International Ice Hockey Federation

Swiss top Sweden for bronze

Swiss top Sweden for bronze

First Olympic medal for Switzerland's women

Published 20.02.2014 20:10 GMT+4 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Swiss top Sweden for bronze
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 20: Switzerland's Jessica Lutz #17 celebrates her third period goal with Sara Benz #13 against Sweden's Valentina Lizana Wallner #35 during women's bronze medal game action at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The Swiss rallied from a 2-0 deficit to beat Sweden 4-3 in the women's bronze medal game. In a wild finish, Alina Muller's empty-netter proved to be the winner.

"It's amazing we came back from being down 2-0," said Muller. "The older players and the coaches really encouraged us in the second intermission. We really believed in ourselves. It's amazing."

The Swiss, who scored all four of their goals in the third period, went up 3-2 with 6:17 remaining. Sweden's Erica Grahm turned over the puck inside her own blue line, and Switzerland's Laura Benz sent a perfect cross-ice pass to Jessica Lutz, who fired it into a wide-open net.

With Swedish goalie Valentina Wallner pulled for an extra attacker, Switzerland's Muller slid a long shot into the empty net with 1:07 left.

"I didn't intend to score, I just wanted to get the puck out of our zone and it went in," she said.

But Sweden didn't give up. Pernilla Winberg went to the front of the Swiss net and whacked one home to make it 4-3 at 19:16. The crowd of 8,283 was in a frenzy. Could the Swedes get the equalizer with that sixth skater still out there?

The answer was no, as the Swiss tied the puck up in Sweden's end. At the final siren, the red-and-white squad hopped up and down on their bench and jubilantly raced out on the ice to mob Schelling, while the Swedes' eyes filled with tears.

"We never gave up," said star Swiss goalie Florence Schelling. "We never stopped believing. A huge change for us was beating Russia in the quarter-finals 2-0. And then going into the semi-final and only losing to Canada 3-1. We won the second period in that game and tied the third. That was incredible for us to make us believe today we could win the bronze medal."

Sara Benz and Phoebe Stanz scored the other goals for Switzerland, which made history, winning an Olympic medal for the very first time. Switzerland became the fifth country to win a medal in Olympic women’s ice hockey since 1998 after the United States, Canada, Finland and Sweden.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime game, so we knew we had to give everything we had," said Sara Benz. "We did that. We have a great team and every girl deserves the medal."

It’s the first Olympic medal in ice hockey for Switzerland since the men’s national team won bronze on home ice in St. Moritz in 1928 and 1948.

Michelle Lowenhielm and Erica Uden Johansson scored for Sweden, and Cecilia Ostberg and Maria Lindh chipped in a pair of assists apiece.

"It just sucks," said Uden Johansson. "I feel like we should have won. We played well from the beginning and we got ahead, but you have to play for a full 60 minutes to get what you want."

Schelling won her netminding duel with Wallner, as shots on goal favoured Sweden 31-26.

The Swedish women's IIHF medal drought continues, dating back to 2007. Sweden’s previous Olympic medals were bronze (2002) and silver (2006).

In IIHF World Women’s Championship play, the Swedes own two previous bronze medals (2005, 2007). At that tournament, between 1997 and 2012, Sweden beat Switzerland three times and lost twice.

Switzerland's lone previous IIHF medal came at the 2012 Women's World Championship. They captured bronze with a 6-2 victory over Finland in Burlington, Ontario.

Near the seven-minute mark of the first period, Switzerland had a splendid chance to open the scoring when Stanz set up Lutz on an odd-man rush, but the American-born forward put the puck into a kneeling Wallner’s pads.

Otherwise, Damkronorna had the better of the early play, while Switzerland looked flat. The Swedes had a 10-1 edge in shots in the opening stanza.

"None of us has ever participated in an Olympic medal game, so before the game we were incredibly nervous," said Schelling.

The Swedes got on the board first with six minutes left in the period. With Laura Benz draped on her back, Ostberg sent an ingenious pass across her body to Lowenhielm, who put it past Schelling’s left pad on the backhand.

Asserholt set up Grahm on a breakaway in the first minute of the second period, but Schelling denied her backhand deke.

With 7:16 left in the second period, Wallner stopped Stefanie Marty on a breakaway to maintain the 1-0 lead. Her Swedish teammates failed to cash in with an extended man advantage that included 28 seconds with a 5-on-3.

Uden Johansson hustled into the Swiss zone on the left side and unleashed a slapper from the faceoff circle that Schelling partially got with her glove, but it still hit the top corner for a 2-0 Swedish lead at 18:58. At that point, Sweden appeared to be in full control.

"Right then and there when I scored it felt awesome," said Uden Johansson. "I just wish I could still have that feeling now, but obviously it wasn't enough."

The Swiss found their resolve in the third period. Left unguarded by Wallner's left post, Sara Benz scored high to the glove side at 1:18 to cut the deficit to 2-1.

"It was important to score early in the third," said Benz. "We got the confidence that we could score and we got momentum on our side."

At 6:13, the Swiss made it 2-2 on a broken play with the man advantage. Muller couldn't get her shot through in front of the net, but Stanz gobbled up the loose puck, zipping it past the goalie's blocker.

"We played really well this tournament, but the third period was our worst," said Sweden's Anna Borgqvist. "They scored a lot of goals, so it's really tough right now."

Under the new tournament format, the Swiss won bronze despite posting just two wins.

"We knew that the tournament would be like this," said Swiss assistant captain Katrin Nabholz. "We really prepared for this format and thought a lot about it."

Sweden’s experience ultimately didn't give it the edge over Switzerland. Four of coach Niclas Hogberg’s players – captain Jenni Asserholt, forward Pernilla Winberg, defenceman Emma Eliasson and goalie Kim Martin Hasson – have suited up for more than 200 national team games.

“They got the third period the way they wanted and we didn’t,” Hogberg said. “I’m proud of the job we have done at this tournament. We played against relegation last year and made a step forward.”

This was the second all-time Olympic meeting between these two nations. The Swedes won 3-0 in 2010 in Vancouver.


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