The Swedish women’s national team is currently ranked 9th by the IIHF but is no longer in the top division of international competition after a disappointing finish at the 2019 World Championship that resulted in relegation. That setback has put Damkronorna on a mission to prove they are still a force to be reckoned with. Last week, the national team tested itself against two of its Scandinavian sisters — Denmark and Norway.
Here’s a link to Sweden’s roster for the games — which some Swedish media called an unofficial Scandinavian tournament.
Norway is currently ranked 13th by the IIHF. Despite being a small nation with a population of around 5.5 million people, Norway has a rich history in women’s hockey and a handful of outstanding players on its national team. According to EliteProspects.com, there are 12 Norwegians in the SDHL this season, including veteran Line Bialik Øien. However, the Swedes proved to be too much for them to handle on Nov. 4.
Sweden out-shot Norway 40-9 while they cruised to a dominating 6-0 victory. Four of those six goals came in the first period. It was just the kind of convincing win that Damkronorna was hoping to see with a new head coach — Ulf Lundberg — behind the bench.
The Danes proved to be a much more difficult matchup.
Lina Ljungblom got Sweden on the board with 5:07 left in the first period, but the Danes answered back less than a minute later to tie the game before intermission. Denmark’s Josefine Persson scored twice at even strength to overshadow a power play goal from Sweden to give the Danes a 3-2 lead before the second intermission.
Damkronorna tied the game up at 3-3 on the power play with 7:10 left in regulation to pave the way to an overtime showdown. In sudden death Sweden’s special teams delivered yet again when Michelle Löwenhielm found herself on a breakaway and made no mistake with a quick wrister that beat Lisa Sellberg Jensen just 91 seconds into the extra period.
In addition to scoring the game-winner, Löwenhielm also picked up a secondary assist on the game-tying goal. Josefine Holmgren had a huge game for Sweden. She sprung Löwenhielm for her breakaway game-winner, picked up another primary assist on Sweden’s first goal of the game, and buried the game-tying goal in the third period.
The Road to Beijing
While it’s important not to read too much into two wins in exhibition games, it was definitely a good week for Sweden. It’s important to note that Sweden was not at its full strength for these games — Hanna Olsson and Johanna Fällman are both sidelined with injuries.
We learned on Nov. 3 that Sweden, France, Slovakia, and a team to be determined will duke it out in Olympic qualifiers to earn a spot in the Beijing Olympics. Those games will take place either in August or November, depending on what’s happening — or not happening — with the coronavirus.
Speaking of COVID-19, Luleå will be without five of its players — all members of the Finnish national team — due to quarantine restrictions for the next two games. The Finns returned home last week to play two exhibition games against U18 boys teams. All five players, including Jenni Hiirikoski and Ronja Savolainen, tested negative, but they must still quarantine before returning to play hockey in Sweden for Luleå.
“We have to stay in Finland for ten days and can end up in prison for three months if we break the quarantine rules,” Ronja Savolainen told SVT Sport.