the building, hoping for a Danish overtime success.
It wasn’t long before Sweden regained its lead, though. A power play chance was converted in just eight seconds as the Swedes won the face-off and moved the puck nimbly around the zone for Lisa Johansson to fire home an emphatic point shot as Felizia Wikner-Zienkiewicz screened Repstock-Romme.
Sweden looked to extend its advantage at the start of the third. A neatly-worked break by Lowenheilm and Lina Ljungblom almost picked its way through the Danish defence, then Josefin Bouveng saw the ice open up in front of her but her shot was gobbled up by Repstock-Romme’s glove.
However, it remained a one-goal game until the bitter end, with Denmark pulling its keeper with more than three minutes on the clock. The first attempt to conjure an extra skater was frustrated by a linesman wrongly calling too many players, but later the Danes were able to play 6-on-4 after Ebba Berglund was cited for an illegal hit. An interference call on Weis eased some of the pressure on Sweden but, for the second game in a row Soderberg faced a frantic finish before Berglund put the puck in the empty net to seal the Swedish win.