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(Olympics) Joint Korean hockey coach wishes team came together sooner

All Headlines 01:01 February 11, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) -- She only had about two weeks to work with the hastily-assembled joint Korean women's hockey team, and head coach Sarah Murray now wishes the team would have been put together much sooner.

In its first game at the PyeongChang Olympics on Saturday, Korea was hammered by Switzerland 8-0 at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung. Korea was badly outplayed, getting outshot 52-8, and wasted six power play chances.

The 23 South Koreans were joined by 12 North Koreans on Jan. 25, five days after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved an inter-Korean agreement on the joint team. Before it all transpired, Murray had expressed concerns about disruption to chemistry and about having to scramble to set her roster so close to the Olympics.

Under the IOC's terms, Murray has to put at least three North Koreans into every game at the Olympics. She used three on Saturday, and none did much to save the team from a humiliating loss.

Sarah Murray, head coach of the joint Korean women's hockey team, (2nd from L), instructs her players during a timeout in their Group B contest of the women's hockey tournament against Switzerland at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 10, 2018. (Yonhap)

Murray, who took over South Korea in 2014, said it was last July that she first heard rumors that the two Koreas would be combined. She said it would have been helpful if the teams were united then, which would have given her a few months to prepare.

"Obviously, the time frame was very tough," she said. "Right now, I am really wishing that it would have happened in July. We would have had a full season to work with (North Koreans). But we're doing the best with the time that we have."

Murray said the players were just too nervous coming out of the gate hearing the loud cheers from a sellout crowd of 6,000 at the arena. The audience included South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong.

Murray said she tuned out the crowd because she was focusing on her team's performance. She added that her players tried their best to feed off the fans' energy.

"It's tough when we were down so much in the first and coming out in the third, down by six," she said. "The crowd definitely helped with our energy and kept our players positive."

The tournament won't get any easier for Korea after losing to the sixth-ranked Switzerland. Next up is No. 5 Sweden and then No. 9 Japan.

But Murray wouldn't rule out a possible surprise in the coming days.

"We definitely think we have a chance in the next two games," she said. "So we are forgetting about this game and moving forward. We got the nerves out."


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