Swiss players Nina Waidacher and Livia Altmann hope to lead their team in their hometown of Arosa to the fourth consecutive participation in the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Sochi bronze medallists faces tough competition
Three years ago the Swiss women scored an upset by winning Olympic bronze in Sochi. To repeat that success, they first need to win the Olympic Qualification.
As the top-seeded team that is not already among the already qualified ones – the top-5 countries of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Ranking USA, Canada, Finland, Russia, Sweden as well as host Korea – the Swiss earned the right to host Group C in the mountain-resort town of Arosa while Group D will be played in Tomakomai, Japan.
After a sixth-place finish at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and a seventh-place finish last year after missing the final round, the Swiss dropped down to sixth place in the World Ranking and missed a direct spot in PyeongChang 2018.
In Arosa they will face the Czech Republic, Denmark and Norway starting today. All six games of the tournaments will be streamed live on the official event page in co-operation with the Olympic Channel. Games of the Swiss team will be broadcast within the Swiss territory on the streaming and/or TV channels of state broadcaster SRG/SSR.
21-year-old Swiss captain Livia Altmann is one of three players hailing from Arosa. She played her junior hockey in boys’ leagues there before moving to the ZSC Lions Zurich, a top team in the Swiss Women’s Hockey League A, and last year to play NCAA hockey at Colgate University.
“It’s great there. The team belongs to the university, so everything is combined. You go to school, then to practice, then to school and there are great facilities. In Switzerland not all teams in the league are at the same level while the league is more balanced [in the NCAA]. Every game is a good game,” Altmann said about her new experience.
She is one of three Swiss players on the roster who play college hockey in North America, the Czechs even have seven, the Danes one. Since Tuesday the Swiss practise in Arosa. “We’ve had good practices and we definitely have a great atmosphere. All the team can’t wait that it’ll start,” she said. “We’re always a positive team as one could see at the Olympics and we play with passion. It will be great games for the fans to watch.”
The tournament includes two Top Division and two Division I nations. The Swiss will open it today at 16:00 local time against Denmark while the Czechs take on Norway at 20:00.
Tournament favourites Switzerland and the Czech Republic will play each other on Sunday in a key game that could turn out as a “final”. The Swiss have a bone to pick with the Czechs on home ice after losing to them 3-1 at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship last spring. For the Swiss the loss meant they didn’t make the final round of an IIHF event first time since 2009. For the Czechs, who have never qualified for an Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament, it meant reaching its best tournament placing ever, sixth in the world.
“It’s tough to say who’s favourite in the tournament, I haven’t seen the Czechs play for a while,” Altmann said. “They have become more skilled. We have to play our best game against them. Most important is to play our own game and be focused for 60 minutes. We know that we cannot underestimate any team here.”