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Sara Benz strikes twice in Swiss win over Japan

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Sara Benz and Team Switzerland danced their way to a 3-1 victory against Team Japan Sunday at Kwandong Hockey Center.

Benz, 25, registered two power-play goals as the Swiss improved to 2-0-0 in the preliminary round and secured a spot in the quarterfinals.

Alina Muller also lit the lamp, her tournament-leading fifth goal.

"For us it was important that we calm down in the second period," Benz told reporters after the game. "We're a really good team and we just have to believe in ourselves and then we can score a lot of goals and we can win against a lot of opponents."

Japan played excellent team defense, limiting the high-powered Swiss offensive attack to only one shot in the first 20 minutes. Goaltender Nana Fujimoto made 15 saves in her second straight start but the Japanese have been eliminated from medal contention.

Benz, who picked up three assists in Switzerland’s first game against Korea, flipped a wrist shot over the glove of Fujimoto at 10:19 of the second period to break a 0-0 tie.

Less than three minutes later, Benz converted a breakaway to give Switzerland a two-goal advantage. Swiss defender Christine Meier delivered a perfectly placed saucer pass to send Benz off to the races. Phoebe Staenz also assisted on the play.

Hanae Kubo redirected Mika Hori's shot at 7:33 of the final frame as Japan prevented Florence Schelling from picking up her second shutout of the tournament.

"Our biggest goal remains to get Japan's first victory in the Olympics," head coach Takeshi Yamanaka said. "We really want to win."

Schelling made 37 saves, including seven in the first period before her team picked it up offensively.

Forward Rui Ujita did not dress and served a one-game suspension for kicking at the opponent during Japan's opening loss.

Switzerland will face Team Sweden in its final game of pool play Feb. 14th at 2:40 a.m. Japan, 0-2-0, will square off with Team Korea at 7:10 a.m.

After opening against the two Asian countries in its group, Switzerland was excited to face a familiar foe.

"We play Sweden much more often than Korea and Japan, so we know what we have to do," forward Evelina Raselli said. "They are really strong players and play really fast in the best league in Europe."

Meanwhile, Korea and Japan are fierce rivals across all sports, and Team Japan knows it will need to battle as both sides seek their first-ever Olympic victory.

"We know the stands are going to be pretty full," Japanese defeseman Akane Hosoyamada said. "It's their home advantage rink and they're going to come out really strong, so we can't be down after this game. We still have to keep our heads up."

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