International Ice Hockey Federation

Japan WW18 back on top

Japan WW18 back on top

Promoted to highest level for sixth time

Published 15.01.2018 12:43 GMT+4 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Japan WW18 back on top
The Japanese women’s U18 national team players celebrate Division I gold in Asiago and will return to the top division. Photo: David Wassagruba
The Japanese women’s under-18 team capped a dominant week in Asiago, Italy, by defeating Slovakia tonight by a 3-0 score.

The win gives Japan a perfect 5-0 record at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship Division I Group A and earns the nation promotion to the top level for 2019.

This marks the sixth time the Japanese ladies have made it to the top, and they did so in impressive fashion. Not only did they win every game, they surrendered but one goal in five games, that to Hungary. They never trailed, scored 21 goals in total, and played poised hockey all week.

“We’re really happy with the way we played,” said defenceman Akane Shiga. “It was important for us to earn the promotion this year. But we must continue to work hard so that we stay up after next year. It’s very important for our program because we are a small nation for women’s hockey.”

“Our coach gave us a good system to work with, and we communicated very well,” Shiga continued. “We played like a team, which is really important.”

Indeed, the Japanese played a virtually perfect tournament. They allowed a mere 51 shots over the course of ALL five games, didn’t allow a power-play goal, recorded four shutouts, led the tournament with eight power-play goals of their own, and were the least penalized team.

Slovakia had also won its four previous games but with a bit more trouble. It beat Italy, 5-4, in overtime on Friday, and with today’s loss maintains its position in Division I-A for next year. The Slovaks have played WW18 since 2009 and have never been promoted or demoted.

Today, the Japanese made sure to put the game out of reach quickly. Airi Sato made a beautiful deflection off a point shot just 4:29 into the game to give Japan the early lead, putting Slovakia in a hole right off the bat.

Less than a minute later it was 2-0 when Remi Koyama’s shot dribbled through the pads of goalie Andrea Risianova. Yuuki Ito made it 3-0 late in the period when she banged home her own rebound. That was all the scoring the team needed.

Japan moved the puck with authority, skated freely, and were in possession of the puck for much of the game. In all, shots were 34-8 for the winners as Slovakia simply couldn’t get the puck near Reika Sasaki’s goal with any danger.

Even late in the game, after Japan took its first penalty, coach Peter Kudelka pulled Risianova to make it a six-on-four, but Slovakia still couldn’t generate any decent scoring chances.

Captain Diana Vargova, who led the tournament with nine points, was held in tight check by the Japanese tonight and didn’t record a single shot.

Italy rallied in the third period in the final game of the tournament to defeat Austria, 6-4, and leapfrog the Austrians in the standings. The hosts finished in third place and 11th overall in the program – the best placing ever of an Italian women’s hockey team in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program. Austria finished fourth and Hungary fifth.

Despite beating Hungary earlier today, 3-2, in an exciting shootout, Norway finished in last place and will go down to Division I-B next year.

Click here for scores and stats.

 

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