Japan is looking to build on its sixth-place finish at last year’s Olympics, which equalled its best-ever performance in Nagano in 1998. This was a strong first game in Group B, as the Japanese outshot France 38-25. Two quick second-period goals secured the victory.
“It was a good team effort,” said Japanese captain Chiho Osawa. “It was a very good start for us to have this victory. We have to battle more, especially in the corners and in front of the net.”
It was the first elite IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship game for the French team, making its debut under the new 10-team format this year. This was a good lesson in what it will take to compete at the highest level.
“I think we fought hard but they were faster today,” said France’s Chloe Aurard. “We have to take more shots in the defense zone and have more strategy in the offense. We have to play as well as we can and then we can win.”
After a scoreless first period, Mei Miura put Japan up 1-0 on a Rui Ukita set-up at 7:28 of the middle frame.
Just 3:17 later, Ayaka Toko got the second goal with an assist from Osawa, who just won her first SDHL title with Lulea HF.
In the third, Suzaka Taka ended France’s hopes of a late comeback, as she scored a power-play goal with 6:45 remaining and Fujimoto pulled for an extra attacker with a delayed penalty coming up to France.
French forward Betty Jouanny had a milestone night. It was her 200th game all-time with the national team. The longtime Swedish league player received a medal from Christine Duchamp, sport director of the French federation.
The French get back to work on Friday against the Czech Republic, while the Japanese have a day off before confronting Germany on Saturday.