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2022 Olympics Preview: Sweden, Denmark, and China

A look at three of our Group B teams, including the host nation

Women’s Ice Hockey Olympic Qualification Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

2022 Olympics Group B Preview: Sweden, Denmark, China

Sweden

How they got to Beijing 2022

It’s been a bumpy path back to the top level of international women’s hockey for the Swedes, but they successfully punched their ticket back in November. Sweden was relegated down from the top division at Worlds in 2019, and there haven’t been any lower-level World Championship tournaments at all since then in order for them to move back up to the top group. They needed to win in qualifiers instead, which they did. Sweden topped Group E in the final qualification round, with wins over Slovakia, Korea, and France.

How they did in their last tournament

Sweden last competed in a 3 Nations tournament against Germany and Switzerland in December, winning two out of three games. They won their first game against the Swiss, 5-4, and defeated Germany, 4-1, but in a rematch against Switzerland in the final, they fell, 5-0.

Roster

Forwards: Josefin Bouveng, Emma Murén, Lisa Johansson, Linnea Johansson, Sofie Lundin, Sara Hjalmarsson, Linn Peterson, Felizia Wikner-Zienkiewicz, Lina Ljungblom, Emma Nordin, Michelle Löwenhielm, Olivia Carlsson
Defenders: Anna Kjellbin, Linnea Andersson, Johanna Fällman, Ebba Berglund, Jessica Adolfsson, Mina Waxin, Maja Nylén-Persson, Paula Bergström
Goalies: Agnes Åker, Emma Söderberg, Ida Boman

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 1 Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Player to watch

Maja Nylén-Persson, Defense: The 21-year-old blueliner has been on a tear in the SDHL this season. She ranks sixth in the league in points with 40, which is a new career high for her through only 28 games so far. She also posted five points in three games back during November’s qualifying round. This will be her second Olympics appearance for Sweden, and she is going to be an integral part of their push back to the quarterfinal round.

Schedule

  • vs. Japan — Preliminary Round — Thursday, Feb. 3, 4:40 p.m. China Standard Time
  • vs. Czechia — Preliminary Round — Saturday, Feb., 5, 4:40 p.m. CST
  • vs. China — Preliminary Round — Monday, Feb. 7, 9:10 p.m. CST
  • vs. Denmark — Preliminary Round — Tuesday, Feb. 8, 9:10 p.m. CST

What success looks like

In 2018, Sweden finished in seventh place—the worst-ever finish by a Swedish team at the Olympics. A year later, they were relegated to Division IA at the Women’s World Championship. The issue is not talent, but a lack of support and investment from their federation. That all came to a head back in 2019, when the players went on strike before the scheduled 4 Nations Tournament.

All of this is to say that there is a lot for Sweden’s group, beyond just the players taking the ice, to prove in Beijing, and I would wager that they’re very, very hungry to show that the results of the last cycle aren’t going to continue to define their program. But they’ll be doing it somewhat shorthanded already: goaltender Sara Grahn and forward Hanna Olsson, two of their top players, are out of the Olympics after positive COVID tests. Success for this team will mean advancing out of Group B and playing in a quarterfinal—showing that they’re one of the better teams in the group, and ready to challenge again for a spot in Group A.

Denmark

How they got to Beijing 2022

The Danes are a bit of an upstart entry to the Olympic field. They weren’t favored to win their group in qualifiers, which was hosted by Germany, but that’s exactly what they did back in November. An early qualification round loss to Austria made the host nation vulnerable, and once Denmark beat Austria themselves, they were in control of their own fate. All they needed was a point against Germany to advance to the Olympics, and they got it.

How they did in their last tournament

Their last major international tournament was the Women’s World Championship in August. Denmark had not played at the top level in 29 years, and they finished in 10th place. It was an uphill battle for the Danes for most of the tournament; they managed three goals in four games and gave up 15 goals against, although they had some stretches of play where they looked strong offensively.

Roster

Forwards: Josefine Høegh Persson, Josefine Jakobsen, Julie Marie Funch Østergaard, Julie Oksbjerg, Lilli Pearl Friis-Hansen, Maria Holm Peters, Mia Bau Hansen, Michele Brix Nielsen, Michelle Weis Hansen, Nicoline Søndergaard Jensen, Silke Lave Glud, Sofia Blüthgen Skriver
Defenders: Amalie Andersen, Amanda Normann Refsgaard, Josephine Asperup, Kristine Melberg Hansen, Malene Clarin Frandsen, Simone Jacquet Thrysøe, Sofie Skott Dahl, Emma Elizabeth Russell
Goalies: Cassandra Repstock-Romme, Emma-Sofie Nordstrøm, Lisa Sellberg Jensen

Player to watch

Silke Glud, Forward: Glud scored the goal that sent Denmark to the Olympics. In the final game of qualifiers against Germany, Denmark trailed, 2-0, and after they cut the lead in half, Glud scored to tie it. That point against the Germans was all the team needed to get to Beijing.

Schedule

  • vs. China — Preliminary Round — Friday, Feb. 4, 12:10 p.m. China Standard Time
  • vs. Japan — Preliminary Round — Saturday, Feb. 5, 4:40 p.m. CST
  • vs. Czechia — Preliminary Round — Monday, Feb. 7, 4:40 p.m. CST
  • vs. Sweden — Preliminary Round — Tuesday, Feb. 8, 9:10 p.m. CST

What success looks like

Beyond just results, I really think that consistent game play and dictating their game plan would be a huge marker of success for the Danes. Back in August, they were adjusting to the top level after a nearly three-decade absence. It will likely take some time to get their skates under them again.

But in just a few months, Denmark will play host to the next Women’s World Championship. This string of top-level international experience that their players are picking up over this 12-month time span will be invaluable for the development of their program; what better jumping off point than their first Olympic win?

China

How they got to Beijing 2022

Simple—they’re hosting! Team China automatically qualifies for the women’s hockey tournament as the host nation.

How they did in their last tournament

Team China is in a unique situation. Most of their players and coaching staff centralized with the KRS Vanke Rays, competing in the Zhenskaya Hockey League (ZhHL) in Russia and spending the season playing a full slate of games, similar to the North American clubs. The team is currently fourth in the league standings.

China last competed in the Olympics back in 2010, where they finished in seventh place out of eight teams.

Roster

Forwards: Kassy Betinol, Xin Fang, Yingying Guan, Xin He, Rebekah Kolstad, Rachel Llanes, Leah Lum, Taylor Lum, Hannah Miller, Anna Segedi, Madison Woo, Mengying Zhang, Rui Zhu
Defenders: Anna Fairman, Qianhua Li, Zhixin Liu, Camryn Elise Wong, Jessica Wong, Baiwei Yu, Qinan Zhao
Goalies: Tia Chan, Kimberly Newell, Yuqing Wang

Schedule

  • vs. Czechia — Preliminary Round — Thursday, Feb. 3, 12:10 p.m. China Standard Time
  • vs. Denmark — Preliminary Round — Friday, Feb. 4, 12:10 p.m. CST
  • vs. Japan — Preliminary Round — Sunday, Feb. 6, 4:40 p.m. CST
  • vs. Sweden — Preliminary Round — Monday, Feb. 7, 9:10 p.m. CST

Player to watch

Rachel Llanes: Llanes is a leader on this team in more than one respect. She ranked third for the Vanke Rays club in points this season with 16 in 21 games, and boasted a 63% faceoff win percentage, winning 215 draws throughout the club season. She also averaged 20 minutes a game for the team. Llanes is one of the team’s most valuable players in all situations, and they’ll be counting on her leadership and skillset to help manage the pace of these Olympic games.

What success looks like

Team China hasn’t played at the top level of a women’s hockey tournament since the 2010 Olympics. They’ve been competing in Division IB at the IIHF Women’s World Championship since 2012, and they haven’t had any opportunity to move up the past two years since the lower division tournaments have all been canceled. That means we really don’t have any barometer for success for Team China at this level.

China has been preparing to host the Olympics—and be competitive in this tournament—for years, and I think it would be disappointing to come away from all that without a win or two in the next couple of weeks. Spending the year competing together is a benefit for China in terms of consistency that not every team gets, but the competition in Group B will be tough. A trip to the quarterfinals is within reach, but they’ll need to sharply execute their game plan and Kimberly Newell has to lock it down in net.