Sweden, Switzerland advance to women’s hockey seminfinals
SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Sweden and Switzerland advanced to the semifinals of the Olympic women’s hockey tournament, where they’ll meet a pair of teams that have dominated the Winter Games in Sochi — and everywhere else.
Sweden beat Finland 4-2 and will play the United States on Monday, and a 2-0 victory over Russia means Switzerland will face Canada. The North American nations have won every Olympic gold medal and all except one silver, and they cruised through this year’s round-robin unbeaten until they faced each other (Canada won 3-2).
"We already lost 5-0 (to Canada)," said Switzerland forward Stefanie Marty, who scored midway through the first period against Russia. "We play our best when we are the underdogs."
The Swiss were not exactly favored to get their first win of the tournament when facing the world championship bronze medalists on their home soil. But Florence Schelling stopped 41 shots, staying on the ice despite a collision that left her dizzy on her skates.
"I think that’s what my team needed," she said. "I know my team relies on me. Hopefully if they see me completely calm that helps them, too."
Schelling said the team was prepared for a tough round-robin with games against the United States, Canada and Finland — the top three teams in the world. The 0-3 record left the Swiss in the quarterfinals, and they knew they could not afford to lose on Saturday.
"We prepared for that game for quite a while," Schelling said. "We knew maybe we were going to lose all our games. Today was the game, the most important game for us."
Anna Prugova made 27 saves for Russia, which moves to the classification round and can finish no better than fifth.
"You don’t win games with zero goals," Russia forward Yekaterina Pashkevich said. "But I can’t say that somebody didn’t work hard enough, somebody didn’t try hard enough. I just feel so bad."
Sweden beat its Nordic neighbor in a rematch of the 2010 bronze medal match that Finland won in overtime. Emma Eliasson scored the game-winner in the latest entry of the rivalry, which may be best understood by hockey fans as the European version of the United States and Canada.
"We are like the worst enemies ever," said Eliasson, whose slapshot eluded Noora Raty for the go-ahead goal.
Anna Borgqvist, Lina Wester and Emma Nordin also scored for Sweden, and Valentina Wallner made 29 saves. Raty, who went 41-0-0 to lead the University of Minnesota to its second straight national championship last year, made 28 saves for Finland but she could not see Eliasson’s slapshot from the blue line that held up as the game-winner.
"I’m so happy, I’m just shaking," said Sweden forward Erika Grahm, who assisted on the go-ahead goal with 4:15 left in the game.
Finland, the favorites to repeat as bronze medalists, can finish no higher than fifth.
"This is definitely one of the worst (losses)," Finland forward Minttu Tuominen said, pausing to hold back tears. "Not being able to play for an Olympic medal, it’s heartbreaking."
The game was a rough one for women’s hockey, which does not allow the body-checking that would be familiar to fans of the NHL or the men’s international game. Finland’s Nina Tikkinen was cross-checked to the ice in front of the Sweden net, banging her head on the ice as she landed, and a skirmish at the other end led to four-minute roughing penalties for Grahm and Tuominen.
"We have played many games against them this year. They have been the better team throughout the whole year," Sweden assistant coach Leif Boork said. "We could play a little bit coming from behind, and that was a favor for us mentally. They had more pressure on them, and we could play a little bit relaxed."