In the second game for both of these Group B teams, Japan went to 2-0 after a 6-2 win over Denmark, whose record drops to 0-2. The Japanese beat Sweden 3-1 on Thursday and were fresh after a day off, while the Danes were playing their second of back-to-backs after a heartbreaking 3-1 loss to China in a game that was tied 1-1 heading into the final minute of regulation time.
As was the case in their team’s first game, Japan’s Toko sisters, Haruka and Ayaka, were a big part of the offence and a treat to watch play together, anticipating each other’s place on the ice with ease. Forward Haruka led all players with three points and defender Ayaka had two. Shikori Koike and Hikaru Yamashita also had two-point games.
“For a lot of our players, this is the third Olympics,” Japanese head coach Yuji Iizuka said about his team’s dominant first two games. “They have that experience from Sochi and PyeongChang, and we’re benefiting from that. This is what we’ve been working hard for together, and like a lot of teams here, our goal is a medal.”
The Danes had high hopes of being competitive in this game following their match-up in last summer’s World Championship, which Japan won 1-0 in a very evenly-played game. However, after a cautious first half of the opening period in this one, Japan quickly took command of the game with three goals in a span of 3:04.
“I think we were the better team in the first five minutes, but then we gave up too many odd-man rushes and breakaways and we can’t do that at this level, especially against Japan,” said Danish captain Josefine Jakobsen. “They’re a quick team, fast players, and unfortunately, that’s what happened today and that’s something we have to be better at.”
The first goal came at 10:36 as Hiraku Yamashita chased down a loose puck in the Danish zone, cut inside and beat Cassandra Repstock-Romme with a beautiful forehand deke.
“My strong point is skating fast, and I try to use that to the team’s advantage,” said Yamashita. “I saw the puck there and I was only thinking, ‘Skate faster!’ When I got to it, the puck went up on its side and I was trying to get it to settle down. I don’t know if it was such a great move, I was only trying to somehow get it past the goalie.”
Just 1:22 later, Haruka Toko won a puck battle along the boards and skated in on goal. She drew a delayed penalty as a Danish defender tried to restrain her but stayed strong on the puck and beat Repstock-Romme between the legs to make it 2-0.
The Japanese kept coming and 1:42 after that, it was yet another goal off the rush. This time, Rui Ukita took control of the puck at her own blueline, using her speed and body position to easily fend off a couple of Danish stick-check attempts, and scored on a backhand deke.
Trying to curb the onslaught before it got out of hand, Danish coach Peter Elander called a timeout at that point and also made a goaltending change. Repstock-Romme, who was fantastic in the team’s opening game against China, was lifted after allowing three goals on 12 shots in this game, and replaced by Lisa Jensen.
“I just needed to get them to settle down and start playing the right way because we couldn’t continue to play like that. They were just killing us with their skating,” said Elander. “I took Cassandra out because it wasn’t going right for her, but the chances against her were too big. We did better after that but we were in a big hole.”
Less than three minutes into the second period it was 4-0 when Ayaka Toko took a pass from her younger sister, then teed up and blasted a shot from the point that hit the top-left corner of the net, as close as you can get to the post and crossbar without touching either.
Denmark finally got on the board just shy of the game’s midpoint. Nicoline Jensen made a stretch pass to Mia Bau at the far blueline. Receiving the pass in full flight, Bau skated down the left wing, waited for Fujimoto to go down and fired a perfect shot high to the short side.
Japan restored its four-goal lead in the dying seconds of the middle frame on the power play when Akane Shiga’s shot hit a stick and looped over Jensen’s glove.
With the outcome firmly in hand, the Japanese tallied a sixth time with 12 minutes to play when Yamashita sent a backhand pass out of the corner to Haruna Yoneyama, who beat Jensen to the short side.
“I wanted to score myself,” Yamashita smiled. “I was going to shoot but I was in a little too deep and then I saw Haruna on the backside, and I passed to her and she scored.”
Then Jakobsen scored a power-play goal with just 5.4 seconds to play, taking a shot from the slot that went off a body in front, but that just made the final score a bit more respectable.
“It’s always exciting to get your first goal in the Olympics,” said Jakobsen. “It was only five seconds left, but it was on the power play and that’s something we can bring into the next game.”
Japan is back in action tomorrow and will try to remain perfect against China, while Denmark gets a day off and will try for its first win on Monday against Czechia.
“They’re a really good team with a lot of talented players,” Iizuka said about the Olympic host team. “We have to focus on our defence and be ready to take advantage of whatever offensive chances we get.”