Swedish women squad ready to show power in Beijing Winter Olympics 2022
It has been a tough three years for the Swedish women. They finished 9th at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship and were demoted to Division I-A for 2020. That tournament was cancelled because of coronavirus, and in 2021 Division I-A was again victim of cancellation. The top division was played in August, and because of the situation no teams were demoted or promoted, so the 2022 Women’s Worlds will once again be played without Sweden next summer, which can’t hope to return to the top level until 2023 now.
Fortunately, amid the problems, the national team managed to secure a spot in the Olympics thanks to victory in the qualification tournament held in Lulea, Sweden last November. The Swedes finished in first place with a perfect 3-0 record, including a key 3-2 win over second-place France. That team was coached by Ulf Lundberg, who took over from Ylva Martinsen after the disappointing demotion in 2019, the first time the Swedish women – or any Swedish national team – were sent out of the top division.
But there is a feeling of optimism as well leading into Beijing, one that perhaps hearkens back to 2002, when the team almost didn’t go to Salt Lake because so little was expected of it – and then ended up winning a bronze medal.
There is only one roster change between the successful qualification team and the Olympic roster that has just been announced. Defender Linnea Andersson is out and veteran Emmy Alasalmi, who missed the Final Olympic Qualification due to injury, is in. But despite the shared experience from last year, this is a young team, and only nine players in Beijing have previous Olympic participation. In all, 14 players on the roster are 1998-born or later.
One of the more experienced players is goalie Sara Grahn. The 33-year-old has played at every tournament for her country since 2007, and she is tied with Switzerland’s Florence Schelling for the most Women’s Worlds tournaments played (ten). Grahn gives Damkronorna a chance to win every time she settles into the blue ice, and she will clearly be the number-one goalie in China. Backing her up with be two young players with only WW18 experience – 24-year-old Emma Soderberg and 18-year-old Ida Boman.
Although she is only 21, Maja Nylen-Persson has tons of IIHF experience and will be counted on among the defence. She played in PyeongChang and has also skated in three WW18 and two senior Women’s Worlds events. Johanna Fallman is the senior member of the blue-line corps. The 31-year-old has been a fixture on the team since 2011, and the late-blooming Anna Kjellbin, a teammate with Fallman in Lulea, will also be in Beijing.
The aforementioned Alasalmi has played more big games than Linnea Andersson, including at the 2018 Olympics and bronze-medal games at the 2010 and 2012 WW18. Linnea Hedin is another veteran from that team, while Mina Waxin, at 20, is the youngest member of the blueliners and a teammate with Nylen-Persson with Brynas.
Up front, there is a wealth of young talent that has every capability of making a big splash. Captain Emma Nordin played her first event with Sweden at the 2008 WW18, and she will be playing in her fourth Olympic Winter Games, putting her in rare company indeed. She can score and make plays, skate tenaciously, and inspire those around her. Sara Hjalmarsson is another holdover from 2018, but at 24 she is still very much in the early stages of her career. She is one of only two women on the team playing NCAA hockey right now. Goalie Emma Soderberg is at the prestigious University of Minnesota-Duluth while Hjalmarsson is at Providence College, one of only two Europeans on the Friars’ roster.
But perhaps the one player to watch for in terms of star power is Hanna Olsson. The 23-year-old played in a record-tying four WW18 tournaments as well as four Women’s Worlds and the 2018 Olympics. She can skate, score, pressure her opponents, do it all, really. Michelle Lowenhielm, three years older, has pretty much the same resume, except her Olympic experience came in 2014. After a career at UMD, Lowenhielm became the first Swede to play in the NWHL and has worked her way back into the national team lineup after an absence of nearly five years. She also will be counted on to create offence.
At 19, Linnea Johansson is the youngest player on the team after Boman. She played at the 2018 and 2020 WW18 and is now competing in her first senior tournament. Josefin Bouveng, who also played on that historic 2018 WW18 team that won silver, will further add to the team’s depth of skill up front.
In the two-tiered Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament Sweden will be playing in Group B along with Japan, Czechia, Denmark, and China, and with some fortuitous performances it might find a way to qualify for the quarter-finals against one of the top teams and possibly go even further. The talent is there.
Ida Boman, Djurgarden Stockholm
Sara Grahn, Lulea HF
Emma Soderberg, University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Jessica Adolfsson, Linkoping HC
Emmy Alasalmi, AIK Stockholm
Emma Berglund, HV71 Jonkoping
Johanna Fallman, Lulea HF
Linnea Hedin, AIK Stockholm
Anna Kjellbin, Lulea HF
Maja Nylen-Persson, Brynas Gavle
Mina Waxin, Brynas Gavle
Josefin Bouveng, Brynas Gavle
Olivia Carlsson, MODO Ornskoldsvik
Sara Hjalmarsson, Providence College
Linnea Johansson, Linkoping HC
Lisa Johansson, AIK Stockholm
Lina Ljungblom, MODO Ornskoldsvik
Michelle Lowenhielm, SDE Hockey
Sofie Lundin, Djurgarden Stockholm
Emma Muren, Brynas Gavle
Emma Nordin, Lulea HF
Hanna Olsson, HV71 Jonkoping
Felizia Wikner-Zienkiewicz, HV71 Jonkoping