China – Japan 2-1 (1-0, 0-0, 0-1, 0-0, 1-0) / Game Sheet
It will be a grand rehearsal for the last day of the tournament as both China and Japan already secured their place in the final. The remaining question was: Who would win their preliminary-round encounter and become the home team?
Already from the beginning it was clear that both teams needed to pick up the speed from their previous games with the intensity at the highest level for the women’s game in Asia. It was a head-to-head battle for the first 15 minutes in the game with both teams trying to avoid mistakes. There were not many scoring changes at either end until Zhang Ben one-timed the puck through Azusa Nakaoku’s five-hole to make it 1-0 at 16:07 of the first period.
In the beginning of the second period, Japan got two consecutive power-play chances, but wasn’t able to get the puck past Shi Yao. With the pressure mostly on China’s offensive end and Japan trying to take the advantage of its counterattack opportunities neither team was able to finish the attacks. Shots after two periods was 24-17 for Japan.
Japan put China under bigger pressure in the third period by taking a more active role in controlling the puck and trying to overcome the size difference between the teams with speed. The pressure now mostly on China’s end, Japan kept on coming to the slot, but there always seemed to be somebody to block the puck from passing the goal line until Chiho Osawa scored the equalizer at 55:42 to take the thriller into overtime.
Without a goal in overtime, game winning shots had to decide about the outcome. After failed attempts from three initial shooters from both teams, Zhang Shuang was able get a wrist shot past Nakaoku. With Yuka Hirano failing in her attempt, it was China to take the home advantage for the final game.
Photos: Maki Ikeda