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Thursday, February 21, 2002
 
Teen-age goalie leads Sweden to medal

Associated Press


PROVO, Utah -- First, Swedish goalie Kim Martin won a coin flip. Then, she won an Olympic bronze medal.

Martin, the 15-year-old who plays hockey with the boys to stay sharp, stopped 32 shots Thursday to lift Sweden to a 2-1 victory over Finland in the third-place game.

It was a surprising victory, but no more shocking than the way Swedish coach Christian Yngve reached the decision to start the ninth-grader over veteran Annica Ahlen for the big game.

"Sweden has a good history of coin tossing," Yngve said. "That's what we did here. They were so close. Kim has given us some good performances here. This was her big chance to come out as a great goalie."

Now, she'll have a medal to go with the ice cream and cake for her 16th birthday party next Thursday.

"I wasn't very nervous," Martin said. "I just go out and play, just try to play the best I can."

Evelina Samuelsson provided all the offense for the Swedes.

The 17-year-old scored her first goal of the Olympics 5:08 into the game off a high rebound from Finnish goalie Tuula Puputti. Twelve minutes later, Samuelsson put Sweden ahead 2-0 by winning a scramble in front of the net and stuffing in a power play goal.

The victory gave the Swedish women their first medal in major competition. It may have, in a small way, eased the pain from Sweden's shocking 4-3 loss to Belarus in the men's quarterfinals.

"It was hard to see them fall out the way they did yesterday," Yngve said.

The women salvaged the week, even though they managed just nine shots on goal over the final two periods.

Martin preserved the lead.

She made four point-blank saves to hold Sweden's one-goal lead in the third period, the final on a slap shot from just a few feet outside the crease by Petra Vaarakallio.

"It's a big disappointment," said Finland's Anna Andersson. "We worked really hard the last couple months and to come out with nothing hurts."

Martin improved to 2-1 in the Olympics. Her loss came Tuesday, 4-0 against the United States in the semifinals.

When the game ended, it looked more like a gold-medal celebration. The Swedes stormed off the bench and piled on their young goalie, having won a medal nobody expected them to get.

Finland was the favorite to take third, and has long been viewed as the most-likely country to challenge the United States and Canada, who between them, win almost everything in women's hockey.

The Finns were the defending Olympic bronze medalists and a six-time third-place finisher at world championship events over the last decade.

But they went 0-for-8 on the power play, and despite some good shots, they couldn't mount any steady pressure after they fell behind 2-0.

"It's my job as a coach to help the team win, and I didn't succeed," Finnish coach Jouko Lukkarila said. "So I'm the guy to blame."

Puputti made 31 saves for the Finns, and Hanne Sikio scored their only goal, a shot that bounced through Martin's legs with 8:25 left in the second period.