This means that Japan will play in Group A in 2023, and Finland finishes in sixth and will play in Group B in 2023. It’s the highest placing ever for Japan in the Women’s Worlds, and the lowest ever for Finland, which between 1990 and 2021 had never finished worse than fourth.
"It was not an easy tournament, but life is never easy, and we need to learn and grow as a team," said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. "I think we came back for today. We played a good game as a team, but the result is not there."
With a full bench for the first time since their August 26 preliminary round game against Switzerland, Japan kept Finland from scoring through all three regulation periods, a vast improvement from their 9-3 loss to the Finns earlier in the tournament.
Miyuu Masuhara finished her first senior Worlds with a 61-save performance. The 20-year-old goalkeeper – who didn’t dress for a single game earlier this year in Beijing – has emerged as a dependable starter. Since relieving Akane Konishi in Japan’s opening loss to the United States, Masuhara has started every game but one (Japan’s preliminary round meeting with Canada).
"Against the U.S., I only felt the fun, that I'm playing in the World Championship," said Masuhara. "Then getting to play many times through the games, I got the feeling that's possible to feel like I can give more contributions to the team. That was a massive change inside me, the feeling that it's possible for me to contribute."
Finland turned up the heat in the second period, putting 27 shots on Masuhara and only allowing four through to Anni Keisala. Olympic and World Championship multi-medallist Michelle Karvinen was on Japan’s doorstep throughout the second, but could not put one past Masuhara, who put on an impressive performance to keep her team in the game. Japan’s best scoring opportunity came from Remi Koyama, who tried to jam the puck past Keisala in the final minute of the second period.
"I think the whole game was pretty much Finland against [Masuhara]," said Hiirikoski. "She did an awesome job, and I think we definitely had enough chances to score."
Japan played defence for nearly the entire third period, but Finland struggled to get pucks through to Masuhara due to Japan’s skaters continually stepping up to block shots. With neither team able to score, the game went to overtime, the third game in a row for Finland that has required extra time.
"Of course we understand that every game is important, but the last game against Finland was a preliminary one, this one was to say in Group A," said Masuhara. "So this was a completely different meaning for us, that was a big difference."
Finland controlled the extra 10 minutes, with shots from Karvinen and Nelli Laitinen that hit the crossbar and breakaway opportunities for Nieminen and Holopainen. With just under three minutes remaining in overtime, it appeared that Karvinen had scored, pulling the puck across the crease and tucking it behind Masuhara. However, the goal was called off after the play was ruled offside.
It seems that Japan's quarter-final shootout loss to Switzerland served as good practice for this game, which needed the five rounds of penalty shots to determine the winner. Tulus scored first, but Masuhara stopped the remaining Finnish shooters.
"A shootout is one by one," Masuhara said of how she approached the penalty shots this game. "When they first scored, okay they scored. Forget about it, the next one is coming."
Japan's first two shooters, Makoto Ito and Akane Shiga, were unable to score on Keisala, but Japan took the monumental 1-0 win with goals from Toko and Koyama.
"Of course we are so happy with fifth place, it's never happened before," said Japanese captain Shiori Koike, who is already looking forward to the next Women's World Championship. "But we have to prepare for the upcoming Worlds in ."