International Ice Hockey Federation

Swiss roll into SF

Swiss roll into SF

Schelling's heroics shut out Russia

Published 15.02.2014 19:35 GMT+4 | Author Andy Potts
Swiss roll into SF
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Switzerland's Sandra Thalmann #92 celebrates teammate Lara Stalder #7 third period goal as Russia's Alexandra Kapustina #44 and Alexandra Vafina #9 react during women's quarterfinal round action at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The host nation dominates, but inspired goaltending gives Switzerland a 2-0 victory and a semi-final meeting with Canada.

Switzerland dug deep to claim a semi-final spot thanks to a gritty 2-0 win over Russia in Satuday's quarter-final.

Not for the first time, goaltending heroics from Florence Schelling played a huge role in the Swiss success as Russia - roared on by almost 5,000 fans at the Shayba Arena in Sochi - dominated long stretches of the game and attacked with verve and vim.

But all that classy approach work ultimately produced nothing more than a zinger off the frame of the goal and a prod onto the post from close range as Schelling stood firm in the face of a Russian onslaught, making 41 saves.

That was good enough to preserve the slender lead Stefanie Marty gave the Swiss midway through the first period before an empty net goal from Lara Stadler settled the outcome with 21 seconds left on the clock.

It was a first victory for Switzerland in this tournament after a tough run in Group A, but it proved enough to set up a semi-final encounter with Canada on Monday.

And goalscorer Marty was already looking forward to improving on the 5-0 defeat against Canada which started Switzerland's campaign. "It seems strange to say we only lost 5-0, but we were pleased that we showed some of our game as well," she said. "This won't be a game where we are happy to just to turn up - we want to score on Canada, we want to give our best. We know what Canada can do, but we play better as an underdog."

Russia had made the better start, and rattled off seven unanswered shots on goal before Switzerland showed its attacking intent. The hosts really should have taken the lead early on when Yekaterina Lebedeva put a good chance wide, and they also clipped the goal frame for the first of three times.

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That profligacy was punished when the Swiss lit up the red lamp with only their second shot on Anna Prugova. The Russian goalie had already reacted well to deny Phoebe Stanz from close range, but as play returned to the blue line the stopper had no answer when Marty collected the puck from Alina Muller and unleashed a slapshot which flew into the top corner.

The goal transformed the game - an end-to-end clash emerged from the earlier Russian dominance. Prugova made a smart save after a weaving surge from Sarah Forster before Schelling showed good reactions to make a double save as Yekaterina Smolova and Yelena Dergachyova threatened.

Switzerland still had one more big chance to come in the first session, though, and Prugova recovered to slide out a pad at the last second and push away Stadler's effort from a loose rebound.

The middle session delivered more chances at both ends. Russia came closest, with Alexandra Kapustina rattling the bar on a slapshot and Dergachyova finding the outside of the post with an almost open goal to aim for.

Switzerland had more of the game in the second period, but produced fewer dangerous opportunities. Like Russia, though, the ladies in red were denied by the frame of the goal when Marty went round the back to pick out Stanz for a wrist shot which clipped Prugova's right-hand upright.

A great cheer rolled around the arena as news came through that Pavel Datsyuk had put Russia's men in front against the USA in the afternoon's other game, and that gave a visible lift to the women which lasted longer than their male colleagues' advantage.

But for all the Russian pressure, team coach Mikhail Chekanov was unimpressed with their efforts. "The difference between the teams was big," he said. "Switzerland was clearly stronger and we were clearly weaker. We had poor skating, poor positioning and in the end lack of confidence. Probably we have to be more determined and work harder to score goals."

The final frame began with high-tempo hockey from the home team which pushed Switzerland on to the back foot. Schelling distinguished herself yet again with a big block to deny Sosina as Russia tightened the screws, and it started to feel like a reprise of the opening game against Germany.

On that occasion, though, Russia conjured up a four-goal blitz in the last 10 minutes to overturn a 1-0 deficit; this time there was no way back.

Russia continued to focus on getting the puck in tight to the net and firing off shots from close range, but found Schelling equal to everything they could throw at her.

It mattered little whether it was a solo breakaway, such as Dergachyova's surge after Laura Benz turned over the puck in the Russian zone, or a passing move like the one which saw the goalie glove away Anna Shokhina's lifted effort from the right-hand circle.

Team captain Julia Marty, twin sister of Stefanie, was delighted to finally secure a first win at the Olympics and - because of the competition format with two tiered groups - puts the team one game away from a medal.

"We've had this format in two World Championships now and last year we lost this game," she said. "We knew we had to play well against Finland [in the last group game] and I thought we did pretty well [in an overtime defeat] and today we continued that against Russia."

Russian optimism was shattered by the defeat, which ends the host nation's hopes of a medal. While many have hailed the tournament as a success for women's hockey in this country, team captain Yekaterina Smolentseva was not prepared to look for a bright side in the immediate aftermath of defeat. "We can't call this a successful tournament," she said. Russia now goes up against Japan in the classification round.

Chekanov, however, was less distraught. "We didn’t reach the goal we set but at least we attracted many fans to the arena and to watch on TV. We generated interest in women’s hockey in Russia and this is probably the biggest positive."


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