GANGNEUNG -- South Korea fell to Sweden 3-0 in the first of the two countries' women's hockey friendly matches here on Friday.
World No. 5 Sweden scored a goal in each period against the 22nd-ranked South Korea at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul, while outshooting their host 40-13.
The two will meet again at 3 p.m. Saturday at the same venue. Gangneung Hockey Centre will also host hockey games during next year's PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
South Korea has scheduled these games in preparation for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics next February. South Korea and Sweden have been paired together in Group B at the Olympics, where they'll also face Switzerland (No. 6) and Japan (No. 9).
|Eom Su-yeon of South Korea (R) tries to handle the puck against Sweden during the teams` friendly game at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on July 28, 2017. (Yonhap)|
Predictably, Sweden dominated the puck from the get-go. The Europeans outskated the South Koreans from the puck drop, getting to loose pucks quicker and winning battles in the corners thanks to their physical edge.
It was no small miracle that the game stayed scoreless for nearly 15 minutes, with South Korean goalie Shin So-jung standing tall in the net. Sweden finally got on the board at 14:23, as first line winger Lisa Johansson tipped in a point shot by Jessica Adolfsson.
South Korea got the first power play with just under four minutes but couldn't mount much of an attack. Sweden outshot South Korea 13-3 in the opening period.
It was much the same story in the second period, as Sweden kept cycling the puck down low and pushing the South Koreans around along the boards.
Sweden doubled its lead at 14:25 in the second, taking advantage of some shoddy defensive coverage by South Korea in the neutral zone. Erika Grahm was the beneficiary of a Emma Nordin pass, as she beat Shin on a mini breakaway.
Shots were 14-5 Sweden in the middle frame.
Melinda Olsson scored Sweden's third goal at 12:50 in the third period, after taking a sharp centering pass from Hanna Olsson from the right wing.
In the third period, South Korea put a couple of hard shots right at goalie Sara Grahn, who otherwise had little trouble recording the shutout.
South Korea coach Sarah Murray said her players need to improve their defensive zone coverage.
"I think we need to continue to get stronger physically," she said. "When we play against bigger teams, it's hard to battle in corners when we need to match strength for strength. We did really well in our offensive zone when we got there, but we got stuck in our defensive zone too much."
Shin, the South Korean goalie named the team's top player of the game, said the team held its own against the heavy favorite.
"I think our forechecking was solid, and it's always helpful to play against such a strong opponent," Shin said. "I think we learned what we need to work on from this game, and hopefully we'll play a better game tomorrow."
South Korea will later set up camps in France and the United States, and face Switzerland, France (No. 13) and top-division US college teams.
South Korea will also compete in a four-nation tournament in Hungary in November and have more training in New York and Minnesota in December. (Yonhap)