Where do we even begin? A month ago, the South Korean team was the underdog host nation of the 2018 Winter Games and was training in North America. Today the South Korean team is no more. In its place is a united Korean team with 35 athletes; 12 of whom are from North Korea. The IOC approved a historic collaboration between the two nations to march together in the opening ceremonies and to pool their talent in the women’s hockey tournament.
As part of the agreement between the two nations and the IOC at least three North Korean players will be in the lineup for all of Korea’s games. That will be a storyline that head coach Sarah Murray’s team will not be able to escape for the duration of the tournament.
In 2017 the IIHF world ranking for South Korea was 22nd in the world. North Korea was 25th.
Shin is the only player on the Korean team with experience playing pro hockey in North America. In 2016-17 she appeared in six games with the NWHL’s New York Riveters and posted a .906 save percentage (including a standout preseason game against Team Russia). Before taking her talents to the States, Shin was a star at St. Francis Xavier University, posting a .927 save percentage or better in three U Sports seasons. Her experience against North American skaters should prove invaluable in the tournament.
Shin missed most of the 2017 World Championships Division II in July because of a ligament injury, but she remains the biggest name on the Korean team. She is a small, quick goaltender who is hard to beat when she gets into her groove. Needless to say, there is a lot of hope riding on Shin stealing a game for Team Korea.
Jong Ah Park
Park is Korea’s most dangerous forward and a safe bet to score Korea’s first goal in Olympic competition. The 21-year-old sniper is coming off of an impressive performance at the 2017 World Championships Division II. Park had four goals and six assists in five games in that tournament, which was twice as many points as Korea’s second highest scorer.
If opposing teams can keep Park from making an impact, it will be bad news for the Koreans. In all likelihood coach Sarah Murray’s team will rely on the power play for most of its offensive chances. Jong Ah Park will get a lot of touches when Korea is in the offensive zone.
Yoon Jung Park
Also known as Marissa Brandt, Park has been the subject of countless stories leading up to PyeongChang. Park was born in Korea and adopted by an American family from Minnesota. Her younger sister, Hannah Brandt, is one of Team USA’s best young players.
Park is one of Korea’s alternate captains. A solid defender, Park has played hockey since she was 8 years old. She and 17-year-old Su Yeon Eom (both right-handed shots) were two of South Korea’s highest scoring defenders from the 2017 World Championships Division II. Park had three assists in five games in the tournament, and Eom scored Korea’s goal against the Connecticut Whale in late December.
[Randi] Hee Soo Griffin
The 29-year-old Griffin has experience playing NCAA D I hockey at Harvard. In her senior season (2009-10) she scored 11 goals and 10 assists in 33 games for the Crimson. Griffin had 21 goals in her NCAA career. The veteran forward could bring some scoring depth to the Korean team.
Korea is playing in Group B with Sweden, Switzerland, and Japan.
- February 10, Switzerland v. Korea @ 7:10 a.m. ET
- February 12, Sweden v. Korea @ 7:10 a.m. ET
- February 14, Korea v. Japan @ 2:40 a.m. ET
Coach Murray may have a larger pool of players to choose from, but she no longer has full control over her roster. Any “advantage” that Team Korea might have gained with its larger roster is negated by the pressure and politics that are influencing the team.
All politics and off-the-ice issues aside, if Team Korea finish in seventh place it would be a tremendous victory. But in order to do that they will need to win two of their five games. The odds are stacked against the host nation.