Encouraging signs for SwissSwitzerland’s women came out on top in their final Olympic warm-up, defeating Sweden and Germany in a three-team event in Basel. Colin Muller’s team played three games in total, starting with a test event against Sweden that the visitors won 5-4, before recording a 5-0 revenge verdict against the Damkronorna and a 6-1 success against the Germans in the competition proper.
That put the Swiss top of the table, but the game against Germany was rather closer than the scoreline suggests. Evelina Raselli opened the scoring late in the first period, but after a goalless middle frame, the game was very much alive. Laura Zimmerman and Alina Muller, who recovered from an injury suffered during the Women’s Worlds, struck twice in 20 seconds in the 46th minute to kill off the Germans and pave the way for a comfortable final score. The game also marked 200 international appearances for Sarah Forster.
Raselli and Muller were also on target in the two earlier games as a full-strength Swiss roster faced contrasting fortunes against Sweden. In the first encounter, Switzerland jumped to a 4-2 lead after 36 minutes, only for the Swedes to hit back. Linnea Johansson and Josefin Bouveng tied it up before Emma Muren potted the winner with 70 seconds on the clock. In the second meeting, Switzerland hit back with an emphatic victory, restricting Sweden to just 17 shots on the way to a 5-0 scoreline.
For Sweden, which came to Switzerland with a run of 12 victories from 13 games including its successful Olympic qualification tournament in Lulea last month, this was a step up in class. Switzerland, who finished fourth at the last World Championship, and Germany are both ranked ahead of the Damkronorna. Head coach Ulf Lundberg said before the tournament that he was looking forward to seeing how his players would adapt to stepping up against stronger opposition and left with plenty of grounds for encouragement before his roster reassembles in January for its final pre-Olympic camp.
Germany found things tougher: that third-period collapse against Switzerland followed a 4-1 loss to Sweden. Twin sisters Lilli and Luisa Welcke, 19, were the two German goal scorers: Lilli, who is set to play NCAA hockey with University of Maine this season, also led the team for goals in its unsuccessful Olympic qualification tournament last month while Luisa was playing her first senior international hockey tournament for her country.
Poulin sinks USA twiceAcross the Atlantic, the USA and Canada continue their Olympic preparations with the latest instalment of the rivalry series. Since the last World Championship in August, these two foes have now clashed seven times – and each game has been won by the visitor.
In December, it was the USA’s turn to host – and Marie-Philip Poulin’s turn to crash the party. The Team Canada captain twice scored overtime winners to continue the run of homesickness in this series. The teams met twice in St. Louis. A third game was scheduled for Monday but had to be cancelled due to Covid concerns.
The first game finished with Canada taking a 2-1 verdict thanks to two goals from Poulin. She opened the scoring on the power play midway through the second period and returned with the OT winner after Hilary Knight put the Americans level in the third, seconds after Canada killed a 5-on-3 penalty. Two days later, it was a similar story as Poulin snapped a 2-2 tie with the OT decider. In regulation, Sarah Fillier and Emily Clark twice put the Canadians up, but Kendall Coyne Schofield (PP) and Savannah Harmon tied it up.
Captain Poulin picked up the plaudits on the Canadian side after two game-winning displays. “Being able to rise to the high-pressure situation as a group, and especially having our captain lead the way – it’s huge for us,” said Emily Clark after the second game. “She’s the heartbeat of our team; a couple of special days for her, but it’s a big group effort as well.”
For Team USA head coach Joel Johnson, the losses were hard to take but the performances from both teams highlighted the quality we can look forward when this rivalry resumes in Beijing. “It was a great display of what we’re competing for,” he said. “When both of these teams play, they really bring out the best of each other and that’s a key component to what we’re preparing for.”
Raty returns for FinlandFinland picked up two victories in exhibition games against Czechia – and goaltending star Noora Raty made a memorable return. Raty has not played since sustaining an injury back in February when she was playing for KRS Vanke Rays, the Chinese club in the Russian Women’s Hockey League, in an exhibition game against Russia. After she missed the Women’s World Championship in August, there were question marks over Raty’s Olympic chances. On Friday, though, she answered them emphatically.
In an intense goaltending duel, Raty blanked the Czechs through 65 goalless minutes of hockey in Vierumaki. Then she safely navigated her country through the shootout, making three saves as Finland took the verdict on Jenni Hiirikoski’s successful attempt. Coincidentally, Raty’s final act was to deny Alena Mills, the Czech captain who played on the same Vanke Rays roster last season.
Raty was not the only goalie to impress in that game. Klara Peslarova stopped 34 shots for Czechia to take the action all the way to the shootout. She was the third goalie used by the Czechs, who went down 4-3 in the opening game on Wednesday. Elisa Holopainen led the scoring with 1+2, while Viivi Vainikka and Denisa Krizova both had 1+1. Finland goes to Beijing looking to add to the bronze medal it won in 2018, the Czechs are making their first appearance in the women’s tournament at the Games.
|Three Nations Tournament in Switzerland|
|16 Dec.||Basel (SUI)||Switzerland - Sweden||4-5|
|17 Dec.||Basel (SUI)||Germany - Sweden||1-4|
|18 Dec.||Basel (SUI)||Sweden - Switzerland||0-5|
|19 Dec.||Basel (SUI)||Switzerland - Germany||6-1|
|15 Dec.||St. Louis (USA)||USA - Canada||1-2 OT|
|17 Dec.||St. Louis (USA)||USA - Canada||2-3 OT|
|20 Dec.||St. Paul (USA)||USA - Canada||postponed|
|Games in Finland|
|15 Dec.||Vierumaki (FIN)||Finland - Czech Rep.||4-3|
|17 Dec.||Vierumaki (FIN)||Finland - Czech Rep.||1-0 SO|