Korea’s unified hockey team still hasn’t scored a goal, Canadian coach says players ‘don’t give up’

Korea’s head coach Sarah Murray watches on during a preliminary round match against Sweden at the Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea on Feb. 12, 2018. Reuters/Grigory Dukor

The unified Korean hockey team, which is at the centre of political drama, has yet to put the puck in the net at the 2018 Winter Olympics, but the Canadian coach at the helm of the team said her players “don’t give up.”

Korea’s unified women’s Olympic hockey team suffered their second lopsided defeat Monday after being pummelled 8-0 by Sweden in a preliminary-round game at the Kwandong Hockey Centre.

Coach Sarah Murray played three North Koreans in the route, and though the team suffered another big loss, her players are in it for the long haul.

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“The teams we’re playing against are all very strong. You hate to use rankings as an excuse but Sweden are ranked fifth and we are 22nd. So if you just look at the rankings, they were a tough team for us,” Murray said Tuesday during a press conference. “But our players don’t give up. They’re not scared. Even though they were losing by so many, I still thought the players played right to the end.

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“We started a lot better than we started against Switzerland but it’s hard when you get down by three goals early. Yet the players have great character and they don’t give up,” the Canadian said.

The unified team opened the competition to an 8-0 loss against Switzerland on Saturday, where South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong attended the historical game.

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South Koreans angry over focus on north at Winter Olympics

“You almost forget that it’s north and south and not just one team sitting together, because they all get on so well,” Murray said Tuesday.

The Korean team might catch a break Wednesday when they take on Japan, a team fresh off a 3-1 loss and also winless in the tournament.

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“It’s important. Our biggest rivals are Japan. They’re the top women’s team in Asia and our players have always been striving to beat them,” Murray said.

As for the elusive first goal? Korea’s forward Randi Griffin is optimistic it will happen against their rivals.

“I certainly hope so. We’ve just got to keep putting pucks on net,” Griffin said. “Some of the shots we’re getting are not really the best scoring chances. Especially on power plays, we need to capitalise. We need to keep it simple, throw more pucks at the net and have people going hard at the net to pick up the garbage.”

The game goes Wednesday at 4:40 p.m. Korea Time (2:40 a.m. ET).

— with a file from Reuters

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