Joint Korean Lineup Change Still Leads to Defeat

Troy Young, Feb. 12, 2018, 8:56 a.m.

A major lineup shakeup provided zero help for the joint Korean women's hockey team on Monday, as it was shut out for the second straight game at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Korea was routed by Sweden 8-0 at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, suffering its second consecutive 8-0 loss after Switzerland manhandled the team last Saturday.

Korea head coach Sarah Murray juggled her lineup and kept only her top line intact from the previous game.

For starters, Murray replaced North Korean forward Jong Su-hyon with Kim Un-hyang on the second line. She also moved North Korean blueliner Hwang Chung-gum up to the third pairing next to South Korean Cho Mi-hwan. A third North Korean, forward Ryo Song-hui, made her Olympic debut as a fourth line forward.

Some South Korean players were also moved around, with wingers Choi Ji-yeon and Kim Hee-won trading places on the second and third lines. Despite these changes, Korea failed to score for the second straight game.

Korea did have 19 shots, compared to just eight against Switzerland. The team also had a nice little stretch on the power play midway through the second period, and came within inches of scoring on a couple of occasions, thanks to forward Choi Ji-yeon's redirection attempts.

But Korea was already down 5-0 at that point. After giving up four goals in the opening 20 minutes, Korea held Sweden to just one goal, on nine shots, in the second frame. Things fell apart quickly in the third, however, as Sweden poured in three goals in the first six minutes.

The Korean team will always have the built-in excuse that its players didn't have nearly enough time to train together before the Olympics. The 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans were only brought together on Jan. 25 and Murray didn't start running joint practices until three days later.

They also played just one exhibition game -- against the same Sweden team -- on Feb. 4, before the start of the Olympics. After Saturday's loss, Murray even said she wished the joint team would have been formed last summer, when the talks of one first surfaced, so that she would have had a full season to prepare.

But given the performance of some homegrown players, it's doubtful that a team of South Koreans alone would have made much of a difference. Before the teams were combined, Murray and some of her players said they were so confident in themselves that they readjusted their goal for the Olympics.

Around this time a year ago, Murray would only talk about abstract goals, saying her players should try to play in the Olympics and leave the competition without any regrets. But as the team continued to make progress -- it advanced to a higher division in the International Ice Hockey Federation's World Championship in April -- Murray began talking publicly about making it out of the group stage.

That would mean finishing in the top two. Some, like captain Park Jong-ah, even said the goal was to win the bronze medal.

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