• Kyodo

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Japan was routed 5-1 by Switzerland on the opening day Thursday of a four-day men’s ice hockey qualifying tournament for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, falling dangerously close to missing out on the Winter Games.

Japan last qualified as host in 1998 at Nagano.

Switzerland grabbed a 4-0 lead by the end of the second period, with a Jenni Marcel goal just 33 seconds after the opening faceoff, igniting the host’s explosive offense.

Japanese captain Takahito Suzuki finally answered for the visitors 10 minutes into the third period but it was too little, too late. In the other qualifier, Norway blanked Denmark 4-0.

The country with the best result in the four-team event will win a ticket to Turin, Italy, next year. Japan faces Denmark on Saturday.

In Riga, Belarus edged Poland 3-2 in the opening game of another four-day Olympic qualifying tournament.

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