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Emma Soderberg exceptional in comeback for Sweden

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After losing their first two games in Group B play, the probability of Sweden landing a spot in the quarterfinals seemed highly unlikely. With Emma Soderberg between the pipes, a winless team remained competitive.

Delivering on all accounts, Soderberg, a native of Ornskoldsvik, making her first appearance at the Olympics, recorded a pair of exceptional performances. Totalling 57 saves in back-to-back wins, she supplied the type of presence that allowed her team to believe.

Following in the footsteps of elite Swedish goaltenders Kim Martin and Sara Grahn, Soderberg has already made a tremendous impression. Ranking fourth overall among goaltenders in preliminary round play with a .951 save percentage, other numbers were just as impressive. Soderberg amassed a remarkable 144 saves, recorded over 237 minutes of ice time, plus a 1.77 GAA, respectively.

Prior to Beijing 2022, Soderberg starred for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, the same school Kim Martin played for. Acclaimed for the number of international stars that have skated for the program, she has already left a legacy.

Winning the WCHA Goaltender of the Year Award in 2021, the first Bulldog to achieve the feat, Soderberg followed it up with an appearance in the Frozen Four. With six Bulldogs participating in Beijing, there have been some unique linkages for Soderberg.

From the outset, Ashton Bell, a blueliner making her Olympic debut for Canada, called Soderberg a teammate at UMD, also skating in the Frozen Four. Maddie Rooney, wearing the Stars and Stripes for the United States was the Bulldogs starting goaltender when Soderberg arrived.

Coincidentally, Soderberg and Bell shall oppose each other in the opening game of the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Canada hosts Sweden, who finished Group B play in third place.

The compelling climb out of last place involved a pair of victories facing difficult odds. With tremendous poise, Soderberg led the way.

Starting with an upset victory against host nation China, it proved to be the turning point. Heading into the match, China had five points, compared to zero for Sweden. With each win worth three points, China would have clinched a quarterfinal berth had they prevailed against Sweden.

Instead, Soderberg recorded 32 saves, ensuring three power play opportunities for China were nullified. With Jiang Zhou (Kimberly Newell) in the opposing net, it only added to the magnitude of an epic 3-1 win.

Allowing her only goal at the 5:06 mark of the first, Soderberg was a stonewall for the remainder of the game. With China outshooting Sweden by a 14-9 mark in the third, a career defining performance provided Sweden with three very valuable points.

Heading into the final game of Group B play, Sweden faced another difficult scenario. With Denmark as the emotional favorite, a regulation win clinching third place, the intensity added to a playoff atmosphere. As the Danes outshot Sweden by a 12-5 margin in the first, Soderberg played brilliantly. With each successive period posing obstacles, Soderberg shone.

From Denmark tying the game in the second, the third period brought surprises. With a period defined by penalties and fatigue, Denmark opted for an extra skater on three separate occasions.

Accumulating 14 saves in a 3-1 win, the improbable comeback was complete. Masterfully assembling a display of goaltending brilliance, Sweden has found a gem in Soderberg, the key focus of its goaltending picture in the unfolding decade. Gaining acclaim for her valiant play in Beijing, the rest of the hockey world has now caught up to the brilliance of Soderberg.

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