Japan get its golden moment
by Adam Steiss|21 JAN 2020
The Youth Olympic gold marks a big milestone for Japanese women's youth hockey. 
photo: Vedran Galijas / justpictures.ch

Japan’s women’s ice hockey team has made history, becoming the country’s first team to claim a gold medal in an Olympic ice hockey competition by defeating Sweden 4-1 at the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games.

Rio Noro had the game winner as the Japanese overcame an early deficit to score four unanswered to claim gold.

"Our feeling to win, to continue to the end, that was the difference," said an elated Noro after the game. 

"The medal is a gift for the fans and the coaches who have supported us for a long time to play ice hockey," said goaltender Yuzuyu Fujii. "I will go to my family and my coaches and hang the gold medal around their necks."

Japan vs. Sweden (Final) - 2020 Youth Olympic Games (Women)
JPN SWE 21 JAN 2020
Sweden and Japan came into the game as the undisputed top two teams of the women’s tournament, winning their groups and going unbeaten in the process.

For Sweden, the task was to neutralize the potent line combination of Makoto Ito, Minami Kamada, and Hina Shimomukai, which has accounted for 11 goals in three games, and get pucks on net against Fujii.

Fujii was tested early as a shot from the point bounced off her helmet, and forced her to make a great follow up save with the paddle on Nicole Hall’s rebound chance. Then she had to hold the fort with her team playing 5-on-3, as penalty trouble dogged the Japanese through the first period, keeping the team off-balance and unable to get their offence going.
Hina Shimomukai scored two goals in the final. 
photo: Vedran Galijas / justpictures.ch
Sweden broke the deadlock with just under a minute to go in the first period when captain Nicole Hall scored unassisted, coming into the zone and creating some space in the high slot area with a great individual effort before putting the puck in the net from the backhand.

"I was just asking the team 'Is this the style that we planned?," said head coach Arto Sieppi to his team at intermission. "They decided then that they would skate more, battle more, try to stay focused and come back to the back shift after shift. I think the girls did a tremendously good job."

Japan responded early in the second frame after killing off a penalty. Sweden was unable to clear the puck which came to Makoto Ito in front of the net, who turned and fired an off-balance shot at the net. Ebba Svensson Traff gave the rebound and Shimomukai was there to clean up and tie the game at 1-1.

"At first (period) I took a penatly and felt so bad for my mistake, I had to score and was happy when I did," said Shimomukai. 
Japan has never won gold in an top division IIHF World Championship or Olympic Games. 
The goal galvanized the Japanese attack and put pressure on the Swedes, who were nevertheless able to use their size advantage to keep Japan off balance and avoid the go-ahead goal in the second period. Nevertheless, Sweden went into the 3rd period needing to generate more offence after failing to register a single shot on net in the frame.

But sometimes it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. The turning point came thanks to fantastic board work by forward Nagomi Muramaki, as the diminutive forward was able to keep the puck away from two big Swedish defenders behind the Swedish goal line. Her teammate Riri Noro came in to help out and managed to kick the puck in front to her twin sister Rio Noro in front of the net for the go-ahead score.
Interviews Japan - 2020 Youth Olympic Games (Women)
After winning Youth Olympic gold we spoke with Japanese players Yuzuyu Fujii, Hina Shimomukai, Rio Noro, Makoto Ito and head coach Arto Sieppi.
JPN 22 JAN 2020
Then three minutes later Japan put the game on ice, with a feed from Shimomukai down low to Ito, who calmly made a pro-style deke on Svensson Traff and roofed it blocker-side. Shimomukai added an empty netter and a minute later the team from the Land of the Rising Sun mobbed their goalie to celebrate a truly unprecedented achievement for the country.

Having finished atop the podium under the Olympic Rings, Japan's golden moment has arrived. 
Japan vs. Sweden (Final) - 2020 Youth Olympic Games (Women)