Most teams can’t come back after trailing by four goals after 20 minutes. The unified Korean women’s team was no exception, falling 8-0 to Sweden on Monday.
The result puts both Sweden and Switzerland into Saturday’s quarter-finals. The Swedes are questing for their first Olympic medal since 2006’s silver. Outmatched if valiant Korea remains pointless through two games in its Winter Games debut.
"The biggest thing you can do is to win an Olympic medal, so that would be an amazing feeling to do that again," said Swedish assistant captain Pernilla Winberg. "But we're here to take it one game at a time."
Contrasting with Korea’s previous 8-0 loss to Switzerland, where the one-woman wrecking machine named Alina Muller tied single-game Olympic records with four goals and six points, the Swedes got scoring throughout the lineup.
Winberg led the way with two goals and an assist, and Elin Lundberg added a goal and two assists. Emma Nordin notched a goal and two helpers. Maja Nylen Persson, Johanna Fallman, Erika Uden Johansson, and Rebecca Stenberg also scored for Sweden. Fanny Rask, Erica Grahm, and Emmy Alasalmi had two assists apiece.
Swedish goalie Sara Grahn had a far easier evening than Korean starter So Jung Shin. Grahn registered her first career Olympic shutout as shots favored Sweden 50-19.
Forward Jiyeon Choi, who had one of Korea's best chances, said: "If I had scored, it could have made a big difference to our team. An 8-1 score is much better than 8-0 for us. If I had scored, it would have inspired our team to play even better."
A Korean proverb says: “At the end of hardship comes happiness.” Awaiting their last Group B game against winless Japan on Wednesday, the goalless hosts must hope that’s true. Sweden faces the Swiss in a showdown for first place in Group B that day.
"We definitely want to beat Japan," said Jiyeon Choi. "There are two big reasons. One, we've never beaten them before, so if we can beat them at the Olympics, it will be our biggest victory ever for the Korean people. Second, Japan and Korea have a complicated history, so a win would have special meaning for our people."
It was another fantastically animated atmosphere at the Kwandong Hockey Centre with screams of anticipation from the crowd of 4,244 each time coach Sarah Murray’s team touched the puck. Murray made one roster change, substituting North Korean forward Song Hui Ryo in place of Su Hyon Jong, who carried the Olympic torch with captain Jongah Park at Friday’s spectacular opening ceremonies.
The squads of North Korean cheerleaders were in perfect sync again. Unfortunately the Korean penalty killers couldn’t say the same on the opening goal. One youngster’s pain was another gain.
At 3:42, the 16-year-old forward Heewon Kim – Korea’s youngest player – was sent off for roughing after a goalmouth scrum. It took just 18 seconds for the 17-year-old defender Nylen Persson – Sweden’s youngest player – to get the puck from Alasalmi and beat So Jung Shin with a low shot inside the goalie’s right post.
"It was a good crowd out there, and it was cool to see how people were cheering them on, but I think we did a good job and worked every shift really hard," said Winberg.
The Damkronorna kept coming. A couple of minutes later, Sabina Kuller waltzed in over the Korean blue line and knifed a backhand off the cross bar. At 9:47, Lundberg made it 2-0 with a slap shot that squeezed under the goalie’s arm and over the line.
Thirty seconds later, Sweden grabbed a 3-0 lead. Rask circled the net and centered a backhand pass to Fallman, whose hard one-timer found the twine.
The Koreans got a bona fide chance when Jingyu Lee came down the right side on a 2-on-1 to unleash a high zinger, but Grahn’s glove said no. Moments later, in a classic case of tit for tat, a Swedish 2-on-1 saw Lisa Johansson sending the puck across to Erika Uden Johansson, who banged in her own rebound for the fourth goal at 17:04.
In the second period, Winberg, who tied for the 2014 Olympic scoring lead with Finland’s Michelle Karvinen (seven points), stormed over the blue line and beat So Jung Shin with a nice forehand move to make it 5-0 at 4:08.
Korea generated pressure during two subsequent power plays, but couldn’t deliver any results beyond more screams from the crowd.
"They had some good PP there," said Winberg. "They had a couple of good shots. Our goalie played really well."
Sweden went up 6-0 at 1:09 of the third period when Nordin tipped in Lundberg's high point shot. At 1:45, Winberg pivoted in the faceoff circle and her shot was accidentally deflected in by Korea's Randi Heesoo Griffin. It was just that kind of night for the representatives of the Land of the Morning Calm.
On the rush, Stenberg converted Winberg's beautiful cross-ice feed at 5:34 to round out the scoring at 8-0. A Swedish proverb says: "Attack is the best defence." It was hard to argue with that here.
"I think the teams that have the best chemistry and team spirit are going to win the medals," said Winberg. "We have a lot of fun together off the rink and on the ice. Everyone likes each other, so I think that's what makes us strong together as a team."