International Ice Hockey Federation

Switzerland stays up

Japan loses relegation series but shows promise

Published 13.01.2017 15:47 GMT+1 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Switzerland stays up
PREROV, CZECH REPUBLIC - JANUARY 13: Switzerland's Rahel Hanggi #18 looks for a scoring chance against Japan's Ayu Tonosaki #1 while Kokoro Ota #26 battles with Nicole Vallario #26 during relegation round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Rahel Enzler scored the decisive goal in an 18-shot shootout to give Switzerland a 2-1 win and a sweep of the best-of-three, relegation-round series.

Her second goal on her third shot of the shootout came on a nice deke of goalie Mei Sato.

Enzler also scored in the 7th round of the shotoout with a high wrist shot over Sato's glove, but on the next shot, under pressure, Airi Sato beat Saskia Maurer between the pads to extend the game.

"My first attempt wasn't a goal, so I decided to shoot," Enzler explained. "Then the last time, I thought the goalie would be guessing shot, so I should make a move.”

Japan played effective and desperate hockey, outshooting the Swiss in regulation and 10 minutes of overtime by a 30-19 count, but they couldn't generate the necessary offence. Overall, they lost all five games here in the Czech Republic by a cumulative score of 14-6.

The loss demotes the Japanese women back to Division I-A, whence they came last year, and the Swiss stay up in the top pool of the event for 2018.

"We're happy to stay in the top division because next year most of the team can come back," Enzler enthused, "so we think next year we will be better and be able to make the quarter-finals.”

“I'm optimistic about the future,” said Japan’s coach, Yoshifumi Fujisawa. “We need to develop our younger players. We have to go down now to the lower division next year, and I think we can win that. Then we can come back up in two years with a more experienced team, and hopefully stay up.”

The Swiss got off to the start they’d hoped for, grabbing the quick lead at 3:14. Nina Capelli’s long shot fooled Sato. It was Capelli’s first goal in ten career WW18 games, and teammate Noemi Ryhner asked the referee for the puck.

The Swiss had a fairly easy period, moving freely out of their own end, and Japan was rarely able to penetrate to create any effective scoring chances from close range. The game was choppy, marked by frequent whistles, but Japan needed to play with more desperation.

They did just that to start the second, and dominated a period which was crucial to their future. They were much stronger inside their own blue line and penetrated to Swiss end with speed and determined forechecking. 

But just when it seemed they were in control, they took too successive penalties. Rather than lose momentum, though, they killed off the manpower shortage effectively and refused to allow the Swiss a second goal. Soon enough, they were rewarded.

Yuuki Ito claimed a loose puck in centre ice, made a nice move around a defenceman, and skated in alone on goal. Ito made a nice deke on Saskia Maurer and deposited the puck in the far side at 16:56 to tie the game and shock the Swiss.

The third was mostly cautiously played, but Japan definitely had the edge in play. In the overtime, the Swiss had a late power play but couldn't capiltaize, forcing the dramatic penalty-shot shootout.

“Our main goal was to stay in the elite division which we managed to achieve," said Swiss coach Andrea Kroni. "We only just missed the quarter-finals, but we had a really young team here. We're satisfied with the results, and we'll see what next year brings.”