Japan dims Danish hopes
by Andrew Podnieks|22 AUG 2021
Japan's Hikaru Yamashita tries to score on Danish goaltender Cassandra Repstock-Romme.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Hikaru Yamashita broke a scoreless tie with a goal at 4:25 of the second period to lead Japan to a critical 1-0 win over Denmark in Group B action. The loss was the second in as many nights for the Danes and jeopardizes their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals, while Japan is now 1-0-0 in the standings. 

"The last game was a tough one," said Danish forward Nicoline Jensen of last night's 6-1 loss to the Czechs. "But we have to get used to the tempo. Tonight we skated harder. We knew Japan would be fast and hard working. I feel like we were really successful, but it's too bad we couldn't put the puck in the net. We took too many penalties, so we have to move our feet a little more."

Yamashita’s goal came off a superb pass from Haruka Toko on a two-on-one rush, Yamashita having only to redirect the pass over Cassandra Repstock-Romme in the Denmark goal.

Nana Fujimoto earned her second career WW shutout by stopping all 26 shots she faced, while Repstock-Romme blocked all but the one of 28 shots she faced. 

"It's definitely motivation when the other goalie is playing well," Repstock-Romme said of her goalie duel with Fujimoto. "You're not just trying to stop the puck, but you also want to make a difference, and when the game is so tight, the goalie really does make a difference. I thought both Nana and I really stepped up our game."

This marked the first time the teams have played at the top level of the Women’s Worlds, and the first time since 2017 since they met at all. Four years ago, Japan beat the Danes, 3-0, en route to top spot in Division I-A and promotion to the top pool for 2018.

"We had a lot of penalties in the first period, but we managed to hold them off and win the game. It was an important win for us," said captain Chiho Osawa. "We expected a difficult game from Denmark, but we tried to control the play, and I think we did that mostly. And Nana is so important to the team. We know that she will always play well for us and give us a chance to win."
Denmark vs Japan - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship
DEN JPN 21 AUG 2021
The game was marked by numerous minor penalties, 14 in all and ten in the first two periods. Each team incurred seven, often for an illegal hit, but despite many good scoring chances goals were scarce on the night. Japan, however, used its superior skating and passing to generate more puck possession and keep Denmark at bay.

The first good chance of the game came early when Rui Ukita took a breakaway pass and went in alone on Repstock-Romme, but she had too much speed for her deke and wound up hitting the side of the goal with her shot.

Japan took four consecutive penalties in the opening period, but the Danes couldn’t beat Fujimoto with a shot. After Yamashita’s goal, the reverse occurred, and the Japanese had four power plays only to be stymied by the 19-year-old Repstock-Romme, who will turn 20 in five days’ time.

The Danes came out and took charge early in the third, but the best chance they could muster was a wraparound from Michelle Weis that was covered nicely by Fujimoto. Midway through the period Repstock-Romme kept her team in the game when she stoned Akane Shiga from close range during a Japan power play.

Offsetting penalties and then another gave Denmark a late 4-on-3 chance, but Japan held the fort and refused to concede the tying goal.

"Last night was a lot of firsts for the whole team, and tonight we played a Japan team that had enormous speed, so we talked about skating with them and winning the battles," said Denmark coach Peter Elander. "I'm also really happy with our penalty kill today. It was really good. And our power play was also good--we just didn't score."

Both teams have the day off tomorrow. Denmark plays Germany in the early game on Monday while Japan plays the Czechs later that night.
Denmark vs Japan - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey Women's World Championship