International Ice Hockey Federation

Shocking stumble for Sweden

Shocking stumble for Sweden

Japan upsets hosts, Grahm's hat trick wasted

Published 28.03.2015 15:43 GMT+1 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Shocking stumble for Sweden
MALMO, SWEDEN - MARCH 28: Japan's Chiho Osawa #12 celebrates a shootout goal against Sweden's Sara Grahn #1 during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Hanae Kubo scored the shootout winner as Japan opened the 2015 IIHF World Women’s Championship by stunning host Sweden 4-3 in Malmo on Saturday.

In regulation time, Miho Shishiuchi, Ami Nakamura and Chiho Osawa tallied for Japan, which showed great hustle and desire.

"It was a tough game, and we got behind. Sweden controlled 65 or 70 percent of the game. But we challenged and competed," said proud Japanese head coach Yoshifumi Fujisawa.

Japanese goalie Nana Fujimoto heroically outdueled Sweden's Sara Grahn for the victory. The host nation outshot Japan 34-20.

For Sweden, Erika Grahm scored three goals, and Anna Borgqvist added two assists.

Swedish captain Jenni Asserholt tipped her hat to the Japanese: "I thought they came out really good. They played really disciplined, more trans-Atlantic hockey. They forechecked a lot on our defence. I think we had most of the game in terms of playing the puck. But they had really quick transitions and managed to score."

It was Japan's first win ever over Sweden in five all-time meetings at the Women’s Worlds dating back to 1990. The Japanese peaked with a seventh-place finish in 2008.

To be clear, this was never a "guaranteed win" for Sweden. The Swedes also opened the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia against Japan, and wound up with a 1-0 victory on Asserholt’s first-period goal.

"The first game is always difficult," admitted Swedish head coach Leif Boork. "It’s two sides of the coin there. If you get the flow in the game, you get the crowd behind you and you feel good. If you get a game like this, of course it creates a little pressure. It was there."

This is the first appearance for the Japanese at the elite Women’s Worlds since 2009. They defeated the Czech Republic in a three-game qualification series after Sochi to earn their spot here. Their only previous Worlds points came in wins over China in 2008 and 2009.

The atmosphere for the tournament opener was lively and upbeat, with families in the stands enthusiastically using noise sticks. The Malmo Isstadion also served as the secondary venue for the 2014 World Juniors, where the city set a European tournament attendance record (144,268).

Sweden kicked off the scoring at 4:30. Grahm went to the net and tipped a blast from the right point past Fujimoto’s left skate.

With 6:18 left in the first period, Fujimoto made a sharp save, foiling Emma Nordin from close range after Grahm set her up with a nifty pass from behind the goal line.

The Japanese tied it up on their second power play with 1:11 left in the first period. Miho Shishiuchi took a slick Haruna Yoneyama pass from behind the net and beat Grahn from a bad angle.

Fujimoto continued her strong play in the second period, stopping an Asserholt slapper from the high slot near the five-minute mark.

"She was great today," said Fujisawa of his goalie.

Grahm put Sweden up 2-1 midway through the game, zooming by three Japanese skaters on a beautiful end-to-end rush before flipping the puck past Fujimoto’s glove.

Japan tied it up at 4:59 of the third when Nakamura whacked home a rebound with the man advantage.

The Japanese jumped into a 3-2 lead just 1:33 later when Osawa, the captain, slipped in from the right side and fooled the goalie with a high short side shot.

Grahm reenergized the partisan crowd at 9:39 when she completed her hat trick just three seconds into a Swedish power play to make it 3-3.

"She played really awesome," Asserholt said of Grahm. "It’s fun for her to make some good goals there."

But the final outcome wasn't fun for Sweden. After hearing their anthem after the shootout, the Japanese women lined up and bowed to salute their loyal fans.

The Damkronorna are questing for their first top-level IIHF medal since claiming bronze under then-coach Peter Elander at the 2007 Women’s Worlds. But this result can't bolster their confidence heading into their next outing against Switzerland, which defeated them in last year's Olympic bronze medal game.

"It’s not how we wanted to start this tournament," said Asserholt. "We have to look forward and play good against Switzerland tomorrow."

Japan will face the Germans on Sunday.

The tournament’s opening ceremony featured a live rendition of the official song, “The World Is Mine,” by Swedish pop star Malin Mohan, while black-clad figure skaters performed with the flags of the eight participating nations.

Swedish Ice Hockey Association president Christer Englund, Malmo mayor Katrin Stjernfeltdt Jammah, and IIHF Council member Beate Grupp gave brief welcoming speeches. A video tribute acknowledged the career of former Swedish captain Erika Holst, who made an appearance and was cheered for becoming the first woman ever named to the Swedish Hockey Hall of Fame earlier this month.

This was the first game in World Women’s Championship history featuring the two-referee system. Finland’s Anna Eskola and Kaisa Ketonen did the honours.


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