2014 Winter Olympics hockey schedule: Group B women begin play

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Women's hockey continues at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday as Group B kicks off play.

The women's hockey tournament has been overhauled for the 2014 Winter Olympics in an effort to make the games more competitive, especially in the early rounds. The four best teams in the world are grouped together in Group A, with the bottom four in the Olympic tournament tossed together in Group B.

The United States and Canada dispatched Finland and Switzerland, respectively, in Group A action on Saturday. Now it's Group B's turn, and while the teams are certainly not of the quality of those in Group A, the goal of the new format is to make these early preliminary round games more competitive. We'll see if it works.

Sweden vs. Japan: 3 a.m. ET

Sweden's women's hockey program played their final tune-ups for Sochi under the threat that they wouldn't even be at the Games. The Swedish Olympic Committee threatened not to send the team to the Games, despite qualification, after two shutout losses -- 3-0 to Finland, 10-0 to the USA -- at the Four Nations Cup in November.

Ultimately, the team will compete at the Olympics, and they hope to put up a respectable showing in Group B play that should be relatively tight-checking. Japan, the only Asian team in the tournament, qualified for the Olympics after winning a tournament that featured nations like Slovakia and Norway. Japan hosted the first women's Olympic hockey tournament at Nagano in 1998, and Sunday will be their first appearance at this level since.

TV: NBCSN / NBCOlympics.com in the U.S., Sportsnet in Canada

Russia vs. Germany: 8 a.m. ET.

The home-standing Russians are not the powerhouse in women's hockey that they are in men's hockey, but they might be the best team in Group B, and there's an outside shot they could fall into medal contention if things swing the right way. Russia won bronze at the 2013 IIHF Women's Worlds and finished sixth in Vancouver.

Germany has never finished higher than fifth at an international tournament, doing so at the 2013 Worlds and the 2006 Olympics. They didn't qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but 26-year-old goalie Jennifer Harss has Olympic experience dating back to Torino, when she was 18.

TV: MSNBC / NBCOlympics.com in the U.S., CBC in Canada.

More on the Winter Olympics:

Meet Team USA's brightest Winter Olympic athletes

Introducing the Indoor Olympics

The flawless Sochi Olympics | American's bathroom jailbreak

What you need to know about figure skating | Figure skating schedule

Miracle Put on Ice: 1984 US hockey team never had a chance

Hockey: Men’s schedule | All 12 men’s rosters | USA roster analysis

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