International Ice Hockey Federation

International Break

International Break

Switzerland & Japan to Olympics, Finland wins

Published 14.02.2017 07:07 GMT-5 | Author Martin Merk
International Break
Switzerland and Japan will return to the Olympic Winter Games after winning their qualification groups on home-ice. Photo: Manuel Lopez / PPR, Seinosuke Uchigasaki
The February International Break included three tournaments with Switzerland and Japan earning their tickets to the Olympics and Finland winning on home ice.

Since last spring six of the eight teams of the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament in PyeongChang 2018 have been known as the top-five women’s hockey nations according to the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking as well as host Korea were set.

Since 28 countries entered a team for the Olympic tournament and qualification, the remaining two spots were determined during a four-stage qualification process starting in Mexico City in October and ending on Sunday with the Final Olympic Qualification groups in Switzerland and Japan where the top-seeded teams made use of their home-ice advantage.

Sweet Swiss revenge

In the Swiss mountain resort of Arosa, Switzerland and the Czech Republic won their games against Division I teams Norway and Denmark to set up a final on Sunday. It was sort of revenge after the Czechs’ historic win against Switzerland at the last Women’s Worlds that gave them their best placing ever (6th) while the Swiss missed the final round of a big tournament for the first time since 2009 and moved out from the top-5 in the Women’s World Ranking, thus missing out on direct qualification.

After a tight first half of the game with Czech 1-0 first-period lead the Swiss came back in the second and third period to win 4-1. A strong performance of goaltender Florence Schelling in the net and Switzerland’s power-play line starred by tournament scoring leader Lara Stalder and youngster Alina Muller made the difference. All goals were scored either on power play or shortly after with Stalder and Muller each netting two. Stalder previously scored hat tricks against Denmark and Norway.

"Unbelievable, it’s what we've been dreaming of since last summer," said Stalder, who finished the tournament as the top point scorer with eight goals and four assists in three games.

"I'm really tired, and happy! We gave it all in the end," said Muller. "Everyone in the room deserved this, it would have been so hard to miss the Olympics and I'm happy that the Swiss can participate."

It’s the fourth consecutive time the women’s team qualified and that Switzerland will be at the Olympics with two teams.

Click here for the full game recap, quotes and photos.

Smile Japan!

Like the Swiss, also Japan will return to the Olympic Winter Games after having earned qualification already for Sochi 2014.

Relegated from the Women’s World Championship after losing to Switzerland last year, the Japanese started with easy wins on home ice in Tomakomai on the northern island of Hokkaido against Austria (6-1) and France (4-1) before facing Germany, the team promoted to the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth (USA), in the final game.

The Germans also went undefeated although they lost a point after needing a penalty-shot shootout to overcome France in the opening game.

“Smile Japan” as the women’s team is called had all reason to smile after the game. After a tight and scoreless opening period they became stronger and more disciplined in the second. Moeko Fujimoto scored after Japan’s first power play was over at 7:44 and three minutes later Shoko Ono made it 2-0 with a power-play goal in front of 3,111 fans.

Tanja Eisenschmid cut the deficit when Germany had the next power play but tournament scoring leader Hanae Kubo made it 3-1 with 5:17 left in regulation time.

“Kubo came through like she has all tournament,” said Japan coach Takeshi Yamanaka. “She just knows how to score in important situations and played a huge role for us.”

Click here for the full game recap, quotes and photos.

Finnish women win

Three more teams, who are among the top-5 women’s hockey nations and thus already qualified, played each other in the Euro Hockey Tour event in Finland that was cut down to three teams due to Germany’s participation in the Olympic Qualification.

The three teams played five exhibition games. Although not every team had the same number of games the outcome was clear. Home team Finland was the strongest team winning all four games against its neighbouring rivals. It beat Sweden 3-1 thanks to two Saila Saari goals and in the second game 3-2 after Susanna Tapani’s overtime goal.

Then it faced little trouble against the Russian selection winning the games 7-2 and 7-1. Sweden finished in second place after blanking Russia 4-0, which was missing several key players who competed in the Winter Universiade where the country won both the men’s and women’s ice hockey tournaments.

Jenni Hiirikoski led the tournament both in goals (3) and points (9) followed by her teammates Tapani (4+2) and Petra Nieminen (2+4).

Noora Raty, who hasn’t played in an IIHF tournament since the Sochi 2014 Olympics, played three of Finland’s games. She plays her club hockey for Pyry Nokia in the third men’s division. The three Swedish goaltenders who saw ice time had the best save percentage in the tournament: Lovisa Berndtsson with a shutout win against Russia while Sarah Berglund (92.11) and Sara Grahn (91.89) kept the Swedes in the game against the offensive firepower or Finland.

Final Olympic Qualification Group C in Switzerland
9 Feb.   Arosa (SUI) Denmark Switzerland 1-6
9 Feb.   Arosa (SUI) Czech Rep. Norway 5-0
11 Feb.   Arosa (SUI) Switzerland Norway 4-1
11 Feb.   Arosa (SUI) Czech Rep. Denmark 4-3
12 Feb.   Arosa (SUI) Switzerland Czech Rep. 4-1
12 Feb.   Arosa (SUI) Norway Denmark 5-1
Standings: 1. Switzerland 9, 2. Czech Rep. 6, 3. Norway 3, 4. Denmark 0
Final Olympic Qualification Group D in Japan
9 Feb.   Tomakomai (JPN) Germany France 3-2 SO
9 Feb.   Tomakomai (JPN) Austria Japan 1-6
11 Feb.   Tomakomai (JPN) Germany Austria 4-1
11 Feb.   Tomakomai (JPN) Japan France 4-1
12 Feb.   Tomakomai (JPN) France Austria 3-1
12 Feb.   Tomakomai (JPN) Japan Germany 3-1
Standings: 1. Japan 9, 2. Germany 5, 3. France 4, 4. Austria 0
Euro Hockey Tour in Finland
8 Feb.   Vierumaki (FIN) Finland Sweden 3-1
9 Feb.   Jyvaskyla (FIN) Finland Sweden 3-2 OT
10 Feb.   Kouvola (FIN) Finland Russia 7-2
11 Feb.   Vierumaki (FIN) Sweden Russia 4-0
12 Feb.   Vierumaki (FIN) Finland Russia 7-1
Standings: 1. Finland 11, 2. Sweden 4, 3. Russia 0


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