* Suter leads Swiss scoring with hat trick
* Less energetic crowd greets Korean team
* Korean coach takes blame for loss (Adds player and coach quotes, adds byline)
By Dan Burns and Soyoung Kim
GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Pius Suter scored a hat-trick as Switzerland overpowered the South Korean men’s ice hockey team 8-0 on Saturday to claim their first win of the Olympic tournament.
The game, while played before a full house at the Gangneung Hockey Centre, featured far less of the crowd energy that greeted the South Korean men in their debut match against the Czechs, when they scored their first-ever Olympic goal in a 2-1 loss.
The Koreans could not match their scoring effort either and found themselves shut out. They were largely outskated from the start, with the Swiss dominating time of possession and limiting their opponents to only a handful of quality opportunities.
“It was disappointing. I think we allowed a few goals too easily in the beginning of the game and momentum was somewhat lost afterwards,” said Cho Min-ho, who scored the Korean goal on Thursday.
“Our coach, since we put up a good fight against the Czechs at the last game, told us not to get overly excited about it, or not get bogged down if we make misses or mistakes today. We failed on both fronts.”
Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller, who played nine seasons in the NHL, said his team recovered well from its 5-1 opening loss to Canada on Thursday.
“For 60 minutes, we didn’t make too many mistakes and definitely were able to take advantage of our skill set and played most of the time in their zone,” Hiller said.
Switzerland got on the board first about midway into the first period, when Gaetan Haas picked up a loose puck in the Korean zone, carried it around the net and tried to jam it in on the right goal post. The rebound came right to Denis Hollenstein, who forced it through goaltender Matt Dalton’s pads.
The Swiss went up 2-0 in the second period when Felicien du Bois’s hard slap shot from the right point hit Dalton in the chest and popped up and over his shoulder toward the net. Dalton dove trying to stop it going in but caught it just after it crossed the line.
They made it 3-0 late in the second when Suter carried the puck behind the net and jammed it in by the left post, forcing it over Dalton’s skate.
In the third period, Tomas Rufenacht charged in on the left wing and then pulled to his right, beating Korean defensman Eric Regan and lifting the puck past Dalton.
Suter picked up his second goal in the third period, chasing Dalton from the net. Reto Schaeppi scored about a minute after Park Sungje came into goal for the Koreans, and Suter’s third came a few minutes later. Enzo Corvi scored late.
“It was important for us to get a win, especially like that,” Suter said. “I mean eight goals is very nice, get some self-confidence for tomorrow’s game.”
The Koreans’ best chance came in the third period with a four-on-three man advantage, but they could not capitalise despite several scrambles around Hiller.
“That’s my fault, I’ll take the blame for the guys, I didn’t prepare them,” South Korean coach Jim Paek said.
One notable absence at the game was the North Korean cheerleader squad, which made an unexpected appearance at the Czech game on Thursday.
The Swiss finish out group play on Sunday against the Czechs, while the Koreans meet Canada. (Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)