ZURICH – Tickets are still available for both games today, but Switzerland could make history tonight by qualifying for the semi-finals for the first time. Sweden and Finland play earlier than usual in the playoffs, but that makes the game more important – and more disappointing for the losing team.
Sweden-Finland, 16.00 Hallenstadion
Sweden and Finland have a long history in women’s hockey, dating back to the first bronze medal game in 1990 (won 6-3 by Finland). Since then they have met three times at the Olympics (Finland holding a 2-0-1 won-tied-loss record) and 12 times at WW (Finland with a commanding 9-1-2 record). They have played for bronze twice at the Olympics (one win each) and eight times at the World Women’s, Finland winning six times, but Sweden having won two of the last three. They have never played in the quarter-finals, meaning one of the top four teams over the course of most of the last 20 years is going home early this year…Both teams have very youthful lineups, Finland with ten new players and Sweden with eight…Of those newbies, six of Finland’s have U18 experience while seven of Sweden’s eight come from U18 as well…The teams are coming off losses of very different kinds. The Finns played superb and stifling defence in losing to Canada, 2-0, including an empty netter…The Swedes were crushed by the U.S., 9-1…Sweden’s Erika Holst is fifth in scoring with six points (1+5) while top scorers on Finland are Susanna Tapani and Michelle Karvinen, both with only two points each…Sweden’s goals for and against are 11-10 while Finland is 6-7…Noora Räty (FIN) has been sensational this tournament, allowing just three goals in two games, while Sweden’s tandem of Kim Martin and Sara Grahn have been a little less impressive…In all, Sweden has more firepower and Finland better goaltending, meaning this will likely be another classic.
Switzerland-Russia, 20.00 Hallenstadion
A surprisingly close rivalry, the Swiss hold a slim 4-1-3 record at all levels of women’s hockey. This includes 2-0-1 at the U18, 1-1-1 at World Women’s, and 1-0-1 at the Olympics. The Swiss are looking to make history by advancing to the semi-finals for the first time…They lost the bronze medal game in 2008, 4-1 to Finland, but that was when the tournament format was structured for nine teams, not eight, and they qualified directly to the bronze game by winning a three-team group that also included Sweden and Russia…Russia also has one bronze game appearance, a 2-1 win over Finland in 2001, and that was another unique format despite it being an eight-team tournament. That year, two groups of four teams played a round robin (as is the case this year), but then the top two teams in each went to the semi-finals. There were no quarter-finals. Russia beat Finland, 2-1, to win bronze…After losing to Canada, 12-0 to open this year’s tournament, the Swiss have played excellent hockey, winning 2-1 in overtime with Finland (the only game to go to extra time in the Preliminary Round) and 6-1 over Kazakhstan…Russia has looked less impressive, losing to Sweden 7-1 and the U.S., 13-1, before beating Slovakia, 4-1, to advance to the playoffs. It would be a significant upset if Russia were to win today.