“It’s good to win because we wanted to play against Slovenia going into the game with two wins,” said Japanese forward Hiroki Ueno. “We played well and fast in the first period but we speeded down in the second.”
Japan entered the game with a high win last night while Lithuania had a two-digit loss against Slovenia. The Japanese took the role of the favourite at the beginning and opened the scoring after 124 seconds of play. Seiji Takahashi brought the puck from the own end to the Lithuanian zone and after a centering pass Hiromichi Terao opened the scoring.
Three minutes later the Japanese had the chance to play 5-on-3 after a bench penalty against the Lithuanians for too many players on the ice and a penalty for interference against Mantas Stankius. After 21 seconds Tomoya Echigo tipped the puck in after a blocked distance shot from Yushiroh Hirano.
During their next power play – Arnoldas Bosas was assessed two penalties on the same play – Hiroto Sato netted the puck with a shot through traffic from the blue line. Three minutes later Takahashi made it 4-0 shooting himself during a 2-on-1 attack. The game looked done after just one period.
Opposed to yesterday’s game the Japanese couldn’t keep up their tempo for the entire game. They dominated a first period in which they outshot Lithuania 15-7 but things changed in the middle frame. Japan wasn’t able to create that many chances and Lithuania had four power plays. Yuta Narisawa, who got the start in the net today, was kept busier as Lithuania outshot the Japanese 11-4 in the second period but the Asians defended their 4-0 lead and didn’t allow their opponents a goal.
The score also remained after a more balanced and disciplined third period. With his 24-save shutout Narisawa was named best player of his team. Lithuanian hockey legend Dainius Zubrus was on the ice for the prize ceremony but this time only as the president of his organization and opposed to last year not as a national team player anymore.
After a day off Japan will face host Slovenia on Sunday night for a ticket to the Final Olympic Qualification in August.