Winter Olympics 2014 hockey results: Sweden holds on against Japan

Bruce Bennett

Japan was a huge underdog in its Olympic opener and nearly pulled off a stunning upset against Sweden.

The Swedish Olympic committee threatened to not send its women's team to the 2014 games in Sochi in an effort to send a message that it wanted to see better results.

Their performance on Sunday probably didn't inspire much confidence that progress is being made, even in victory.

A Jenni Asserholt deflection on a power play midway through the first period was the only goal in Sweden's 1-0 win over Japan, a game that was much closer than anybody could have possibly anticipated before the opening puck drop.

Japan, making its first appearance in the Olympics since the 1998 games in Nagano, had stretches where it seemed to carry the play, particularly late in the second period and much of the third period, taking advantage of some sloppy puck management from Sweden and missed defensive zone assignments.

Sweden's best play came early in the first period only to have Japan goaltender Nana Fujimoto make several big saves to keep her team in the game. Following Asserholt's goal, however, Sweden seemed to be more content with trying to win a game 1-0 than adding it to it, and that passiveness nearly came back to bit them.

Japan had the better of the chances over the final two periods and had several near misses, including three consecutive power plays to end the game, a shot wide of the net on a breakaway, and the best chance of the night, a shot that rang off the post off the stick of team captain Chiho Osawa.

Considering that this was Japan's first Olympic experience in 16 years, and that only one player on the team had any previous Olympic experience, it was an incredible effort against a heavily favored team. Especially since in Japan's first Olympic appearance it was outscored 46-2 over the five games, including a 5-0 loss to Sweden.

Both teams are back in action on Tuesday with Sweden taking on Germany and Japan playing Russia.

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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