Sweden came into the final having had plenty of success at the Youth Olympic level, with the Damkronorna winning the previous two editions in Lillehammer 2016 and Innsbruck 2012.
The biggest challenge for the Swedes stands ahead of them with a finale against the Japanese, who have been the surprise of the tournament and could be considered favourites going into this matchup.
But playing for a medal is not a new thing for the Swedish program, and they have two Youth Olympic gold medals and have one of the tournament’s top goaltender in Ebba Svensson Traff.
“They have big players on the team, especially on defence,” said Japan captain Minami Kamada.
Japan is no slouch in net either. Yuzuyu Fujii initially came into the tournament as a backup to Nao Fukuda. But Fukuda was sidelined with the flu prior to the start of the tournament, thrusting Fujii into the starting spot. All she has done is surrender just two goals in three games at the tournament.
One potential test for Fujii is the fact that during the tournament she hasn’t had to make many shots as the Japanese team has been functioning incredibly well as a defensive unit. They will be counted on to shut down the Swedish top line of Nicole Hall, Julia Perjus and Beatrice Hjalm.
“We need to play a full game, skate hard and put pressure on their defence,” said Hall.
The importance of this Youth Olympic finale isn’t lost on the Japanese, who have never competed for a gold medal an Olympic competition.
“We have taken this tournament game by game, and we want to finish well.” said Shimomukai.
In the bronze medal game, tournament hosts Switzerland will be counting on a strong home crowd to help the country overcome Slovakia.
The matchup is a repeat of the Lillehammer 2016 bronze medal game, which saw the Swiss defeat the Slovaks 5-2. Slovakia is expected to put up more of a fight in this game as the country seeks to earn its first Youth Olympic ice hockey medal.
The Swiss will be challenged by goaltender Laura Medvidova who has been busy at the tournament, leading all goalies with 73 stops. The Swiss have also had troubely getting pucks in the net, out of all the playoff teams the lowest scoring team with just tow goal sin three games.
But in what has been an exceptionally well-attended ice hockey tournament in both the men’s and women’s categories, look for the Swiss to get a boost from the crowd as they look to secure they second straight Youth Olympic bronze.