The 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi are underway, and the focus for many fans has shifted to the women’s hockey tournament and how the teams playing on Day 2 handled the pressure of the Olympics stage.
Group B—Sweden, Japan, Russia and Germany—was on full display Sunday.
The day opened with the heavily favored Swedish team taking on the Japanese national team in an exciting matchup and was followed by the intense battle between Russia and Germany.
These two marquee games have set the tone for Group B and the intensity of the tournament.
|2014 Sochi Olympic Women's Hockey Standings|
Sweden vs. Japan
Final Score: Sweden 1, Japan 0 (Box Score via NBC Olympics)
While Sweden was one of the favorites coming into this tournament, it was Team Japan that shined the brightest in this matchup and proved the nation was going to be a force in the women’s competition.
Led by strong defensive play and elite goaltending—Nana Fujimoto stopped 22 of 23 shots from the talented Swedish team—the Japanese women only allowed one goal and proved they had the talent and raw ability to hang with any squad in the tournament.
According to Team Canada’s manager of hockey operations Meghan Hunter, Team Japan had several chances to even the score late in the game:
As well as Japan played, the Swedish women were able to weather the storm and pull out the victory.
Swedish captain and offensive leader Jenni Asserholt was able to rack up the game’s only goal (assisted by defender Emma Eliasson and assistant captain Erika Grahm) and matched Japan’s physical defensive play with plenty of intensity.
This was the ideal start for Sweden. While Japan took the loss in the opening matchup, the team also proved that it was supposed to be competing at this level.
Team Japan captain Chiho Osawa spoke to the media, via Reuters, about her team’s slow start and the crowd’s support:
We couldn't start from the very beginning of the game as we planned to start, and the next game we plan to concentrate and play very well from the beginning of the game. But the support of the crowd did help us a lot. They were supporting us and they gave us enough energy when we were trying to score so it was really helping.
The Swedish team’s success against Japan has built momentum that it can carry into the matchup with Germany on Tuesday. The Germans were destroyed by the Russians, and Sweden will be looking to find that same success.
Team Germany will be looking to bounce back in glorious fashion, but Sweden is looking for a gold medal and will not pass on the opportunity to beat its Group B foe.
Russia vs. Germany
Final Score: Russia 4, Germany 1 (Box Score via NBC Olympics)
In one of the most exciting games of the tournament thus far, Russia was able to dominate the German team, 4-1, and set a tone for the rest of the Olympics with its dominant play.
The game was evenly matched through the first two periods—Germany held a 1-0 lead—but the unwavering attack of Team Russia broke the game open in the third period. The gold medal contenders managed to score four goals in the final 20 minutes.
Sochi’s official Twitter account described the tense nature of this game on the ice and in the crowd:
Led by the two goals from Olga Sosina, the Russians attacked the offensive zone with ferocity in the final period and the German team was flat-out overpowered.
Captain Yekaterina Smolentseva and Iya Gavrilova also added goals for the Russian cause. Not only was Team Russia active at even strength, but it also showcased how dangerous it can be on the man advantage by scoring a big power-play goal.
Russia was considered the top team in Group B, and with Sweden and Japan only amassing one total goal in their matchup earlier in the day, it became clear that the home team has the inside lane to winning the group.
The Russians now must go up against the tough defensive style of the Japanese on Tuesday. With a stronger core of defenders and an elite goaltender looking to stifle the Russians' offensive explosion, this will be a much better test for the home team.
Team Japan must find an offensive rhythm if it wants to advance past group B.