Olympics Recap: Day 1

Müller breaks records, Sweden secures the win, and Korea has the best cheer squad around.

Switzerland vs Korea, 8-0

Switzerland vs Korea made history for multiple reasons.

The first period assault was led by 19-year-old Alina Müller, who opened her second Olympics with a natural first-period hat trick. She then proceeded to back it up with another tally early in the second period to make her only the second woman in tournament history to score four goals in a single game.

The game was both an offensive and defensive masterclass by the Swiss. They scored eight goals and held Unified Korea to just eight shots on goal throughout the entire game.

However, despite Switzerland’s theatrics, the unified Korea team  still manage to be the main attraction. The team consists of players from both North and South Korea skating together for the first time in international hockey history.

The scene at the rink was similar to that of the IIHF DII World Championships, which served as the catalyst for this team after hundreds of South Koreans turned out to support the idea of a peaceful Korean reunification. The team of supporters attended all five North Korean games, shouting chants of support complete with choreographed dance moves.

On Saturday night they were back, this time to see their dream of a unified Korea play out on the world stage. They were joined by the North Korea cheer contingent, who garnered international media attention with their bright red uniforms and synchronised routines being shown around the globe during the period breaks. Both sets of fans proudly waved the blue and white flag of the Korean Peninsula.

While it wasn’t the game that Korea had hoped for, it wasn’t without a phenomenal effort by their players in from of the home crowd. Goaltender So Jung Shin recorded 44 saves in the loss including several truly exceptional moments. Defender Marissa Brandt, competing in the tournament under her birth name Yoon Jung Park, recorded the highest time on ice among the Koreans, tallying over 24 minutes of ice time and recording only a -2 despite the eight goals against her team.

Group B play will resume on day 3 with Switzerland taking on Japan, and Korea going up against Sweden.

Japan vs. Sweden, 1-2

There are good wins, there are great wins, and then there are ‘meh’ wins. Despite opening their tournament with a victory, this was a less-than-stellar game for the Damkronorna. Could have been better (should have been, considering the talent available, but this is a Leif Boork-coached team, so * shrug emoji *), could have been worse.

Veteran goaltender Sara Grahn had an excellent game, turning back 30 of 31 Japanese shots. Her Japanese counterpart, NWHL fan favorite and inaugural New York Riveter Nana Fujimoto, stopped 24 of 26 shots. Yes, the Japanese outshot the Swedes, 31-26.

Sweden’s Fanny Rask opened the scoring at 2:21 of the first period. The team struggled with icing calls all game long, forcing players to remain on the ice for extended shifts, and the resulting exhaustion bit them on a Rai Ukita goal late in the second period.

Sara Hjalmarsson broke the tie early in the third period on a pass from Erika Grahm. The Damkronornra ran into some penalty trouble as in the third period wore on but managed to kill off all three minors and preserve their lead. This was a tight game that could have easily seen Smile Japan take home their first-ever Olympic victory, and the outcome doesn’t necessarily speak to the quality of play. Sara Grahn continues to be the backbone of her team, but more contribution and better utiization will be critical as the tournament goes on.