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China 3, Sweden 1

Thursday, February 12, 1998; 12:46 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — Liu Hongmei's point-blank backhander broke a tie and China went on to a 3-1 victory over Sweden for a spot in the Olympic women's ice hockey medal round.

Six teams are playing as women's ice hockey makes its debut at the Olympics, and only four will go to the medal round next week. China's win means Sweden, which hasn't won a game, is out and China will play for medals with the United States, Canada and Finland.

It was a rough game for China's goalie, Guo Hong, who needed medical attention after first hurting her left arm and then getting kneed in the head on a pair of freak plays. She stayed in the game and had 22 saves.

The Swedish players lingered on the ice after the game, some on their knees and others leaning on the boards. Goalie Annica Ahlen stood wordlessly looking at the ice before finally skating off.

Zhang Lan tied the game 1-1 at 6:42 of the third, crossing close in front of Ahlen and knocking the puck in as the Swedish goalie slid across the crease.

Liu broke the tie with an almost identical move four minutes later, and Yang Xiuqing added the final goal with less than two minutes to go.

Sweden opened the scoring when Guo, one of the world's best goalies, was knocked to her back by a teammate midway through the second.

Sweden's Kristina Bergstrand moved behind Guo and pushed her farther out, knocking off her catcher, while Charlotte Almblad passed the puck to Therese Sjoelander on the blue line.

She shot it over Guo, still struggling to get up, and past two Chinese players who tried to block the net, to put Sweden up 1-0.

The agile, speedy Guo hurt her left arm in the struggle. But she stayed in the game, only to be kneed in the head in the middle of the third when she dropped to cover the puck. Again, after medical attention, she stayed on.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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