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Smile Japan beats France in opener at worlds

Staff Report

Japan’s women’s ice hockey team, Smile Japan, blanked France 3-0 behind goalie Nana Fujimoto’s 25 saves in their opening game at the world championships in Espoo, Finland, on Thursday.

Mei Miura opened the scoring for Japan when she netted a backhander from point-blank range in the eighth minute of the second period after a nice pass from Rui Ukita. Japan took a 2-0 lead just three minutes later when Ayaka Toko scored from the slot on a pass from Chiho Osawa.

The score remained 2-0 for Japan until less than seven minutes remained in the third period when Akane Hosoyama notched the final goal on a power play following a pass from Shiori Koike.

“Once we got our first goal it created momentum for us, but I think if they scored first I couldn’t tell you if the outcome would have been the same,” Hosoyamada told The Japan Times.

“Nana kept us in the game and we were able to clean up the rebounds,” added Hosoyamada. “In this tournament, to put the pucks in the back of the net we need to have traffic in front and hunt for the rebounds just like we did against France.”

Japan is in Group B in the 10-team championship along with France, Germany, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Japan will play Germany on Saturday in its next group-stage game.

Group A is comprised of the United States, Canada, Russia, Switzerland and Finland.

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