Wyckman a wall for Swedes
by Chris JUREWICZ|31 JAN 2024
Sweden players celebrate in front of goal after winning the Ice Hockey Women’s 6-on-6 Tournament Gold Medal Game against Japan at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. The Winter Youth Olympic Games, Gangwon, South Korea, Wednesday 31 January 2024.
photo: © OIS (Olympic Information Service) / Joel Marklund
Gangneung Hockey Centre, GANGWON, South Korea – Wave after wave of Japanese skaters came over the boards and onto the ice.

Shot after shot. Chance after chance. But this was one of those games that belonged to the opponent, due in large part to the play of its goaltender. Sweden’s Tilde Wyckman came to play on Wednesday, stopping all 27 shots fired her way from Japan to lead Sweden to a 4-0 victory in the gold medal final of the women’s ice hockey tournament at the Youth Olympic Games.

Sweden produced less than half as many shots but found a way to score three goals on 13 shots and then add one more into an empty net. Forward Nellie Noren, whose third-period goal gave the Swedes a comfortable 3-0 lead, praised her goaltender following the win.

“I can’t find the words to describe how good she’s been. She’s so good and without her we wouldn't stand here with a gold medal. I’m really proud of her and she saved us,” says Noren. “Did you see the shots the Japanese hit? Without her, we wouldn’t have won the game.”

Wyckman credits her preparation for her strong play in the final.

“I did all I could in training before and (have) been fighting for this the whole time,” she says.

The women’s gold game was a rematch of four years ago, when Japan claimed the top prize with a 4-1 win over Sweden. Both teams have completely different rosters, of course, but this one had an extra element of intrigue given this relatively new women’s hockey rivalry.

Japan, small but quick, had been led throughout the tournament by Azumi Numabe and Umeka Odaira, each of whom entered the gold game with four goals and seven points. Both elite players were shut down by Wyckman and a Swedish team that would not be denied on this day.

Ebba Westerlind (two goals, four assists and six points in the tournament) and Tilde Grillfors (4-2—6) continued their strong play in the final game, with Grillfors opening the scoring at 9:02 of the first and then Westerlind making it 2-0 two minutes later. Those goals were more than enough for the Swedes to claim gold.

“It is unbelievable. I could not wish for anything else today,” says Westerlind. “It feels amazing. I can’t describe it. Everyone was so in for it today and we gave it all we had.”

Yamaguchi Nanaho of Japan was clearly disappointed following the game and said her side couldn’t overcome a strong Swedish start.

“Our feelings were a little down after we went down 0-2,” she says. “We were able to come back in the second and third period but our level wasn’t high enough to beat Sweden. We want to get it back in the future.”

Earlier in the day, Germany claimed the bronze medal with a 3-1 win over Switzerland. Similar to the Swedes, the Germans took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Emilija Bikra and Theresa Zielinski.

Switzerland’s Livia Tschannen cut into that lead early in the second and the score remained 2-1 Germany late into the third. Hanna Weichenhain scored into an empty net with about 30 seconds left to give the Germans bronze.