A rivalry was renewed on the final day of competition in the women’s preliminary round as Canada and USA squared off in a tense battle for Group A supremacy. Meanwhile, the men’s tournament had a jam-packed schedule, featuring four contests, including Canada’s opening game in Group A. Over in Group C, Finland and Sweden showed why they’re primed to battle for top spot.
BOURQUE, WOLSKI SCORE TWO EACH AS CANADA SKATES BY SWISS
The question entering the PyeongChang Olympics may have been where Canada would get its offense from, but it didn’t take long for Rene Bourque to put those concerns to rest.
In the first game of the tournament for Canada, it took Bourque less than three minutes to make his mark on the Olympics. Cutting out of the corner, Bourque drove to the net with his stick on the ice where Chris Lee, the elder statesman on the Canadian roster, placed a perfect pass for the winger to tip past Swiss keeper Leonardo Genoni. It wasn’t long after that Canada doubled their lead. Following a Thomas Rufenacht interference penalty, the Canadians skated out for their first power play of the contest, and after Derek Roy worked the play back to Lee, he put the puck on a platter for Maxim Noreau, who uncorked a one-timer to stretch Canada’s lead to 2-0.
In the second, Canada continued to display offensive acumen. First, it was Bourque scoring on Canada’s second power play of the game. Roy, who was a playmaking force throughout the outing, worked into the middle of the ice before slipping a pass to the front of the net for Bourque, who made no mistake and picked up his second of the game. And just 52 seconds later, Wojtek Wolski put the match out of reach with a brilliant individual effort. Driving down the right side, Wolski slipped a check with a deft deke before firing a shot by Genoni, ending the Swiss goaltender’s night in the process.
Switzerland looked much better playing in front of Jonas Hiller, pressing late in the second and finally capitalizing roughly seven minutes in to the third on a 6-on-4 attack with the net empty. It was too little, too late, however. Wolski added his second of the game into an empty net with five minutes left to seal the 5-1 victory. Ben Scrivens backstopped Canada to the win, turning aside 28 of the 29 shots he faced.
FASTH, SWEDEN BLANK NORWAY TO OPEN STRONG
Getting to the top of Group B is going to require perfection from the Swedes, and if the first contest of the competition is any indication, coach Rikard Groenborg’s team has the ability to be perfect in more ways than one.
Against Norway, Sweden was excellent offensively, blowing four goals past Norwegian netminder Lars Haugen. The offense started with Par Lindholm’s game-opening goal roughly five minutes in, followed by Anton Lander’s tally little more than 10 minutes later and Sweden doubled their two-goal lead over a span of just 22 seconds in the third. After Dennis Everberg scored at 8:42 of the third, Mikael Wikstrand found twine at 9:04 to put a stamp on Sweden’s win.
As impressive as Sweden’s offensive outburst, though, was their defensive play. The Swedes limited the Norwegians to a mere 17 shots through 60 minutes as Viktor Fasth posted the shutout in the 4-0 victory.
FINLAND TURNS IT ON IN FINAL 40 MINUTES TO BLOW PAST GERMANY
A note to teams with designs on beating Finland at the Olympics: don’t take penalties, because the Finns will make you pay. Just ask the Germans. In a sign of what was to come in the tournament-opening contest for both teams, Finland struck early, notching a power play goal roughly three minutes into the outing. And despite Germany bringing the game level with a special teams tally of their own, Mika Pyorala put Finland ahead for good late in the first.
Over the final 40 minutes, Eeli Tolvanen and Joonas Kempainen added two more power play goals for the Finns, with Lasse Kukkonen’s even-strength tally separating the two markers. Germany potted a second of their own off the stick of Frank Hordler, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Mikko Koskinen stopped 22 of the 24 shots that came his way for the win.
CZECHS EKE OUT WIN BUT THROW EVERYTHING AT SOUTH KOREANS
Not much was expected from the South Koreans at the 2018 Games, but the host country put a legitimate scare into one of the major hockey nations in their first outing with netminder — and Clinton, Ont., product — Matt Dalton stealing the show. Before it got to that point, though, Minho Cho was the early story, scoring seven minutes in to put the hosts ahead 1-0, to the surprise of all watching.
However, across the next 52-plus minutes, the Czech Republic were absolutely dominant, relentlessly firing shots on the South Korean net. Only twice did Dalton allow pucks to beat him, though. The first came when Jan Kovar scored on the first Czech power play of the game, the second roughly four minutes later when Michal Repik registered a shorthanded tally to put the Czech Republic ahead.
Dalton did his best to keep the contest close, but South Korea couldn’t capitalize on three man advantages over the final 40 minutes as they fell just short of earning at least a point, falling 2-1 to the Czechs.
CANADA DEFEATS RIVAL USA IN CRUCIAL GROUP A CONTEST
The first installment of the Canada-U.S. rivalry at the PyenongChang Olympics delivered a closely contested outing with a furious finish.
As we’ve come to expect from these two teams, neither side was willing to bend, let alone break, through the early part of the contest. In fact, through the first 20 minutes of play, the game was all about goaltending with Canada’s Genevieve Lacasse and USA’s Maddie Rooney shutting the door in the opening frame. It took until nearly halfway through the game fbefore anyone scored, and even then, it required a Canadian man advantage for the game to get its first goal. Late in Canada’s second power play of the game, an advantage that came as a result of a Megan Keller interference penalty, Meghan Agosta received a backhanded pass from Natalie Spooner and one-timed a shot that barely squeaked past Rooney.
And with one goal already on the board, Canada doubled their lead little more than seven minutes later when Sarah Nurse scored what may very well be the nicest goal of the preliminary round. Cutting down the left wing, Nurse pulled back and unleashed a seeing-eye wrister that found daylight behind Rooney. It was a picture-perfect shot that put Team USA in a two-goal hole. But that deficit was nearly trimmed when Jocelyne Lamoureux took a penalty shot for the U.S. after Canada’s Renata Fast smothered a loose puck with her hand.
To start the third, though, Team USA wasted no time ensuring Canada would have to sweat out the final period. Just 23 seconds into the frame, Kendall Coyne flew up the middle of the ice, splitting the Canadian defense before firing a shot between Lacasse’s legs to draw the American side within one. From there, it was all Lacasse, who turned aside everything an on-charging Team USA threw at her — with some help from her post in the dying seconds — as Canada secured the 2-1 win and top spot in Group A.
In other women’s action, Finland trounced the Olympic Athletes from Russia, outshooting them 37-25 and winning by a 5-1 margin. Michelle Karvinen led the way for the Finns with two goals, both of which came on the power play.
1. Genevieve Lacasse (CAN): Stopped 44 shots against rival USA in a crucial victory.
2. Eeli Tolvanen (FIN): One goal and four points as Finland stomped all over Germany.
3. Matt Dalton (KOR): Made 38 saves as South Korea kept it close against the Czechs.
Thursday, Feb. 15
Slovakia vs. USA (M), 10:10 p.m. ET
Friday, Feb. 16
Slovenia vs. OAR (M), 2:40 a.m. ET
Norway vs. Finland (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
Germany vs. Sweden (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
Czech Republic vs. Canada (M), 10:10 p.m. ET
TBD vs. TBD (W), 10:10 p.m. ET