Sunday, February 18, 2018

Canadians blank Korea

Host Korea played with heart, but just couldn’t find the range against Canada in a 4-0 loss on Sunday. Canada moves on to the quarter-finals.

Canada, which finished second in Group A and fourth overall in the preliminary round, rebounded in solid style from its 3-2 shootout loss to the Czechs.

It was a fine Olympic debut for Poulin, although he was far less busy than his Korean counterpart Matt Dalton. Shots on goal favored Canada 49-19.
Four Canadians scored their first Olympic goals: Christian Thomas, Eric O’Dell, Maxim Lapierre and Gilbert Brule. Team points leader Derek Roy added two assists, bringing his total to five. Korea, ranked 21st in the IIHF World Ranking, has lost three straight games and been outscored 14-1.

"We knew it was going to be a tight game against them," said Lapierre. "They're a good team, they work hard in front of their fans, they got speed. So we were patient tonight and we scored when it was time to score."
So far, Canada is producing enough offense to get by, with 10 goals in three games. Canada hopes to three-peat after winning gold in 2010 and 2014, but the extremely different rosters in Korea have made this tournament unpredictable. Canada’s 17 goals en route to gold in 2014 were the fewest in Olympic history. The Olympic Athletes from Russia lead the field so far with 14 goals in three games.
With Korea featuring no fewer than six Canadian imports – Dalton, defencemen Eric Regan and Alex Plante, and forwards Brock Radunske, Michael Swift, and Bryan Young – this was one of the most north-south, physical affairs we’ve seen at these Games. There was no shortage of motivation and excitement for head coach Jim Paek’s crew.

"Before the game, after last night losing [8-0 to Switzerland], getting run out of the barn, we were a little bit worried about what we were up against tonight," admitted Radunske. "But our coach got refocused and made us believe that we deserved to be on the ice with these guys."
When Gilbert Brule raced down with Rene Bourque on an early 2-on-1, Dalton came out challenging aggressively and vacuumed the puck up in his midsection. He foiled Linden Vey from the slot. The Anyang Halla netminder looked every inch a scrappy, diminutive battler in the tradition of Chris Osgood or Manny Legace.
Screams of excitement rose from the flag-waving crowd each time Dalton made a save, and there were plenty of them as Canada outshot Korea 18-5 in the first period alone.

"You tip your hat to them," said Canada's Mason Raymond. "I think they played well and their goaltender also made some really big saves."
Dalton couldn’t stop Canada's 14th shot as coach Willie Desjardins' players charged forward like Mounties on a mission. The fleet-footed Thomas rushed into the high slot and zinged a wrister past the goalie’s glove at 7:36. The Koreans were industrious but struggled to get pucks on net, unlike their red-and-white rivals.
The most dangerous moment during Korea’s first power play, with Chad Genoway off for holding the stick, came when a puck tipped into the bench, forcing assistant coach Dave King to duck. Poulin also made a nice glove save through traffic on Regan’s centre point shot.
Wojtek Wolski nearly gave Canada a two-goal lead on a shorthanded breakaway with under two minutes to play in the first, but the former 451-game NHLer, who recovered from a broken neck to play in these Games, deked to the backhand and put it off the side of the net.
The Koreans got a huge opportunity when Raymond was sent off with a double-minor for high-sticking at 1:12 of the second period. Radunske centred it from behind the net to Sangwook Kim, who forced Poulin to be sharp. Jin Hui Ahn bombed a one-timer off the goalie’s pads.

"You can't take those guys lightly," Raymond said. "They're here for a reason and they work hard."
The entertainment was nonstop and the fans were hopping. Sangwook Kim took a tumble over defenceman Mat Robinson inside the Canadian blue line. A wacky bounce off the end boards gave the Koreans a wide-open net for a heart-stopping instant. The longer the score stayed close, the more hope the hosts gained. But the Canadian pressure was unremitting.
At 14:22, it was 2-0 off a faceoff win in the Korean zone. Marc-Andre Gragnani bounced a long shot off the boards and Dalton was caught sliding the wrong way as O’Dell banged it in the open side.

"I think we played with them at certain points of the game, but you know their skill took over and that was the difference," said Radunske.

Canada put the game out of reach at 3:43 of the third period on Lapierre's first of the tournament. It was a goal Dalton would like to have back. Taking a pass from Derek Roy, Lapierre curled in off right wing and slid the puck five-hole from a bad angle.

The Korean starter robbed a pinching Chris Lee a few minutes later, but no dramatic home-team comeback was in store. Late in the game, Sangwook Kim was caught holding the stick, and that enabled Brule to round out the scoring on the power play at 18:02. Still, the Koreans stayed on the ice afterwards to bow to their fans, and the Canadians also circled the ice to salute their supporters. Both teams exchanged friendly words as they skated off.

Like the snippets of Rush's "Tom Sawyer" and Corey Hart's "Sunglasses at Night" that played at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, there was little tonight that wasn't satisfying for Canadians. But now the real challenges begin.

Zackrisson gets the bye

Patrik Zackrisson's goal midway through the third broke a 1-1 tie and gave Tre Kronor a key victory over Finland.

Zackrisson made a diving stab at a loose puck at 8:53 of the final period, smacking it in before goalie Mikko Koskinen could get over to make the save.
The win earns Sweden a bye to the quarter-finals and placement in the top-division in the overall preliminary-round ranking while Finland now has to play an extra game in the elimination qualifying round on Tuesday.
"It's a face-off situation," Zackrisson described of his winning goal, "and we put the puck to the net. It was just a battle to get to it and put it in. I tried to reach it and got my stick on it. It's pretty cool to score in the Olympics. And it's put the team into the quarter-finals is also great. We wanted to win the group and we've done that."
Today was an anniversary that the Finns might have celebrated had they won. It was 20 years ago today, in Nagano, that Suomi last beat Sweden in the Olympics. Since then, the rivals have played three times, Sweden winning them all (2006, 2010, 2014).
Tonight's game produced only 42 shots, Sweden holding a 23-19 edge.
"It was a big win," said Joel Lundqvist. "This is what we wanted, to go straight to the quarter finals. I think we played really well as a team. It was a tight game, not many chances for either team. We were just battling out there. It's nice to get away with a win here."
The Swedes thought they had opened the scoring midway through the first period on a power play, but video review showed that Par Lindholm tipped the puck in with his stick above the height of the crossbar.
Just four minutes later, though, they put the puck in the net and it counted. The play started in the Sweden zone when goalie Viktor Fasth made a nice pad save off a shot from Petri Kontiola.
Linus Omark picked up the rebound and skated up ice with linemate Anton Lander, feathering a perfect pass to Lander in full flight through the middle. Lander burst in on goal and fired a low shot between the pads of Koskinen at 14:53 to make it 1-0 for Tre Kronor. Fasth earned an assist on the play for his "save pass."
The Finns replied early in the second when Joonas Kemppainen batted a bouncing puck over the goal line at 1:32. The rest of the period was typical, close-checking Finland-Sweden hockey, with few scoring chances, lots of pushing and shoving after whistles, plenty of dump-ins and line changes without many quality scoring chances.
The best of the bunch was a great pass by Sakari Manninen to Jarno Koskiranta who was heading hard to the net. Koskiranta made a perfect re-direct of the pass, but Fasth got his right pad out to make a superb reaction save and keep it a 1-1 game.
After going ahead on Zackrisson's goal in the latter half of the third, there were some tense moments for Tre Kronor. The Finns had a late power play and in the last 30 seconds of it pulled Koskinen to create a six-on-four, but to no avail. When Sami Lepisto incurred a penalty for the Finns, it sealed their fate.
Oscar Moller finished the scoring with an empty netter with 4.3 seconds remaining.

Czechs topple Switzerland

A well-organized Czech Republic edged Switzerland 4-1 in a tight game, solidly executed by both teams, with the Czechs again demonstrating their patience.

In a short tournament, finding cohesion is critical.
And the Czechs again proved to be a patient group, as they relied on their structure to overturn Switzerland 4-1 on Sunday, finishing the preliminary round unbeaten at 3-0.
Michal Repik scored two goals and Dominik Kubalik tallied the game winner. Pavel Francouz made 28 saves for his third win. 
“We move to the quarterfinals. That was our goal. We are happy we made it,” said Repik.
The Czechs will take Group A with today’s win, and skip the playoff qualifications. 
They entered Sunday as an emerging contender in the Olympic tournament, lifted in the standings by a 3-2 shootout win over Canada the day prior. 
The Swiss had one loss and one win on their tournament resume, with a lopsided falter against the Canadians before a trouncing of host Korea. 
They remain stuck at third in Group A, and destined to play in the playoff qualifications.
“We’ve played three games now. We know where we stand now,” said Swiss captain Raphael Diaz.
“We have to be honest with each other. We’re still in the tournament here.”
The Czech’s opening goal was scored in the first period on a power play, after some excellent early skating.
Repik punched a one-timer from the slot over the reaching right arm of Jonas Hiller at 7:09. 
But the Swiss pushed back.
At 14:47, Thomas Rufenacht evened things up with a heavy one-timer. 
It wasn’t a power play goal, but it was close to one, as Tomas Zohorna had exited the penalty box only eight seconds prior.
The Czechs would take eight minutes worth of penalties in the first period, but it ended tied 1-1, with Switzerland outshooting the Czechs 14-8, mainly on the wings of three unsuccessful power plays. 
The second period produced no goals, and it was tight until later in the period when the Czechs began to control play. 
They outshot Switzerland 11-7 in the second, as the Swiss became weary from continuous Czech possession.
“That’s how we’ve played the whole tournament. We just play steadily and try to win the games,” said Czech captain Martin Erat.
Early in third period Dominik Kubalik broke the 1-1 draw. The 22 year-old Czech snuck in close to Hiller’s right, and deposited a slick Jan Kovar pass into the Swiss net.
“My goal, 95 per cent of it was Jan Kovar,” said Kubalik. “It was a back-door pass and I just put it in.”
Swiss head coach Patrick Fischer pulled Hiller with over three minutes left in the third period, and then again after the first Czech empty net goal, scored by Roman Cervenka. 
Repik scored his second of the game, into the second empty net.
Of note, every Czech goal scorer has professional hockey experience for a Swiss club team.

Toko-tastic!

An overtime thunderbolt from Ayaka Toko secured Japan its second win of the 2018 Games, making it the most successful in the country's hockey history.

Japan followed up its Group B victory over Korea with an overtime success against Sweden. That's the first time the Japanese have defeated a European nation in Olympic play, and puts Takeshi Yamanaka's team on course for its best ever Olympic placing.
Olympic match-ups between these two countries have a habit of being tight. In Sochi, Sweden took a 1-0 verdict in its opening game of the tournament, then just over a week again it was 2-1 to the Swedes as Group B started out in Gangneung. This time, it was 1-1 in regulation before Ayaka Toko's overtime effort gave Japan the win.
And Toko believes that future Olympic campaigns can bring even more success for the team, talking optimistically of competing for hardware in Beijing 2022. "This time we only got to the preliminary round, but next time we'd like to aim for a medal," she said. "Our main goal was to play good defensively and I think we did that well, but we need to score more goals. It's hard to have a balance of both, but we'll try to do better next time."
Her decisive moment came after three minutes of the extras. Captain Chiho Osawa circled around the back of the Swedish net and laid the puck deep for Toko to unleash a slapshot that found its way into the back of the net after beating Sara Grahn on the blocker side. Cue delight for Japan, claiming its first ever Olympic hockey victory over Sweden - men or women - at the sixth attempt. But there was further disappointment for Sweden, which has now suffered three straight defeats here in Gangneung.
Pernilla Winberg, at her fourth Olympics, summed up the mood among the Swedish players and talked about what might be needed to bring about improvements in the future.
"This is never fun. We didn't do our job out there," she said. "We didn't score on our chances. It's hard to win games when you're up and down so much.
"We need more money into our program and focus on developing girls. It's hard to say what's gone wrong, but Canada and the U.S. centralize all year and we work all day and train at night. It makes a difference."
Japan believed it had taken the lead late in the first period after Haruna Yoneyama’s rush ended with Osawa firing home a wrist shot from the deep slot. But Moeko Fujimoto’s efforts to screen Swedish netminder Grahn sparked a coach’s challenge from the Damkronorna bench, and the video review chalked off the play due to goalie interference. For Swedish coach Leif Boork, this was a better outcome than his attempt to challenge a Finnish goal in yesterday’s quarter-final; on that occasion, the Swedes failed to persuade the officials of their case.
Any lingering sense of injustice among the Japanese was quickly channelled into scoring a legitimate goal, and early in the second period Japan went ahead for real. Shiori Koike was the scorer, the defender bagging her second goal of the Games with an impressive finish on the backhand after she pivoted onto Yoneyama’s feed.
Sweden, looking leggy after its loss in the quarter-final just 24 hours earlier, began to rally. Emilia Ramboldt saw a fiery shot flash narrowly wide before Lisa Johansson tied it up with a short-handed goal. The Swedish forward spotted a piece of poor control as Japan looked to build an attack, and was onto the loose puck in a flash, leaving Ayaka Toko trailing in her wake. But there was still plenty of work to do as she set off down the ice to send Nana Fujimoto the wrong way and tie the game.
The third period could not break the stalemate. Japan had its better chances early and late: Hanae Kubo shot narrowly wide from a good position after some slick build-up play, and Osawa shot straight at Grahn with barely 30 seconds to play. In between, Sweden had opportunities to win it when Maja Nylen Persson’s slap shot was pushed away by Fujimoto and Johanna Olofsson’s deflected effort almost deceived the goalie.
Japan now advances to face Switzerland in the play-off for 5th/6th place. For defender Akane Hosoyamada, that represents real progress. "We were hoping to go to the medal round, but for our Japanese national team, this is a great result," she said. "To finish 5th or 6th is very satisfying. For upcoming generations, this will give our program more respect."
Sweden meets Korea in a battle to avoid finishing eighth and last in this year’s tournament.

Germany shoots down Norway

Patrick Hager scored twice, including the shootout winner, as Germany beat Norway 2-1 to finish third in Group C on Saturday.

In regulation time, Alexander Reichenberg replied for winless Norway, which lands fourth in the group.
Germany outshot Norway 38-29. Both teams got excellent goaltending in Saturday's defensive duel at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, but Haugen was frustrated after allowing three straight goals to Hager, Matthias Plachta, and Dominik Kahun in the shootout. The 30-year-old Farjestads BK netminder tried to smash his stick at the bench afterwards, but was unsuccessful.

"We did good today," said Hager. "All three shooters stuck to their move and the goalie bit on everybody, so we were really happy to have that."

German coach Marco Sturm gave Danny aus den Birken his second start in net, even though Timo Pielmeier shone with 25 saves when Sweden, the 2017 World Champions, edged Germany 1-0. Birken also played in the 5-2 opening loss to Finland.
Norway and Germany were both offensively challenged against the top Nordic powers in Group C. That low-scoring trend continued in this early game, a grinding affair. Norway's offense was further hampered by taking six penalties, including a major to Tommy Kristiansen. The Germans took five minors.

"We scored two goals in three games," said Norwegian captain Jonas Holos. "That's pretty tough too, because when you score goals you get energy. But right now we just battle, battle, battle, and you get one goal or even less each game, and that's pretty tough."

Now it's time to refocus for the upcoming single-elimination Qualification Playoff games, featuring the teams who finish between fifth place and twelfth place in the overall standings.

"We reboot now," said aus den Birken. "We recover well so far as it goes and then we take the momentum with us."
With under three minutes left in the scoreless first period, Frank Hordler sprang Frank Mauer on a breakaway with an Erik Karlsson-worthy stretch pass, but Haugen foiled his in-tight backhand.
Early in the second period, German defenceman Sinan Adkag was shaken up on Kristiansen's big hit in the corner to aus den Birken’s left. Kristiansen was given five minutes for checking to the head and a game misconduct. However, during the ensuing man advantage, David Wolf put one off the post, and Haugen’s magnificent left toe save denied Yasin Ehliz on a faceoff circle one-timer.
At 12:53, Hager finally opened the scoring on the power play. On the goal line, he took a pass from Kahun and then pivoted in front of the net to squeeze one under Haugen’s stick arm. The move was similar to U.S. forward Ryan Donato’s 2-1 winner against Slovakia. (Incidentally, Hager, a six-time IIHF World Championship participant in his first Olympics, tallied the 2-1 winner when host Germany defeated the U.S. to open last year’s Worlds in Cologne.)

Norway tied it up at 5:19 of the third after Anders Bastiansen won a faceoff in the German end. Holos controlled the puck and then found Reichenberg in the faceoff circle. The Swedish-born winger who plays for Sparta Praha beat aus den Birken through traffic.

Germany was caught with too many men on the ice with just 10 seconds left in regulation. Since the Norwegians couldn't score before the buzzer, they got a 4-on-3 power play to kick off overtime. However, there was nothing doing. Kahun rang a quick release off Haugen's mask just before the end of the five-minute period.

"In the end I think we found a way to win and that's important for us to get that mental boost for the next game," said Hager. "We know it's a do-or-die game, and it's always better to go in there with a win instead of a loss."
It was Germany’s third straight win over Norway in Olympic competition. Previously, they dominated Norway on the Polar Bears’ home ice. The Germans won 6-2 at the 1952 Olympics in Oslo and 2-1 in Lillehammer in 1994.
Both these nations are in the mode of “there’s nowhere to go but up.” The Germans finished 11th at their last Olympics in Vancouver 2010. Norway was 12th and last in Sochi 2014. Will one of them stage an upset? Stay tuned.

Swiss win classification, 2-0

Switzerland defeated hosts Korea 2-0 to qualify for the fifth-place game to be played on Tuesday. The Koreans will play in the 7th-8th game also that day.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the game was that Swiss goaltender Florence Schelling was given the day off by coach Daniela Diaz.
Janine Alder started her first senior game, and this was a reward for incredible patience. Alder was the backup at the 2014 Olympics as well as the 2015 and 2017 Women's Worlds, not playing one minute.
Indeed, Schelling had made an incredible 28 straight starts in OG/WW competion for the Swiss. The last time she didn't start a game was April 3, 2013, a 13-0 Swiss loss to Canada in which Sophie Anthamatten and Dominique Slongo shared the duties.
"It was a very good experience," Alder enthused. "It was just awesome to get game time and it all worked out perfectly. It's one of the best days of my life, getting to play and then having such a good performance from everybody."
"I wouldn't say it's been difficult," Alder said about being with the team for so long without playing. "You're always eager to play. You always want to play, but it's so great being here. It's great to watch Florence practice, great to watch her play. I've learned so much from her, and her confidence on the ice. Hopefully I've taken a little bit of that and learned from her. Maybe now I'm ready for that next step and I can bring it on the ice, too."
For the Koreans, there were some noteworthy achievements. This was the smallest margin of defeat for the team, and their 19 shots tied their personal best.
As well, goalie So Jung Shin was excellent, stopping 49 of 51 shots, many from close range. This was also a team record.
"The Korean goalie was so strong today," Alder added. "She had so many big saves. I take my hat off to her. She had so many shots to face."
The bitter disappointment of losing the quarter-finals game was still noticeable, but the Swiss pulled together and beat a determined Korean team. The win means the Swiss have qualified for the 5th-6th placement game on Tuesday while the hosts will play in the lower 7th-8th game.
"It was a tough loss yesterday," Swiss defender Christine Meier acknowledged, "but we knew we had to carry on. The first 20 minutes were pretty hard because we only played yesterday, and we were a little tired."
The Kwandong Hockey Centre was packed with thousands of schoolchildren waving flags and urging on their team, and although the Koreans had several decent scoring chances, they couldn't do enough to pull out a victory.
They did play solid defence, though, andit wasn't until late in the first that the Swiss got on the board. That goal came on a power play. Nicole Bullo made a great pass to Sabrina Zollinger who was skating toards the goal and redirected the puck deftly beyond the reach of golaie So Jung Shin at 16:35.
The second period was much the same, but Korea moved the puck with more confidence and skated into the Swiss zone with purpose. Jongah Park had a nice chance from the slot, but her shot found the stomach of Alder.
Then, the Swiss got another late goal, this time off the rush. Evelina Raselli was in position to claim a loose puck, and she wired a hard shot over the out-stretched glove of Shin at 18:52 for a 2-0 lead.
Korea coach Sarah Murray pulled Shin in the final minute of play to try to get her team a goal, but they fell short and had to be content with a close loss.