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Pyeongchang 2018: Sweden edges Japan 2-1, Switzerland rolls over Korea 8-0

Team Japan shows they mean business in their first game, and Alina Müller’s four goals lead Switzerland to an easy win

Chiho Osawa #12 of Japan skates against Fanny Rask #20 of Sweden
Chiho Osawa #12 of Japan skates against Fanny Rask #20 of Sweden
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Good morning, welcome to day one of women’s hockey competition. Two games on the docket, both Group B.

Japan vs Sweden 1-2

As expected, the starters for this one are Sara Grahn and Nana Fujimoto.

First goal is a quick shot from an angle, short side top shelf by Fanny Rask to put Sweden up 1-0 less than three minutes into the period. Pretty goal, assist to Sabina Küller. Shortly thereafter, Japan is awarded the first power play of the game as there’s a tripping call seconds after the faceoff.

Japan definitely has plans but a lot of their shots are blocked by Swedish skaters. Early shots are mostly Sweden but Japan evens it up and Cassie talks about better scoring chances for them.

Commentators talk about “rookies” which I think is sort of silly, they define rookies as anyone who hasn’t been to the Olympics before. For anyone looking at our previews, we classified “rookies” as players who haven’t played at Olympics or Worlds before.

As period progresses, more Japanese chances. A lot of focus on Canadian-born Akane Hosoyamada by the commentators. Hanae Kubo and captain Chiho Osawa have the puck a lot as well for Japan.

Cassie points out that the two refs are American and that might be why the teams are getting away with a fair amount of body contact along the boards. It doesn’t look like much to me, but it’s true that generally in international play they call contact more harshly than in the CWHL.

Breakaway by Rebecca Stenberg and Japan has a near miss as Fujimoto stopped the first attempt but Furies alumna Sena Suzuki needed to handle the rebound.

Japan ends the period up on shots 9 - 8.

Lot of icing by Sweden, although they looked to be in charge earlier in the first.

Sweden has size on Japan but although they started off slow, as game progresses, Japan matches them in speed.

Grahn has had to be good, but luckily for Sweden, she is.

Although Japan has dominated second period, Kubo called for tripping and Sweden finally get some of their best chances on the power play. Play evens up a little after the penalty, more Swedish pressure.

A few of Japan’s chances are thwarted by missed passes. There’s frequent characterisation of their shots as “soft” and the suggestion that they need to take away the eyes of Grahn.

Rookie Rebecca Stenberg seems to be in the play quite a lot, as is Hanna Olsson, Emma Nordin and of course Rask.

Second period in a row Japan turns up the heat late with a flurry of shots, and it pays off as they tie it at one with a little over three minutes left in the game. Rui Ukita scores on the rebound with a backhand, with the assist to Kubo.

Sweden responds with increased pressure of their own but Fujimoto holds her ground and Japan gets a couple more nice chances before the end of the period. Again, Japan ends the period up on shots 11-9.

Japan gets the first shot of the period, another by Suzuki. However it’s a quick shot by Sara Hjalmarsson off a play by Erika Grahm to put Sweden back ahead 2-1. Suzuki was involved in that play as well and she didn’t look great.

A battle for the puck in the corner ends in a cross-check by Johanna Fallman and Japan gets their second power play of the game. Sweden takes control however (credit to Maja Nyhlén Persson with the initial long shot to get the puck all the way down to Fujimoto) and it’s over a minute in before Japan gets their first shot.

Sweden is getting physical in the final period as Anna Borgqvist gets called for bodychecking. The power play starts a little better for Japan but they still end up in their own zone. The Swedes receive a little physical punishment of their own as the kill winds down, when a few of them block Japanese shots.

Anyone who has the image of cute little Smile Japan should see the amount of shoving in front of the Swedish net every time a chance in close ends in a save that stops play

Nana Fujimoto is as good as any goalie in Group B and she’s showing it in this game.

Nyhlén Persson is mentioned a lot in the third period, mostly defensively, she has a knack for clearing the zone.

Less than five minutes to go and Sweden ices the puck. Japan’s still getting chances here, the game is far from over. Both teams are frantic to get the next goal.

Just over a minute left in the game Japan is called offside. They call a timeout and there’s a possibility that Fujimoto may be pulled - she was cheating up as the zone entry was attempted.

Sweden gets another penalty with just 47.8 seconds left, Annie Svedin called for roughing. Japan pulls Fujimoto for 6 on 4. Winberg sends a shot up ice that just misses the Japanese net.

The horn sounds and the Swedes are overjoyed—they survived a tough one and they know it. Japan outshot them 31-26 in the end. There’s no doubt that Japan will get their first Olympic win this year, unfortunately it wasn’t today.

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 1 Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Switzerland vs Korea 8-0

We start off with Shin in goal for Korea, as expected, and Florence Schelling at the other end for Switzerland. It looks like the Korean players who share their last name with teammates have their full names on the back of their jerseys. This is a change from previous international competitions, when it was first names for most players.

Switzerland is running a top line of Lara Stalder, Alina Müller, and Sara Benz, and they start off the game looking terrifying. This will, it turns out, be an omen of things to come.

Park Chaelin floats a shot on Schelling about three minutes in for Korea’s first shot on goal of the game. Unfortunately, this is not an omen of things to come. Korea was massively outshot this game.

Müller takes a cross-checking penalty on Park Ye Eun, the first of Switzerland’s three first-period penalties. Switzerland immediately takes possession on the PK and skates it back into the Korean zone. After a bit of play back-and-forth, neither team able to maintain possession, Jong Su Hyon is able to get off a shot. That’s the only shot they’ll get on the powerplay this period.

After Kim Heewon is taken down by Lara Stalder, Han Soojin charged forward and managed a scoring chance on the delayed penalty from what seemed like sheer force of will. It seems condescending, sometimes, to talk about “effort” but the Korean team really is fighting to make up their gulf in skill with effort. Having an entire stadium of people cheering whenever Korea crosses the red line probably helps with that motivation.

Park Jong Ah carries the puck in, tries to pass it up to the point, but her teammate can’t hold it in at the blue line. This will become a running theme of the game—Korea getting in, getting set up, and then an inability to hold the puck in destroys their momentum.

Müller crashes the crease on a shorthanded attempt, and no fewer than three Korean players collapse to the crease along with Shin to stop her. As far as defensive tactics go for an overmatched team like Korea, this is a good one.

Finally Müller, on a shorthanded rush, gets her first goal. She collects it one handed in her own zone, cuts right through the neutral zone, easily avoids Jung Siyun at the blue line, and has all the time and space she wants to pick her spot on Shin.

It doesn’t take Müller long to get her second goal of the period, either, off a sweet passing play from Sara Benz on a 2-on-1 that Muller one-touched past Shin. Benz’s pass was truly lovely, a soft saucer pass that hopped right over Park Yoon Jung’s stick. Shin again had no chance.

Switzerland then took their third penalty of the period, an interference call on Dominique Ruegg who dumped Eom Suyeon for no reason. The Swiss have looked dominant so far, but if they take three penalties in a period against any other Group B team they would be in trouble.

Shin So Jung has looked good so far, she’s played strong especially in traffic.

Choi Jiyeon does a good job outmaneuvering Stalder in the Korean zone and carrying it out and into the offensive zone to manage a shot on Schelling.

And there’s Müller’s hat trick, with under a minute left in the period. It’s the conclusion of a really gorgeous sequence of tic-tac-toe passing through an increasingly flummoxed Korean defense, and yet again Sara Benz is the one to tap it to Müller, who’s waiting right at the side of the net and has no trouble tucking it around the post. Benz has assisted on all three of Müller’s goals so far, and while she is not the member of that line I would have expected to rack up three points feeding Alina Müller [emphatic gesturing in Lara Stalder’s direction], Benz has really impressed me so far.

Müller’s scored her fourth less than two minutes into the second. Korea leaves her all alone in the slot and after a bad giveaway by Kim Selin trying to clear the puck, Müller roofs it.

Less than a minute later, Staenz gets her goal! Ruselli streaks down the left wing and sends a cross-ice pass to Staenz, who puts it right through Shin. As the broadcast observed, Staenz might have been Switzerland’s most all-around effective player in the first period (it, uh, helps that she plays on Switzerland’s PK, because she had a lot of chances to help out there!). It’s like the puck is following her around the ice.

Lee Jingyu has a good opportunity on Schelling, digging around her pads but can’t put it in. At this point, you have to figure that Korea just wants to get one past Schelling, and I kind of want them to as well.

Korea’s having difficulties keeping the puck in their own zone at the blue line. They are getting more zone time as the period goes on, though.

Korea takes their first penalty! It’s a tripping minor. Switzerland spends a lot of time on the cycle this powerplay, and while Korea doesn’t do a good job interfering with it per se, they’re very organized. Shin has to make a couple saves, but with about five seconds left, Korea finally manages to clear the puck and kill it off.

And then Switzerland immediately takes a penalty for body-checking, Laura Benz absolutely steamrollering Park Chaelin. It was dumb. Switzerland doesn’t let Korea get much pressure, and Shin has to come up big shorthanded a few times, including a strong save on Evelina Raselli. When Korea does get in and get set up, they have difficulties receiving passes cleanly and cycling the puck.

Staenz scores her second of the game, and it was a pretty one. She flips the puck to Raselli, whose shot from the top of the crease pulls Shin out of her net a little, and Staenz circles around to bang in the rebound. Phoebe Staenz has been having a game; her speed is especially lethal against Korea. The second period ends 6-0 Switzerland.

As the third period begins, Alina Müller has more shots on goal (9) than the entire Korean team (5).

The third period starts off with a shot from Staenz off the rush—she doesn’t want Müller to be the only Swiss player with a hatty, clearly. It’s a tough save, but Shin makes it, and the Swiss can’t bury the rebound.

Switzerland takes another penalty! Exciting! Sabrina Zollinger drags Lee Jingyu down to stop her from getting a breakaway. There is a distinct possibility Switzerland will end this game with more penalties than goals. They have to fix their discipline problems if they want to advance in this tournament.

Shin absolutely stones Müller all alone and in close, after Müller easily slips around Choi Jiyeon. I hope Shin has a spa day planned tomorrow, something nice and relaxing. I know the score doesn’t reflect it, but she has played very well this game. A few minutes later, she does the same thing to Lara Stalder.

Korea takes its second penalty of the game, a high-sticking call on Park Ye Eun, and it takes the Swiss exactly six seconds to convert. Müller collects the puck after a faceoff win, sends it up to Christine Meier, Meier passes to Stalder at the point, and Stalder hammers it home. I’m surprised it took this long for Lara Stalder to get on the board, but it was inevitable, really.

Stalder puts her second goal in on the breakaway, collecting the puck at the red line and turning on the jets. She absolutely laps the Korean defender, and Shin has no chance on it.

Switzerland takes another minor in their own zone, Shannon Sigrist hooking Randi Griffin. It is truly remarkable that Switzerland has taken this many minor penalties from sloppy defense (tripping, hooking, body-checking) against a team they outclass as completely as Korea. The Korean power play is toothless; twelve minutes of shorthanded time against Sweden or Japan isn’t going to be so easy to handle.

With about four minutes left, Korea takes their third penalty, Kim Selin going to the box for hooking. Müller is looking for her fifth goal, and both Staenz and Stalder are looking for hat tricks, but Shin has other ideas. The Koreans kill off the penalty, keeping the score at 8-0, which stands as the final.

Final shots in this game are 52 for Switzerland, 8 for Korea. There’s no doubt that Shin So Jung was the Koreans’ best player, despite the score. However Switzerland fares in the rest of this tournament, this game was also a coming-out party for Alina Müller, who scored four goals and looked dominant all game.