International Ice Hockey Federation

Finns win vs pesky Japanese

Finns win vs pesky Japanese

Nieminen provides both goals in a Finnish win

Published 08.01.2017 23:09 GMT+1 | Author Derek O'Brien
Finns win vs pesky Japanese
PREROV, CZECH REPUBLIC - JANUARY 08: Finland's Petra Nieminen #9 skates with the puck while Japan's Ayumi Konishi #18 defends during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Steve Kingsman/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Petra Nieminen scored twice and Jenna Silvanen made 17 saves for the shutout as Finland edged a feisty Japanese team 2-0.

Japan was just promoted to the top division of the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship this year, but in two games they have given fits to two countries that have won medals in this tournament before. After falling 3-2 to the host Czech Republic yesterday, they played Finland close tonight, and were within a goal into the last period.

“We had high expectations of ourselves. We expected to win and make the next round, so it's a disappointment for us,” said Japanese defender Sena Takenaka. Nonetheless, she acknowledged that “Finland is a very strong team – a traditional hockey power. Physically strong with lots of speed, so it is a challenge to play against them.”

It was a challenge that Japan was apparently up for. It was not only remarkable that they kept the score close, but again the play was not one-sided. The first period was scoreless, with the Finns managing a slim 7-6 shots advantage.

The Finns opened the scoring just 23 seconds into the second period, with Nieminen receiving the pass in the high slot, swooping down low and firing a wrist shot over the glove of Ayu Tonasaki, who was playing her first game of the tournament.

“I like to score goals,” smiled Nieminen, who was not playing her first game of the tournament – the 17-year-old Tappara native is playing in her third and final U18 championship, and has already played in one senior Women's World Championship.

But if anyone expected the floodgates to open at that point, they were mistaken. The Finns did get a couple of decent chances, but Tonasaki made some good saves.

When asked about what made Japan able to compete at such a high level, Takenaka answered, “Our heart and our commitment to the team.”

Once again, the Finns started the third period with jump and nearly scored another first-minute goal, but couldn't jam the puck in at the side of the net. Nieminen did add her second goal of the game six minutes later with another nice shot.

“Shooting is a big part of my game,” Nieminen said. “It's something that I practice a lot, in the garage.”

About tonight's Japanese opponent, she said: “They work very hard. They skate well and pass very well.”

That was all the scoring, however. With six points in two games, Finland now leads Group B, and a single point on Tuesday against the Czech Republic will be enough to secure top spot.

“I think the Czech Republic is a very good team,” Niemenen said, looking ahead. “We'll have to play our best, and we'll have to stick to our game plan.”

As for the Japanese, they'll be in the relegation series, but Tuesday's action will determine their opponent.


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