GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- The unified Korean hockey team appears to be rounding into form at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics after submitting strong efforts in back-to-back games.
Unfortunately, there is only one game left for the team of 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans.
Korea fell to Switzerland 2-0 in the first classification match at Kwandong Hockey Centre on Sunday. Sixth-ranked Switzerland defeated Korea 8-0 in their first Group B game only eight days earlier, but Korea was a vastly different side this time.
Korea lost all three games in the preliminary round to fall to the classification stage. Switzerland won Group B with three wins but lost to the Olympic Athletes from Russia 6-2 on Saturday to drop out of medal contention as well.
While the Swiss might not have had the legs that they usually do, Korea still deserved credit for the fight it put up.
|Players on the joint Korean women`s hockey team bow to the crowd after losing to Switzerland 2-0 in their classification match of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 18, 2018. (Yonhap)|
For a crude comparison, the shots were 52-8 for Switzerland in their first meeting and 53-19 for Switzerland on Sunday. In the first game, Korean goalie Shin So-jung let in some goals that she'd like to have back. But in the rematch, Shin looked sharp and made some stunning saves on shots fired from close range, keeping her team in the game all day.
"We'll have played for 10 days, and I wish we could play for 10 more days," Shin said. "I think this was the best game for our team and for myself personally. We played with more confidence as a team."
The biggest difference, from Shin's viewpoint as the goalie, was that the Korean players were a lot more aggressive on Sunday than they had been in their first encounter against Switzerland.
"Because we put more pressure on them, they made mistakes, and we were able to create chances off those turnovers," Shin said. "As for myself, I knew how the Swiss players were going to attack, and I was prepared for them."
Head coach Sarah Murray echoed Shin's sentiment that Korea could be playing better hockey if there were more games left. After losing to Switzerland 8-0 in the first game, Korea fell to Sweden by the same score.
"We do wish there were more games left to play," Murray said. "The first two games, I feel like we didn't play our best, and our lines weren't clicking as well as we wanted them to."
Captain Park Jong-ah, who had a team-high four shots and played easily her best game of the tournament, also said the players were better prepared for Sunday's game, having already had their taste of the Olympics.
"We were so passive in early games," she said. "All the players were so nervous that we didn't execute what we'd worked on."
Korea will face Sweden for seventh place on Tuesday in yet another rematch. Sweden hammered Korea 8-0 in the preliminary action last Monday.
Murray said her players would like another shot at Japan because beating the world No. 9 would make Korea the "best team in Asia." Shin said she actually wants to face Sweden again because she wants to prove that Korea is a far better team than the one that lost 8-0 last week.
Park isn't as picky.
"Our goal is to get a win," she said. "It doesn't matter who we play. I just want to win." (Yonhap)