Sweden tops host country China and the Czech Republic to clinch final Group B spot in Olympic quarterfinal action
BEIJING, China - Having started Group B play with two straight losses, Sweden did not appear to be in contention to clinch the final spot for the quarterfinal round. Momentum quickly shifted as Sweden managed to win their final two games, upsetting host China on Monday, Feb. 7, followed by a 3-1 victory over Denmark, which was making its Olympic hockey debut on Tuesday, Feb. 8
With the final game of Group B determining which team clinched the final quarterfinal berth, a win in regulation time was crucial. As Sweden and Denmark both had three points, while third-place China had five points, a regulation win was worth three points. An overtime win by Denmark would result in China reaching the quarterfinals.
Heading into the match as an emotional favourite, Denmark outshot the Swedes by a 12-6 mark in the first period. Said period of this All-Scandinavian match saw Sweden called for penalties four times, including a pair of tripping calls for Felicia Winker-Zienkiewicz, in a time span of fewer than three minutes.
Unable to score on four powerplay opportunities, Denmark found themselves behind by one goal after a period of play. Despite losing their first two matches, Sweden has been perfect in Beijing on the penalty kill. Veteran forward Emma Nordin provided Sweden with an early lead, scoring on Danish backstop Cassandra Repstock-Romme at the 3:02 mark, as Sofie
Lundin earned the assist. Successfully nullifying a Swedish powerplay past the midway point of the second, Denmark tied the score at the 14:04 mark. Julie Oksbjerg scored her first Olympic goal, with team captain Josefine Jakobsen and Lilli Friis-Hansen earning the assists. Less than two minutes following Oksbjerg’s goal, Sweden took advantage of a powerplay opportunity to regain the lead. Called for holding an opponent, Denmark’s Julie Ostergaard sat in the penalty box as Linnea Johansson scored. As a side note, Lundin logged her second assist of the game, for the 2-1 advantage. With a third period in which fatigue set in, as both teams combined for merely 1
2 shots on net, Repstock-Romme was pulled out three times. Each time the goaltender abandoned her crease, the strategy revolved around penalties. Called for penalties at 14:19 and 18:27, the extra attacker proved necessary for Denmark. With Sweden’s Ebba Berglund called for an illegal hit at 57:32, Denmark opted once again to remove Repstock-Romme, hoping to tie the score. Although the game’s final minute resulted in a powerplay goal, it was not meant to be for Denmark. Playing with the open net, Berglund redeemed herself. On the powerplay, she deposited the puck into Denmark’s open net, providing Sweden with a 3-1 lead that stood as the final score. Reaching the quarterfinals, Sweden shall oppose top-seeded Canada. Finishing G
roup B play one point ahead of China for third place, Sweden finished with a 2-2-0 record, goaltender Emma Soderberg ranked fifth overall with a .949 save percentage. Finishing with only three points, placing tenth overall among the competing nations, Denmark’s only win of Group B play came against Czechia, as Silke Glud recorded the game-winning tally in a 3-2 final.
Japan clinches Group B in 3-2 shootout over Czech Republic
BEIJING, China -- In the final Group B match for both Japan and the Czech Republic, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, one that saw the winning team clinching first place, an intense affair required a shootout in order to decide Japan as the 3-2 game-winner. Hanae Kubo emerged as the heroi
ne for Japan, scoring the only goal of the shootout, allowing her country to remain perched atop Group B. Although both teams had already clinched berths in Olympic quarterfinals, a historic first for each, earning first place remained a pivotal goal for both countries. In the seeding for the quarterfinals, the second-place team in Group B faces the tough-to-beat United States. On the other hand, Group B’s top team faces the third-place team from Group A, making a run to the medal round much more favorable
With a first period that saw the Czechs outshoot the Japanese by a 12-10 margin, Japan emerged with the lead. In a game where mistakes could be crucial towards determining the outcome, Japan took advantage of its only powerplay opportunity in the period. Called for interference at 3:34, Katerina Mrazova sat in the penalty box as Japan’s Haruka Toko scored the game’s first goal.
Although Czechia was called for three penalties in the second period, the superl
ative play of Klara Peslarova between the pipes allowed her team to remain competitive. Nullifying powerplay opportunities during a period that saw the Czech Republic manage only nine shots on net, one goal was scored to tie the game. At the 6:09 mark of the second, Denisa Krizova, recognized as Czechia’s Female Player of the Year in 2019, tied the game. With the assist credited to Teresa Vanisova, Krizova has emerged as one of Czechia’s key contributors on offense throughout the preliminary round.
Entering the third period, Japan still enjoyed 1:05 of powerplay time, attributed to an illegal hit call with 55 seconds remaining in the second. Only 23 seconds into the period, Toko recorded her second powerplay goal of the game, allowing Japan to regain the lead. As a side note, her sister, Ayaka Toko, assisted on both goals. Tying the score at the 5:53 mark, Natalie Mlynkova placed the puck past Japan’s Nana Fujimoto, scoring unassisted. Although each team would be called for a penalty later in the third, the offense sputtered on both sides of the ice. Except for a breakaway from Czechia’s Tereza Vanisova with less than six minutes of regulation time, scoring chances were few.
Despite Czechia outshooting Japan by a 12-5 count in the third, followed by a margin of 5-2 in overtime, Fujimoto remained highly poised. Such poise was highly evident in the shootout round, marking the second such outcome in Group B play for Japan. Japan’s second shooter, Hanae Kubo, scored for Japan, although the goal did not come without dramatics. Aiming for the five-hole, Peslarova looked in position to stop the puck. Instead, she had partially stopped it, the puck gliding slowly over the line, almost in slow motion. The fourth, and final, skater for Czechia, Katerina Mrazova, was unable to score on Fujimoto, providing Japan with its most emotional win of the preliminary round. With the top three teams in Group B qualifying for the quarterfinals, Japan and the Czech Republic have both qualified. Amassing eight points, suffering only one loss in preli
minary round play, a shootout versus China, Japan finished in first place overall, one point ahead of Czechia, which is making its Olympic debut in at Beijing 2002. Third place in Group B shall be decided in the final game of preliminary round play, as Denmark faces off versus Sweden, a win in regulation time required to clinch the final spot in the quarterfinal round.
Sweden shocks host China with 2-1 preliminary round upset
BEIJING, China - Heading into their final face-off of the preliminary round against winless Sweden, Olympic host China 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 the Czech Republic. But unfortunately for the home team, that outcome wasn't in their cards at this Olympic Winter Games.
Coming off a highly emotional shootout win over Japan, China ended up on the losing end of their game versus Sweden in a 2-1 upset early morning Monday, Feb. 7.
A low-scoring game is 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 Jiang Zhou, guarded the crease with pride and persistence, 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. In a time span 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, who was sent to the penalty box for holding. As the third progressed, China's offense sputtered. With 2:14 remaining on the clock, head coach Brian Idalski opted for an extra skater, removing Newell from the game. Despite their best efforts, Sweden 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. 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, clinching the final berth for the quarterfinals.
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