Czech Republic makes noise in women’s hockey debut as three-time medalist Finland struggles

Tereza Vanisova scores a goal in Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 1
Getty Images

More than halfway through the round robin portion of the Olympic women’s hockey tournament, the Czech Republic has emerged as a contender to make the quarterfinal round.

The Czech women are making their first appearance in the Olympic tournament, which expanded from eight to 10 teams for the 2022 Games, after earning their spot through a qualifying tournament.

On Her Turf takes a closer look at the tournament newcomers, who are joined by Denmark in their first Olympics. Also of note at the midway point in the opening rounds: Three-time medalists Finland, the 2018 bronze-medal winners, are 0-2 to start their Olympic tournament.

Can Czech Republic’s women hockey team keep up the momentum?

The Czech women are making their Olympic debut in Beijing, and they kicked off with a 3-1 win over China followed by a 3-1 triumph over Sweden. Scoring the first goal in their first game was Tereza Radova, who currently plays club hockey in the Swedish Women’s Hockey League with Goteborg HC.

“Right now, I don’t feel like it’s something special,” said the 20-year-old regarding scoring the first Olympic tournament goal for her country. “Later it might be a bigger deal, but right now it’s a normal goal. It was really important that we were the first team to score.”

Tereza Vanisova scored two goals for the Czech Republic in their 3-1 win over Sweden, but she believes her team is still capable of more.

“We are a real good offensive team and we have to do better,” said Vanisova, who played college hockey at Maine and scored 63 goals with 66 assists during her collegiate career. “We had so many chances and we will get better game by game.”

The Czech team has never finished better than sixth at a Women’s World Championship, but last August at worlds, they narrowly lost to Finland 1-0 in the quarterfinals. They finish out qualifying with matchups vs. Denmark and Japan, and will need to finish in the top three in the Group B standings to advance to the quarterfinals.

MORE OLYMPICS COVERAGE: Denmark’s Olympic hockey teams make sibling history in Beijing

Can Finland’s women’s hockey team win another medal?

The Finnish women have played in every Olympics since women’s ice hockey was added to the program in 1998 and have won three bronze medals (1998, 2010, 2018) — the most medals by a team other than U.S. and Canada. But they’ve had a tough start in Beijing after opening with a 5-2 loss to the Americans and a 11-1 drubbing at the hands of Canada in Group A competition.

“We know we can play better, and we can improve,” sad Minnamari Tuominen, who scored the lone goal in the loss. “That’s the positive side.”

They’re led by 34-year-old Jenni Hiirikoski, who’s playing in her fourth Olympics and is one of only two players to have been named top Olympic defender twice. The 31-year-old Tuominen, also making her fourth Games start, played one season of college hockey at Ohio State and currently is captain of Kiekko-Espoo in the Naisten Liiga, Finland’s top women’s hockey league. Forward Malene Frandsen , 31, is the third team member playing in her fourth Olympics, while the team features 11 players making their Olympic debut.

Finland faces Switzerland (0-3) on Monday in Beijing followed by their final round-robin matchup vs. the Russian Olympics Committee, whom they defeated in the 2018 bronze-medal game. They’ll advance to the quarterfinals no matter what, as all five teams in Group A automatically move on, while the top three teams in Group B advance to the quarters.

Can Denmark’s women’s team rally to a quarterfinals berth?

Denmark’s women’s hockey team made its Olympic debut in Beijing, earning its spot at the Games by winning a final qualification tournament in November. The Danes won their first two games of the qualifier event and needed to earn just one point from its final game against Germany to secure an Olympic berth, which they eventually earned in a shootout loss.

They haven’t had an easier time of it in Beijing, where they fell 3-1 to China in their opener and suffered a 6-2 loss to Japan. Malene Frandsen scored the first Olympic goal for Denmark vs. China but took little satisfaction from it afterward.

“It’s always nice to score when things are at stake — that it wasn’t enough today is a shame,” said Frandsen, 26, who played in all four games for Denmark at the 2021 worlds and played all three games in Olympic qualifying. “This is just ice hockey when it is at its worst.”

Team captain Josefine Jakobsen, 30, offered her take on what Denmark needs to do better after their loss to Japan: “We can’t give away that many odd-man rushes and breakaways, that’s the first step,” she said. “We try to play very aggressive, but sometimes I think we need to turn our heads and look back, and come back home before we go forward.”

The NBC Olympics Research team contributed to this report. 

MORE WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Olympic quarterfinals schedule, how to watch