International Ice Hockey Federation

Japan earns spot in Malmo

Japan earns spot in Malmo

Fujimoto, Nakamura score, send Czechs down

Published 11.11.2014 14:55 GMT+1 | Author Jack Gallagher
Japan earns spot in Malmo
The Japanese players cheer after a goal at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Qualification Series on home ice in Yokohama. Photo: Tomoki Watabe
Goals by Moeko Fujimoto and Ami Nakamura sent Japan to a 2-1 victory in the decisive game of the Women's World Championship Qualification Series.

The result means Japan advances to the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship in Malmo, Sweden, next spring. It will mark the sixth time after 1990, 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2009 Japan has qualified.

The loss sends the Czech Republic to the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship Division I Group A in Rouen, France.

The qualification for the worlds is a welcome one for Japan after they lost all of their games at the Sochi Olympics earlier this year and had to battle for their spot in the Women’s World Championship against the Czechs.

Japan coach Yoshifumi Fujisawa, in his first year on the job, was relieved after the triumph.

"It was a tough game. We both wanted to win," Fujisawa said. "Our game plan was to be aggressive. It was back and forth all the way."

Czech coach Jiri Vozak was disappointed after the defeat.

"I'm not satisfied with the first period," Vozak commented. "We only played two periods. We got better in the second and third."

Japan goalie Nana Fujimoto had 13 saves in the win while Czech goalie Klara Peslarova stopped 19 shots.

Japan took the opener 2-0 on Saturday on goals by Naho Terashima and Shiori Koie and fine net play by Fujimoto, with the Czechs answering back 2-0 in Game 2 on Sunday with goals from Alena Polenska and Denisa Krizova and strong netminding by Peslarova.

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Japan set the early pace in the decider, putting early pressure on Peslarova by keeping the puck in the Czech end for significant lengths of time.

Haruka Toko saw her backhanded flip in front of the net stopped by Peslarova with just under 12 minutes remaining in the opening period.

Moeko Fujimoto put Japan on the board first with a shot from the slot with 1:38 left in the first period. Haruna Yoneyama and Chiho Osawa were credited with assists on the play.

"Our coach told us before the game that the first goal was going to be the most important," Moeko Fujimoto stated. "I was really happy that I got it."

Japan mustered nine shots on goal in the opening stanza, while the Czechs managed just three. Neither side had a power-play opportunity in the first 20 minutes.

The second period was a defensive battle, with both teams managing just a handful of shots each.

Tereza Vanisova saw a good chance blocked by Nana Fujimoto three minutes into the second period.

The Czechs gained a power-play chance five minutes into the second period after Hanae Kubo was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking.

Dominika Laskova was cited for tripping at 11:55 left in the second but Japan could not add to their margin.

With eight minutes left in the second, Rina Takeda was penalized for holding but the Czech could not take advantage.

As the stakes rose in the final period, the Czechs played more physically. Japan had two power plays in the first five minutes.

Japan had a two-player advantage for just over a minute after Katerina Mrazova was tagged for hooking.

The Asians made it 2-0 on a two-on-one break when Kubo found Ami Nakamura in the slot and she scored with 8:51 left in the game.

"The Czech defender behind me was aggressive, so I tried to keep my stick in position and my teammate saw me," said Nakamura of the decisive goal.

The Czechs cut the deficit to 2-1 when Vanisova scored an unassisted goal with 8:20 remaining and the final minutes of the contest were tense as the Europeans mounted a fierce bid to tie the score.

"I tried to score from so many positions," said Vanisova. "I was finally able to get behind the net and get it over the goalie's pad."

"I was slow to react on their goal," said Nana Fujimoto. "She (Vanisova) is a good player."

"We kept our pace after they scored. That was important," noted Moeko Fujimoto. "Our mood did not change, so we had no problem."

Peslarova, who surrendered just four goals in three games, was reflective afterward.

"The whole team is down, but everyone did their job," Peslarova said. "We can always do better. We have to keep working."

Fujisawa, while content with securing a spot in the worlds, knows much work lies ahead.

"We feel good now, but we have to compete with the top seven countries," Fujisawa stated. "It will be tougher. We have to keep challenging ourselves going forward."

Vozak felt that the pressure may have been a bit much for his team this night.

"The moment was too heavy for us," Vozak said.

In the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship from 28th March to 4th April in Malmo the Japanese will play among the lower-seeded teams in Group B against Germany, Switzerland and host country Sweden where they hope to reach one of the top-two places to advance to the final round and avoid relegation-round play.

In Division I Group A play in Rouen the Czechs will face Norway, Denmark, host France, Austria and Latvia with the tournament winner being promoted to the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship that will be staged in Kamloops, Canada.

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