Hosts China saw their run in the women’s Olympic ice hockey tournament come to an end Tuesday, as Sweden leapfrogged them in the group stage after back-to-back wins.
The Swedes struggled in early play at the Winter Games but defeated Denmark 3-1 on Tuesday, overcoming a flurry of early penalties to advance to the knockout stage, where they will face Canada. China were eliminated along with Denmark.
Denmark pulled its goalie for an extra skater late in the third but were unable to break through Sweden’s united front.
Ebba Berglund added an empty net goal with seconds left on the clock to seal the victory.
“I am proud of the players. We have 16 debutantes and you have to experience these type of games. You can’t talk about them or see them on video you have to experience this,” Sweden coach Ulf Lundberg told reporters.
Sweden’s quarterfinal pairing offers a chance for revenge after Canada denied them the gold medal at the 2006 Games.
“We have had good turn-around here and I am proud of our team for what we have accomplished, and I don’t think many people thought we were going to be here but we are,” said Swedish captain Michelle Lowenhielm. “It’s not pretty but we did great.”
The other two top finishers in Group B, Japan and Czech Republic, also move on to the quarterfinals, along with all five members of the higher-seeded Group A, which includes defending champions United States, Canada, Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Finland and Switzerland.
The Czech team will next play the United States, who earlier on Tuesday fell 4-2 to arch rival Canada in a potential dress rehearsal for the gold medal game.
The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries to have reached the top of the podium in the women’s event since it was introduced to the Olympic program in 1998 and have sliced through the rest of the field thus far.
Japan, who downed the Czechs 3-2 on Tuesday, plays Finland next, while ROC and Switzerland will battle each other for a spot in the semifinals.
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