Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Germany snatches win

An overtime winner from Yannic Seidenberg put Germany into its first quarter-final since 2002 and sent Switzerland home after the qualification round.

Yannic Seidenberg was the German hero after a typically cagey battle against Switzerland in the qualification round.
The 34-year-old forward got the overtime winner for his  team just 26 seconds into the extras, snapping a 1-1 tie when he reacted smartly to the rebound from a Dominik Kahun shot and slotted the puck past Jonas Hiller.
Germany's goalscorer was an unexpected game-winner: the EHL Munchen winger is noted more for his passing than his scoring power and this decisive tally was his fifteenth international goal in his 144th appearance for his country, while his production in the DEL is also dominated by assists rather than goals. But, on this occasion, he was in the right place at the right time to snaffle the big chance in a game with few clear-cut opportunities at either end.
"We said before all the games that we’re trying to get net front, get shots to the net, and try to score on rebounds," said Seidenberg after the game. "I know on 4-on-4, if you sometimes get on the inside of a guy and the puck’s coming, you get a lucky bounce and that’s what happened. I’m the lucky guy that got the bounce. I feel so proud that I put it in."
For Germany it means a place in the last eight for the first time since Salt Lake in 2002; for the Swiss it was a qualification round exit for the second successive games. Four years ago Latvia ended Switzerland's hopes in Sochi at the same stage.
The game was typically cagey - meetings between these two nations often are, with their only recent Olympic encounter ending in a 2-2 tie in Turin - but it got off to a lively start. Just nine seconds had been played when Switzerland’s Cody Almond was ejected from the game for a high hit on Christian Ehrhoff. Almond's upper arm went straight into Ehrhoff’s head, leaving the German to be escorted from the ice by a medic. Ehrhoff returned to action; Almond’s post-game shower was destined to last rather longer than his time in the game.
Germany took advantage of its power play, opening the scoring on 1:19 thanks to a powerful one-timer from Leonhard Pfoderl. Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller would surely like that one back; the shot seemed to go right through him, despite little traffic around him.
However, Germany was unable to press home its advantage. A penalty on Felix Schutz neutralised the rest of Almond’s penalty, and the Swiss came close to tying the game when Raphael Diaz’s shot threatened to slip through Danny aus den Birken’s five hole and slithered along the goal line. Defenceman Markus Kink reacted quickly to sweep away the danger and Germany held its lead to the first intermission.
Early in the second, Switzerland tied it up, with a classic ‘pucks to the net’ goal. The play started with Pius Suter going around the back of the net and setting up Andres Ambuhl for a shot. That was blocked, and the German D did a good job of forcing Ambuhl out wide but could not prevent him setting up Suter for another attempt. Again, the puck got tangled up in front of aus den Birken’s net, and this time Ambuhl poked it across the paint for Simon Moser to smash it into an open net. That prompted some stronger play from the Alpine nation, but with two well-drilled defences on display, there were few moments to bring the crowd to its feet.
Germany made the brighter start to the third period, limiting the Swiss to a solitary shot on goal in the first 10 minutes. But Yasin Ehliz took a fairly needless high sticking call midway through the frame, and that tipped the momentum of the game back towards Switzerland. The Swiss duly took the play to the other end of the ice, even having a brief spell of 5-on-3 action as Germany almost buckled.
For Seidenberg, that - as much as his goal - was the key to the game. "I think the turning point was for sure in the third period when our PK was outstanding again," he said. "We had a couple of kills and our guys blocked shots, pressured hard on entries, and Danny aus den Birken, our goalie, had another great game. We fought the whole game, tried to win every inch on the ice, and I think that was the difference in the game."
The defence did its job and, as the clock ran down, both teams began to play more cautiously as overtime approached.

Finland wins, 5-2

No one could be surprised that Finland defeated Korea, but the manner in which that victory was achieved was anything but expected.

It was a one-goal game after 40 minutes, and the Koreans were the stronger team for significant stretches. In fact, the teams played to a 2-2 tie in the second period, when Korea took control and played its best hockey in the history of the nation.
In the end, the win means Finland will take on Canada in a quarter-finals tomorrow while the Koreans are now spectators from here on in. Their tournament might be over, but their effort here tonight will resonate for a long, long time.
The team came in as long shots to just earn a modicum of respect. They left the ice tonight--after deep bows to all four sides of the stands and then the coaching staff, including a teary-eyed coach Jim Paek--proud and victrorious in the name of hockey.
They earned a place in these Olympics, and they will be in Denmark in May for the World Championships after earning promotion last year in Division I-A.
"The show they put on--boy it was fantastic for our hockey, and I just hope people watched that and appreciated how hard they worked," said Paek.
"I think everyone was watching the same game I was, and I'm pretty proud to be a part of Team Korea right now," said Brock Radunske, one of Korea's goalscorers. "To be in one goal game against Finland in the third period is a pretty special moment for Korean hockey, and I think the crowd gave us a lot of energy. It felt good to reward them with a couple goals."
Finland jumped out to a 3-0 lead and seemed to be on its way to a comfortable victory, but the hosts made a comeback of near historic proportions.
Finland got exactly the start it wanted, scoring an early goal on the power play. Eeli Tolvanen made a sensational back pass from along the boards across the width of the ice where Petri Kontiola wired a one-timer home at 4:42.
That was the only goal the Finns could muster, and the Koreans came out strong to start the second. Sangwook Kim got his stick on a loose puck from in close and dribbled a shot off the post.
Soon after, though, the Finns extended their lead on another man advantage. This time it was sheer luck that put the puck in the net. Kontiola made a pass in front, but the puck bounced off the skate of defender Bryan Young and past a helpless Dalton at 3:44. 
Three minutes later, it was 3-0 on a determined effort by defenceman Miro Heiskanen. He fought off a check and wired a shot to the glove side that eluded Dalton.
And then the most extraordinary thing happened. The Koreans started to skate and take the play to Finland. In truth, they absolutely dominated the rest of the period, scored twice, and easily could have had a couple more.
The rally started with the Koreans’ most impressive shift of these Olympics as they controlled the puck in the Finland end for more than a minute. In the end, Brock Radunske’s shot went under the pads of Koskinen at 10:06 for a well-deserved first goal.
Two minutes later, Jin Hui Ahn made it a 3-2 game when he came off the boards and nailed a shot over Koskinen’s glove, sending the crowd into a frenzy for a second time. 
A scrum at the end of the period gave Korea its first power play of the night to start the third, but the advantage proved ineffective.
That missed opportunity turned out to be costly as Finland went back to the power play a few minutes later and capitalized for a third time. Juuso Hietanen nudged a puck through bodies and over the goal line in a big pileup in front of Dalton to make it 4-2.
"After 3-0 we loosened up a little bit, so they got two big goals there," said Kontiola. "It was a great game. I respect that team, and the crowd was great. I don't want to say we panicked, but something happened and we needed to talk a little bit after the second period."
Of course, Finland is a world power for good reason, and though it was rattled in the second, it showed poise in the third, limiting the Koreans to just two shots and adding an empty netter by Sakari Manninen with 6.1 seconds left in the game.
"First of all, respect to Korea," said Finland coach Lauri Marjamaki. "They did a great job. They worked hard. They were consistent and had commitment and discipline. But I am happy about our third period because we played so solid. When we led 3-0, we didn't do the job anymore and they got one goal and got the momentum, and it is not so easy any more. Our players want so much to succeed at this tournament and maybe sometimes it is not so easy."

Norway stuns Slovenia in OT

It looked like Slovenia's game, almost the entire way, until Norway found a way back in, to reverse almost 24 years of Olympic losses with one shot.

Nevermind their recent Olympic history, Norway won a huge game on Tuesday night.
Alexander Bonsaksen plunged an overtime wrister into absolute chaos in front of the Slovenia net to lift Norway 2-1 over the stunned Slovenes.
Slovenia’s starter Gasper Kroselj faced the Bonsaksen shot without a stick, following a Norwegian rush to the net that caused a yard sale, and Jan Urbas to fatefully glove the puck into the high slot.
The puck came out bouncing, so I didn't want to shoot a one-timer. I just wanted to make sure it didn't bounce over my stick,” said Bonsaksen.
“I just focused on getting it past the first guy who was trying to block it. Luckily, it went in.”
It is Norway’s first win at the Olympics since February 24, 1994 (3-1 win over Austria). They had previously lost 11-straight games going back to Lillehammer, although Norway did not qualify a men’s team from 1998 - 2006.
We talked about our losing streak in the room before the third period and wanted to do something historic here. This is the first time Norway is in the quarter-finals,” said Bonsaksen. 
It's been 24 years since we won a game at the Olympics. That's what we talked about, and I'm really happy we did it. It feels amazing.”
Bonsaksen’s goal 3:06 into the OT period was a reversal of fortunes for the defenceman, who took a poorly-timed interference penalty with 11 seconds left in regulation time.
But the Slovenes didn’t capitalize.
In fact, they also blew an earlier power play in the final minutes, thwarted by a pair of excellent saves from Norwegian goaltender Lars Haugen, two of his 33 saves in the game, with Ken Andre Olimb in the box for hooking.  
Norway will now face the Olympic Athletes from Russia in a quarter-final on Wednesday.
Russia is a great team. They have a lot of good players, so they're the favourites. But we'll battle hard and give them a tough game,” said Jonas Holos, Norway’s captain.
The Slovenes took a 1-0 lead at 6:38 of the first period with a low shot from Jan Urbas, for his second goal of the tournament. His captain, Jan Mursak, set it up, good for his team-leading sixth point.
In many spots of the opening frame, the Slovenes posted a pace the Norwegians couldn’t match.
With about six minutes left in the period, Mursak carried a neutral zone feed from linemate Miha Verlic and raced in on a partial breakaway, only to chip the puck into the body of a sprawling Haugen.
Slovenia outshot Norway 16-9 in the opening period.
The Slovenes earned themselves a play-off qualification game against previously win-less Norway with a resilient preliminary round.
Their body of work included a comeback overtime win against the Americans and a shootout triumph over Slovakia. That put them sixth overall following the preliminary round.
Norway pushed the Germans to a shootout but lost, and fell by four-goal margins to veritable contenders Sweden and Finland.  
The Slovenes also controlled much of the scoreless second period, firing nine shots toward Haugen, while Norway managed only four shots on Kroselj in the Slovenia net.
Norway would tie the game 1-1 3:06 into the third period with an excellent finish by Tommy Kristiansen. Martin Roymark streamed a long, beautiful saucer pass onto Kristiansen’s tape, which he neatly slide far side on Kroselj.   
“We're happy how we played in this tournament. We became better known in the hockey world because it's the Olympics,” said Kroselj, who made 24 saves.
“We showed ourselves in a good light, even today when we lost. I wish Norway all the best.”

Swiss come fifth

The Swiss edged Japan 1-0 for fifth place on Tuesday. Goalie Florence Schelling set a new Olympic shutout record with her fifth all-time.

Schelling also leaves these Games as the all-time Olympic wins leader (10) and tied with Canada’s Kim St-Pierre, Sweden’s Kim Martin and Finland's Noora Raty for the most Olympics among goalies (4). Of course, the 2014 Olympic MVP would have preferred a repeat of the team success of Sochi, where Switzerland earned an historic bronze medal.

"I’m very proud of the team, the way we stepped up after being so disappointed," said Schelling.

Evelina Raselli scored the first-period winner.

"Right now, winning fifth place really isn’t bad, and probably in a week it will feel awesome to think about getting fifth place in the Olympics," said Raselli. "But it’s still not a medal."

Switzerland won both its placement games, including a 2-0 shutout over host Korea by rookie Olympian Janine Alder. There are, naturally, regrets over the missed opportunity in a 6-2 quarter-final defeat against the Olympic Athletes from Russia. But nonetheless, the Swiss women’s program is heading in the right direction.
It was a good tournament for 19-year-old Alina Muller, who leads all skaters with seven goals and 10 points, and Christine Meier, who tops the tournament in points for defenders (8). In fact, Meier’s eight assists are the third-highest ever in one Olympics, tied with Canada’s Cherie Piper (2006). Hayley Wickenheiser set the record with 12 (2006).
Japan matched its sixth-place finish from the inaugural 1998 Olympic women’s hockey tournament on home ice in Nagano. That featured just six teams, and the competition has gotten stiffer in the last 20 years, so the 2018 result is more impressive. Smile Japan, indeed.

"Not the result we were hoping for, but after we didn’t make it through the qualifiers, I think getting to the fifth-place game was a pretty good job," said Japan's Akane Hosoyamada. "We should be pretty proud of ourselves."
As usual, Japanese starter Nana Fujimoto was solid, as shots favored Japan 20-14.

"I hope that the younger generations feel that they can keep coming up and competing at this level," Hosoyamada added. "I hope we were good role models for them and inspired more people to start playing hockey."
In front of 3,958 fans at the Kwandong Hockey Centre, the Swiss got the start they wanted. Raselli pounced on a loose puck at centre ice and swept in for a breakaway goal at 3:19. Yet clearly emboldened by their first Olympic win over Sweden (2-1 on Sunday), the Japanese kept attacking throughout the first period.

"It was my mistake for the goal, which was hard, and then throughout the game we couldn’t get past their goalie," said Hosoyamada. "She’s a great goalie. She’s always going to get the first shot. So we have to get coverage in front of the net, get the screens, get the rebounds and we just couldn’t get the second shot on the net today."
A scoreless second period picked up toward the end as Japan pressed for the equalizer with Sabrina Zollinger in the box for cross-checking. Even with a 7-1 shots edge in the middle frame, the Japanese couldn’t solve Schelling.

The Swiss initially thought they'd taken a two-goal lead about five and a half minutes into the third. Muller smartly centered the puck while sliding on her knees and Stalder put it in the net, but it was waved off as Isabel Waidacher had violated Fujimoto's crease.

With a display of warrior bravado, Japan pulled its goalie for the extra attacker with 2:12 left. But Phoebe Staenz's relentless puck pursuit in the dying moments kept the shutout intact. Schelling smiled and pumped her arms at the final buzzer.

"It’s been a great experience to play at the Olympics," said Hosoyamada. "It was my dream since I was little. I’m so grateful that I was here, a part of this team and this environment, but I hope I’ll get the chance to come back again, maybe in Beijing."

Switzerland won its second straight game over Japan at these Games. The Swiss prevailed 3-1 in round-robin play on 12 February. Switzerland also has a perfect 8-0 record versus Japan at the Women's Worlds, dating back to 1990.

Will Schelling be back for a fifth straight Olympics? "I’m not really thinking about my future yet. I’m just happy being here right now, enjoying it and soaking up everything right now."

Americans advance

Team USA took advantage of some slack defence by Slovakia to earn a big win in the first qualifying game of a busy day to move on to tomorrow’s quarter-finals.

Troy Terry led the way with three assists for the Americans, who now face the Czechs for a place in the semi-finals.
"That's my identity as a player," Terry said. "I mean, I can score, but I'm more of a playmaker and a passer, and I thought I've had a pretty good tournament. Tonight I was just able to make a little bit cleaner plays and guys were able to finish on them. When you play with guys that can score like that, it's fun."
Slovakia will likely finish in 10th place and are finished for the 2018 Olympics.
"It's not bad, but we are not happy," said Ladislav Nagy. We could have finished first in our group, and we lost it. We should have beat Slovenia and we would have been fine."
It was a game that started slowly but produced some fireworks in due course. The scoreless first period gave was to a four-goal second, which began with a quick strike by the U.S.
Terry had a breakaway that was stopped by Jan Laco with a Bower-esque pokecheck, but Ryan Donato got to the rebound and snapped the puck into the open side at 1:36.
Just 26 seconds later the Slovaks found themselves in a major hole thanks to a breakdown in discipline. In the offensive end, Ladislav Nagy crashed into goalie Ryan Zapolski to earn a minor, and as play moved into the Slovak end Michal Cajkovsky elbowed Donato in the head, earning a match penalty.
Zapolski was dazed by the hit, which caught him in the head, and needed several minutes to recover.
"He hit my head and I just pinched my neck a little bit, but my head is fine. It wasn't a concussion or anything like that."
The U.S. wasted no time in converting the five-on-three into a goal, James Wisniewski capitalizing on Terry’s nice no-look set-up pass. Fortunately for Slovakia, this was the extent of the damage from these penalties.
Midway through the period, though, the U.S. went up 3-0 thanks to a Mark Arcobello one-timer in the slot off another Terry feed.
The Slovaks got on the scoreboard at 16:54 on the power play when Peter Ceresnak stepped into a shot from the top of the circle. 
The U.S. got an insurance goal at 9:52 of the third off the rush. Brian O'Nell took a hard check for the team along the boards before passing to Broc Little, who found Garrett Roe in front. Roe made no mistake with his quick re-direct to make it 4-1.
Donato got his second of the night late in the third on a power play to close out the scoring.
"We have to win now to keep moving on, so I think that's something that shows how strong this team is and how resilient we are, said Zapolski. "We had our best game today, and I think our best period of the tournament was the third period tonight so it was really important for us to have that type of game."

Swedes sign off with win

A comfortable scoreline for Sweden belied the effort Korea put into this game. The host pushed hard for two periods before running out of steam at the close.

Sweden's women wrapped up their Olympics with a comfortable 6-1 victory to secure seventh place - but it was a plucky Korean performance that caught the eye at Kwandong Hockey Centre.
The host was unable to pull off the shock win that it had dreamed of, but still made life tough for the Swedes as it recovered from the loss of an early goal to tie the scores through Soojin Han. The game remained live until deep into the second period as Sarah Murray's team signed off with a performance that offered great encouragement for a roster ranked 22nd in the world and facing the #5 team in the IIHF rankings.
And the sense of pride spilled over at the end of the game. Goalie So Jung Shin - whose stats did not fully reflect the contribution she made behind an overworked defence - was cheered off the ice, while hard-working forward Jingyu Lee was the last to leave the field of play, departing amid a fluttering sea of white and blue Unified Korea flags.
Lee, who battled tirelessly in search of a goal that never quite came, embodied the spirit of a Unified Korean team that deservedly captured the hearts of hundreds of fans who remained on the concourse long after the arena was emptied to support both the athletes and the symbolism of this unique union of North and South.
Randi Heesoo Griffin, scorer of Korea's first ever Olympic goal during the group game with Japan, was looking forward to tapping into that excitement to support the development of Korean hockey.
"I certainly hope that it keeps people excited about the game and gets more kids playing, because we really need that," she said. "That’s a huge part of the mission of our team, and that’s something that isn’t changing after these Olympics are over. A lot of girls on the team are involved in coaching kids, and we talk all the time about how we can keep this momentum going for women’s hockey in South Korea."
Griffin added that, with the off-ice hullabaloo about the Unified Team dying down, it had been fun playing the final game in front of a large crowd "of people who were here for the hockey and here to support us".
For Sweden, a country that came here with medal ambitions, this was absolutely not the game it wanted to be a part of – and at times it showed. Korea, eager to wrap up its Olympics on a high, was out to exploit any lethargy on the opposition’s part, and for a time there was even a possiblity of a major surprise.
Fanny Rask acknowledged that it had been a chastening couple of weeks in Gangneung after her team finished in seventh place. "It’s kind of hard, because we worked really hard for this," she said. "It’s not the tournament that we expect from ourselves. We have higher expectations from ourselves. It’s really hard. I’ve tried not to think about it too much because it will be really, really hard when you know how much you’ve put in."
The Koreans could, maybe should, have opened the scoring here. A 5-on-3 advantage for 50 seconds early in the game was the perfect platform to get the host ahead. Instead, though, the chance went begging: Korea failed to test Minatsu Murase in the Swedish net, and came no closer than a Lee slapshot that flashed just wide.
If you don’t score on them, they’ll score on you. Sweden, back to full strength, wasted little time in proving the truth of that old adage. Rask sent Sabina Kuller away into oceans of space on the left-hand flank; Kuller relished the opportunity to thump home her first goal of the Games in the sixth minute. With Korea’s proven lack of firepower, it felt like an early end to the competitive action.
But another Swedish penalty transformed the mood as Korea snatched a tying goal. Captain Jongah Park made it, darting behind the net from the left channel then sending a fine pass back in the direction she came for Soojin Han to squeeze in a shot from a tight angle. It was a moment to cherish: a quality goal to delight the home crowd, and for the first time in this tournament, Korea had played itself back into a game.
It nearly got even better. Lee robbed defender Johanna Olofsson deep in Swedish territory and went straight to the net, only to clip the outside of the post. There was a growing feeling that the shock might just be on.
That dream took a beating late in the opening frame as Sweden converted a power play chance. Korea struggled to clear the puck from its zone, and when play came back to Emmy Alasalmi on the point, she fired home a delicious one-timer to reinstate the Swedish lead.
Once in front, Sweden’s confidence increased and Shin was by far the busier goalie in the second period. Korea managed just two shots on goal in the middle frame as the pressure piled up around Shin’s net. The host was not afraid of the dirty work though, with Heewon Kim’s willingness to put her body on the line seeing her pick up an injury when a slapshot crashed into her.
In the end, though, the pressure told as Sweden scored a fine goal. Rask, Emma Nordin and Erika Grahm produced a passage of tic-tac-toe that might have come straight out of a Soviet playbook; the bewildered Korean defence was left watching by the time Grahm applied the coup-de-grace to make it 3-1.
Now there was no way back for Korea. Sweden added another goal through Annie Svedin early in the third. Her shot dinged into the angle of post and bar, but a video review confirmed that the puck had crossed the line. Rask, who scored the first goal of the 2018 Olympics, got her second of the tournament when she made it 5-1 with 10 minutes to play before Lisa Johansson wrapped up the 6-1 scoreline late on.
But the emphatic victory could not quiet the questions about where Sweden's women's program goes from here. Grahm admitted that there was uncertainity about the future - but sounded a defiant note.
"After this season, we need to think about what happened and then we can look to the future," she said. "Right now I’m going back home to play with my club team. Hopefully we can end it up better there and after that, I don’t know. But I want definitely more than this."
Meanwhile, Rask called for more backing for the women's game. "I think we need support from our clubs and from the federation so that we can focus on just playing hockey and not worry about our future," she said. "So we can just focus on getting better and have time to rest and not be stressing out about life itself."