International Ice Hockey Federation

Japan marches through

Japan marches through

Asians earn promotion after one year in Div. I

Published 17.01.2016 08:51 GMT-5 | Author Agnes Szigeti, Szabolcs Zavodszky
Japan marches through
The Japanese celebrate with the gold medals and the trophy after winning the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I. Photo: Oliver Ban
The Japanese U18 women’s national team only spent one year in Division I as they win promotion after being relegated the year before.

The Asians will replace France in the top division for the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship.

Before their last game against Norway it was already settled that Japan would be heading back to the top division for 2017. They were the favourites but it wasn't easy for them as both Germany and Slovakia arrived to Miskolc with their eye at being promoted.

“We want to play good hockey in every game, hopefully win as many games as we can with going up to the top division as our main goal,” said German head coach Tommy Kettner at the start of the tournament that was hosted by Miskolc, Hungary.

Slovak assistant coach Barbora Kezmarska shared the same views with regards to her team: “We are expecting to move to the top division and win the tournament.”

Japan started the tournament with a 3-0 shutout win over Denmark on goals by Shiga, Ota and Hinata. The game was less close than the score indicated as Japan outshot their opponents 56-8.

In their second game Japan took on Germany in a game that was much closer than their opener. For starters Germany outshot Japan 21-20. Germany took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on a goal by Schwamborn, however, Japan tied it up on a goal from Seki. With about five minutes left to play Shiga found the back of the net and scored an empty netter to set the final 3-1 win for Japan.

Germany had beaten Norway 5-1 on the opening day in a game that was tight until the third period and the other favourite, Slovakia, opened the tournament with 5-0 wins against both Hungary and Denmark. These two teams would be fighting to avoid relegation during the last game of the tournament.

Japan kept up its hot streak on the third day of the tournament with a 7-0 victory over host nation Hungary.

On the fourth day of the tournament the Japan-Slovakia game was de facto the game for gold as they were the last two undefeated teams in the tournament. Japan was back to their usual ways with strong skating and outshooting their opponent by a wide margin. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes on goals by Yamashita and Shiga, with the second one being a power-play marker.

A goal by Maskalova got Slovakia back in the game but Japan stuck to their system and it paid off with a second power-play goal by Shiga, and Konisha scored the fourth goal in the closing minutes of the period.

“We tried to take this tournament game by game. Each opponent was a challenge, we stuck to our style of play and I was happy with the way the team played. It will be tough next season but we will be ready,” said Japanese head coach Yoshifumi Fujisawa with a smile on his face after his team won.

With Japan beating Slovakia, the result left the Asians as the only undefeated team and they have the tiebreaker on anyone that still had a chance in case they did slip up against Norway on the last day.

The final day brought excitement as all three games still had a storyline. Japan wanted to the satisfaction of going undefeated. Germany and Slovakia were playing for the silver medal and in the last game of the day Hungary and Denmark were playing a relegation match.

In a thrilling game for the silver medals Slovakia twice had a one-goal lead. A marker from Maskalova gave the lead going into the first intermission, however, in the second period the two teams exchanged goals. Soccio tied it up for the German team with Korenkova taking it back for the Slovak squad. It looked as if Germany started to take over the game in the third period, and their work paid off with a tying goal off the stick of Kanters on the power play. With the game tied at 3-3 after regulation the game went into overtime. The extra session was much like the third period as Germany had all four shots on net and Soccio scored the game winner from a close range to give Germany the silver medals.

“We were going to get the gold but we lost to Japan, the game was close but we pulled away and I think Slovakia didn't have a chance. This is great for the girls. We will move up next season,” said Kettner after the game.

Naturally Slovak head coach Tomas Psenka was not in the same spirits: “It was a very good game and we played better at the beginning but we started to get tired and we made some mistakes, we just didn't score on our chances.”

In the final game Hungary, who had scored one goal coming into the final game, managed to score three in a 3-0 shutout win to avoid relegation. Vanessa Horvath had a clean sheet and Hanna Pinter finished with two points.

When all the dust had settled Japan had the gold medal and a ticket back to the top division with Denmark being relegated. Japan, Germany and Slovakia each took home an individual award, Ayu Tonosaki of Japan was the best goalie, Tatiana Istocyova of Slovakia was the best defenceman and Emily Nix of Germany was the best forward and also tied for the leading scorer with Millie Sirum of Norway.

The Japanese look to have a bright future as they will be returning both goalies and twelve skaters to this age group. Only six players were born in 1998, all others were younger and can return. They will not be an easy team to beat at next year's top division.

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