BEIJING 2022 Pool B women's hockey action: Olympic host team China edges Sweden 2-1 in preliminary
BEIJING, China -- Heading into their final match of the preliminary round, the Olympic hosts Chinese required a win in order to clinch a berth in the quarterfinals. Sitting in third place in Group B with five points, a win would have propelled them into second place, as winless Denmark upset Czechia.
Facing off against winless Sweden, the trend continued. Coming off a highly emotional shootout win over Japan, China ended up on the losing end of their face-off versus Sweden in a 2-1 upset early Monday, Feb. 7, at Wukesong Sports Centre in Beijing.
A low-scoring match was attributed to the quality of goaltending between the pipes. Sweden's Emma Soderberg once played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. Former Princeton University Tigers goaltender, Kimberly Newell, whose Chinese name is Jiaying Zhou, guarded the Chinese crease, distinguished by her highly popular dragon-themed pads.
With China recording 13 shots on net, compared to nine for Sweden, a rather uneventful first period resulted in only one goal. Gaining the first lead of the game, Mulan Kang scored for China at the 5:16 mark.
Near the end of the period, Sweden's Paula Bergstrom was called for tripping. With Sweden nullifying the powerplay, the possibility of a victory remained in grasp. n a timespan of merely 85 seconds, the lead changed hands in Sweden's favour. With Chinese blueliner Zhixin Lin called for tripping, a penalty shot was awarded to Felicia Winker-Zienkiewicz.
Scoring on Newell's glove side, Josefina Bouverg followed up with an even-strength goal for the two-on-one advantage. Enjoying a shift in momentum, the pair of goals certainly deflated China's hopes for a quarterfinal berth.
Despite China managing 15 shots on net during the second period, compared to six for Sweden, their offensive attack was unable to solve Soderberg.
The third period saw Sweden outshoot the Chinese by a margin of 14-9, their lead remaining intact. Between the fourth and fifth minute, both teams were called for a penalty. China's Huier Huang was called for tripping, followed 45 seconds later by Sweden's assistant captain Maja Nyler-Persson being sent to the penalty box for holding.
As the third progressed, China's offense sputtered. With 2:14 remaining, head coach Brian Idalski opted for an extra skater, removing Newell from the game in an attempt to gain a last-minute advantage up front. Despite their best efforts, the Swedes remained poised, denying China an opportunity to tie the game.
"Our players really showed their grit, especially at the end of this game." Swedish head coach Ulf Lindberg stated to Reuters following the game.
The final game of Group B play shall see Sweden oppose Denmark, which is making its Olympic hockey debut. A regulation win allows the victors to surpass China in the standings to clinch the final berth for quarterfinals at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
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