China 1 vs. Japan 1-3 (0-0, 0-2, 1-1)
QIQIHAR, China – The Japanese women’s national team defended its title in the IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia after defeating host China 3-1 in the gold medal game between the two Far East rivals.
With a full roster after missing six players due to flu the day before, the Japanese avenged for the 4-2 loss in the preliminary round against the Chinese.
The Japanese came out much stronger than the day before, had much puck possession and many scoring chances, but Yao Shi had a strong performance in the Chinese net before 2,312 spectators in Qiqihar.
“We missed too many scoring chances in general,” Japan’s head coach Yuji Ilzuka said. Japan outshot China 41-22 throughout the game. “If we want to play at a higher level, we need to score more goals.”
However, Japan broke the deadlock in the second half of the middle period and earned a 2-0 lead with goals from Haruna Yoneyama and Miho Shishiuchi.
China improved in the last period and Mengying Zhang cut the lead with her marker at 3:25, but Chiho Osawa’s 3-1 goal three minutes later sealed the victory for Japan.
“We didn’t play under the best conditions [due to the flu], but especially today the team came together,” Osawa said. “It was a really good experience.”
It has been the first time a visiting team won the Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia. China won the event in Shanghai in 2010 and Japan succeeded in Nikko one year later when they defeated the Chinese on home ice with the same result, 3-1, in the gold medal game.
“We have a lot of work to do, but we will do it,” said China’s new head coach Mikhail Chekanov after his first tournament with the team. “The players have developed. This is the most important point.”
China will attempt to get back to the second tier of the Women’s World Championship program in spring.
“It was a big experience. We worked very hard and we saw in which areas we can improve,” said China’s captain Baiwei Yu.
China 2 vs. Korea 2-1 (2-1, 0-0, 0-0)
Korea didn’t manage to take revenge for the defeat vs. China’s development team the day before despite an equal number (21) of shots on goal. Chearyung Ko scored for Korea on a power play early into the game, but Yue Lv and Xin He had two goals for China within a 31-second span midway through the period for the final score of 2-1 in the third-place game.
“We tried our best to win this game and the players showed much discipline,” said Zhinan Zhang, the head coach of China 2.
“The tournament was a good experience for everybody,” captain Xue Yuan added. “We’re very young and everybody developed a lot, also by playing against stronger teams.”
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HARALD SPRINGFELD (Qiqihar)
MARTIN MERK (Zurich)