SAPPORO – Goals from Hanae Kubo, Naho Terashima and Shoko Ono powered Japan to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over South Korea on the second day of play in the women’s tournament at the Asian Winter Games on Monday night at Tsukisamu Gymnasium.
Japan, which clinched a trip to next year’s Pyeongchang Olympics with its victory in the final qualifier in Tomakomai earlier this month, improved the host nation’s record to 2-0 following its 6-0 triumph over Kazakhstan on Saturday.
Japan goalie Nana Fujimoto was stellar as always with 19 saves. Japan outshot the Koreans by a wide margin (47-19) in the contest.
Japan coach Takeshi Yamanaka was less than pleased despite the result.
“I’m disappointed. We should have scored more. It was not enough,” said Yamanaka. “Korea showed good defense and that’s why the second goal took so long.”
Yamanaka credited Fujimoto’s play for being crucial on this night.
“She was stable tonight, just like she is every game,” stated Yamanaka.
Kubo opened the scoring with a cerebral play. She stole a pass from goalie Shin Sojung and flipped it into the net from point-blank range to put Japan up 1-0 just under two minutes into the game.
Shin was caught off guard as she tried to clear the puck to a teammate and Kubo saw the opportunity and capitalized on it, surprising Shin in the process.
Akane Hosoyamada missed a good chance to double Japan’s lead at 6:25 of the first period when she came flying in on the left side and fired a shot that Shin did well to deflect.
Fujimoto made several outstanding saves in the opening period, while her counterpart Shin was under constant pressure from the Japan attack.
The hosts dominated possession of the puck in the opening period but could only manage one goal.
The pace of play picked up in the second period, with South Korea becoming more aggressive. However, they were unable to take advantage of two power plays for the second straight period and remained scoreless.
Kubo stole the puck near the South Korea goal in the final seconds of the second period and nearly duplicated her earlier steal and score, only to be stopped by a nice save by Shin.
Japan’s second goal finally came 3:30 into the final period when Terashima took a nice pass from Ayaka Toko on a 2-on-1 and flipped it past Shin.
Ono added the final score with 6:38 remaining on a power play with a nifty shot from in close on the left side.
Fujimoto said Japan had trouble finding its pace early on.
“We could not get in rhythm,” commented Fujimoto. “We kind of struggled for a while. But I’m glad I was able to keep Korea from scoring.”
South Korea coach Sarah Murray credited Japan for the victory.
“Japan is a very skilled team,” Murray stated. “Everybody hates to lose, but we didn’t give up. Even when we were down 3-0 we kept battling.”
In earlier action on Monday, Thailand edged Hong Kong 5-4 as with a late goal from Choeiklang Kwanchanok.
Kwanchanok scored at the 58:26 mark to break a 4-4 tie and even the Thais record at 1-1.
Wong Tsu Yi had a pair of goals for Hong Kong in the loss, which dropped to 0-2.
In the day’s second game, China routed Kazakhstan 8-3, with seven players scoring for the Chinese.
Zhang Mengying netted twice for China in their second straight victory.
Meruyert Ryspek scored two goals for Kazakhstan, now 0-2, in the defeat.