Soderberg Sweden's new starter
by Liz Montroy|29 AUG 2022
Emma Soderberg plays in net for Sweden at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images

When Emma Soderberg was a child, the Jarveds IF youth team had a sign up list for goalies. If kids wanted to play in net, they would sign themselves up on the list, and rotate through the goaltending responsibilities from game to game. Soderberg first signed herself up when she was around seven years old, and soon found herself continually putting her name down to protect the net. 

“I was not a very good player, so when I saw I was doing quite well in the net I kind of thought, this is fun, and just kept signing up on that list,” said Soderberg. “It stuck with me. I think I loved the challenge that you get as a goalie.”

Fast forward 17 years later, and Soderberg is the starting goaltender for Sweden at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, six months after making her Olympic debut in Beijing. 

“It feels kind of calmer than the Olympics. There’s not as much going on around, but game-wise it’s the same,” Soderberg said of her first senior World Championship. “We’re playing against great teams. You have to come ready every game.” 

After getting her start in the sport with Jarveds IF – the same youth association of forward Celine Tedenby and NHLers Markus Naslund and Daniel and Henrik Sedin – Soderberg played with MODO Ornskoldsvik’s U16 and SDHL teams before signing with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In 2016, she backstopped Sweden to bronze at the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship, earning best goalkeeper and all-star team accolades. 

In Frederikshavn, Soderberg has looked calm and collected in net, starting with a 5-2 win against Denmark. While she allowed three goals in the third period versus Germany, she went on to stop every shot she faced in the shootout, helping Sweden to a 4-3 win. 

“That was crazy. We had a kind of rocky end to the third so I’m happy we were able to get the two points. I think we all know this is not kind of how we wanted to end the game,” said Soderberg. “I try to be calm for my team so they know that they can trust me back there.”

Emma Soderberg during the interview.
photo: Andrea Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Soderberg is following in the footsteps of a number of great Swedish goalkeepers, including Kim Martin Hasson, a two-time Olympic medallist and former NCAA champion with Minnesota-Duluth, and Sara Grahn, who was unable to attend the Beijing Olympics due to a positive Covid test and was left off the roster for the 2022 Women’s Worlds.

“I’m happy that I get the trust from the coaches to take the number one spot, and I just want to do what I can to help my team and my country,” said Soderberg. “Sweden has had some great goalies before me, so being able to be here now and be the start means a lot to me.”

While Sweden was relegated to Division I Group A following a ninth-place finish in 2019, they were awarded a spot in the 2022 World Championship after the suspension from competition of Russia’s national teams. 

“I think we all knew that was not how we want to play or where we want to be ranking-wise in the world. We’ve been working hard towards getting better again,” said Soderberg. “We were fortunate enough to get back to this spot, but under bad circumstances. We’re just focusing on playing our best hockey because we know we should be in the top and we have to work hard to be there.”

In addition to the Olympics and the World Championship, 2022 saw Soderberg help her University of Minnesota-Duluth team reach the NCAA Frozen Four final. They lost 3-2 to Ohio State, but it was an experience that Soderberg says has benefitted her in her preparation for World Championships. 

“It was big games too. Every opportunity you get to play in a big game you can take that in your back pocket to help you get more experience, so that’s always good.” 

Soderberg will be playing with Minnesota-Duluth for a final year this fall, taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility for athletes affected by the pandemic during 2020/21. Joining her will be Czech goalie Blanka Skodova, who is transferring from the University of Vermont, and Canadian forward Ashton Bell, who missed the 2021/22 NCAA season to centralize with the Canadian Olympic team. German defender Nina Jobst-Smith also plays for Minnesota-Duluth.

“It came from weird circumstances, but I’m happy that I get the opportunity to stay for one more year,” said Soderberg. “I feel like my development has been good there. I have great resources, facilities, coaches, and a great team, so I think that it’s a good place for me to be.”

Soderberg knows that she wants to go pro following her last year in the NCAA, but isn’t 100% sure if she will return to Sweden, stay in North America, or go elsewhere. One thing’s for sure though – she’s certainly not done signing herself up to play in net.