Japan back in contention
by Henrik Manninen|01 MAY 2019
Kazuma Iwamoto celebrates after scoring Japan´s opener against Estonia.
Cashing in on three powerplay goals in the first frame was the recipe for success as Japan as defeated hosts Estonia at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Tallinn.

"Our success in powerplay and penalty kill in the first period won us the game," said Japan´s Yushiroh Hirano.

Hirano together with Ryo Hashiba and Kazuma Iwamoto all converted on man on advantage during a well executed first frame. Japan won the shots 17-3 and sailed away to a 4-1 lead which they never relinquished. 

Japan´s second win in Division IB moves them up the table with six points after three games. With the Netherlands and Poland left to play for last year´s silver medalists the mood is upbeat in the Japanese camp.

"We have to stay focused and any chance for success we will take it, but we still have up and downs in the games, and we have to fix that," said Hirano.

Trailing 1-4 after the first frame, became an uphill struggle for Estonia in front of 2,235 inside Tondiraba Ice Hall.

"We took too many easy penalties at the start, and the penalty kill was leaking, which cost us the game. In five against five we managed well," said Estonia´s captain Lauri Lahesalu.
Japan vs. Estonia - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B
Japan finds back to winning ways, beats Division IB host Estonia 5-2 thanks to a strong opening period.
JPN EST 01 MAY 2019
In the matchup between last year´s silver and bronze medalists at this level, Roman Shumikhin got his first start of the tournament in the net for Estonia. Shumikhin who was on inspiring form against Japan last year in Kaunas, now got off to an unlucky start in Tallinn.

Andrei Makrov took a hooking call 24 seconds into the contest, which proved costly as Japan converted only 20 seconds later. From the left faceoff circle Makuru Furuhashi picked out Iwamoto who slid in between Aleksandr Ossipov and Silver Kerna in front of Estonia´s net to dispatch Japan´s opener.

Estonia tied the game at 3:37. Robert Arrak first saw his effort saved, before Makrov fed Eduard Slessarevski who unleashed a wrister from the blueline with traffic which beat Michikazu Hata.

Makrov was serving another minor penalty when Japan surged ahead. In a fine move, Yuri Terao hit a cross ice pass from the left circle to the right to older brother Hiromichi Terao who picked up Hashiba who coverted past Shumikhin 8:06 on the powerplay.

Once again in penalty trouble and with Estonia´s three-man box play almost falling into the lap of Shumikhin´s lap, Makuru Furuhashi from his position at the goalline left of the net picked out Hirano who drifted towards the net from the blueline to boom home Japan´s third from the slot with 3:26 left of the period.

But the misery was not yet over for Estonia. With 1:38 left of the first stanza, the Terao brothers once again combined as they picked out Kotaro Yamada whose low finish low on Shumikhin´s glove side with meant 4-1.

With the home favourites heading out for the second frame, there was little left to lose for Estonia.

"There were 40 minutes left to play and playing 5-on-5 we had nothing to worry about. We tried to turn the game with pucks on the net but didn´t create enough chances," said Estonia´s Lahesalu as they charged ahead but was unable to find the back of the net in a goalless second period.

With Estonia pushing the forward troika or Robert Rooba, Arrak and Mark Viitanen to the tilt for goals, any chance for a fightback was extinguished 5:14 left of the game. Shumikhin first made acrobatic save on Yashiba´s shot, before Kohei Sato scored Japan´s fifth.

Estonia pulled one back with 2:11 left of the frame when Riho Embrich effort from neutral zone slipped under Michikazu Hata with Estonia´s goalie also getting an assist.

With four points after three games and Ukraine and Poland left to play, Estonia will be eager to finish off on a high in front of their home fans.

"We will do what we can from our side to have a good finish. Focusing on Poland first, we need to be prepared, concentrate when possessing the puck and don´t give it away to easily," said Lahesalu.
Japan vs. Estonia - 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B