Perfect start for Japan
by Martin Merk|06 FEB 2020
Tomoya Echigo and Shogo Nakajama celebrate the opening goal in Japan’s 9-0 blanking of Croatia.
photo: Drago Cvetanovic
Japan and Croatia used to play games at the same level but in the Olympic Qualification Japan clearly outclassed their opponent in an 9-0 victory.

Eight different players scored goals with Hirano becoming the only one to score twice thanks to his late marker. Shogo Nakajama shone with five assists. Japan outshot the Croats 56-15.

“We think the beginning of the tournament is very important for us so it’s a very good result for us to win this game,” said Nakjama.

“This game was a good preparation for the next two games. We now take a rest and will do our best in the next game against Lithuania.”

Croatia came to the tournament as the qualifier and underdog, and Japan, which sidelined Kohei Sato due to illness, used its skill and speed to go up quickly.

Ikki Ikeda had the first big chance after five minutes when Robert Cerevecki tried to disturb his breakaway. Ikeda missed and Cerevecki was assessed a slashing penalty.

The Japanese converted the power play after 45 seconds. Shogo Nakajima sent a centering pass and Tomoya Echigo opened the scoring. 49 seconds later the Japanese players were cheering again when Seiji Takahashi tipped in the puck after a rebound to make it 2-0.

Another fast attack gave Japan a 3-0 lead just before the ten-minute mark. Hiroki Ueno sent a horizontal pass to the left and Kenta Takagi had little problems finding the net.

At 15:07 a goal from Yuto Osawa finished Japan’s second power play with the 4-0 goal and captain Kotaro Yamada almost added another one with a post shot with two minutes left.

The direction of the game didn’t change for the second period. It just took the Japanese 46 seconds until Taiga Irikura made it 5-0. Before the half-time mark Yushiroh Hirano increased the lead to 6-0.

The Japanese were simply a step ahead too many times and even though the Croats had more shots than in the first period, Yutaka Fukufuji had a strong game and was rested in the last period with Yuta Narisawa coming in. Hiroto Sato, Ryo Hashimoto and Yushiroh Hirano scored three more goals in the last period for the 9-0 win.
Japan vs. Croatia - 2020 Men's Olympic Qualification Group G