In a game that could go a long way to determine the winner of Division I Group B, Japan fell behind twice in the first period but rallied to beat China 5-2 in a battle of the two Asian giants.
“We knew it was gonna be a tough game but we stuck to our systems and kept it simple,” said Japanese forward Chikara Hanzawa, who scored one of Japan’s goals. “The first half of the game didn’t go well for us, but we had patience and it eventually paid off.”After two goals and one assist in his first World Championship game in yesterday’s win over the Netherlands, 21-year-old Terutu Nakajima duplicated that performance against China and now leads the tournament with six points.
After a tough 5-4 overtime win yesterday against Ukraine, China came out strong and dominated at times in the first period thanks to an effective power play, which went 2-for-3.
“We were shooting the puck a little more, getting pucks through,” Jiang Fu (Spencer Foo) said about the first period in which China outshot Japan 18-9.
Fu opened the scoring at the four-minute mark after taking a pass from Jieke Kailiaosi (Jake Chelios) and ripping a shot over Narisawa’s glove. It took Japan just 1:23 to even it when Chikara Hanzawa took advantage of a fortuitous bounce off the end boards, shooting the puck into the empty net with Zehao Sun sliding the wrong way. China went up 2-1 late in the opening period, with An Jian (Cory Kane) knocking home a rebound in a crowded slot.
Most of the second period was played more conservatively than the first, but the Japanese turned on the offence late and scored twice in the last five minutes. Shigeki Hitosato tied it with a long wrister that found the net with Yushiroh Hirano providing an effective screen in front. Then Japan took its first lead of the game on the power play with 2:30 left in the middle frame, with Yuto Osawa providing a nice relay and Nakajima providing the finishing touch.
“The guys ran out of gas a little bit,” said Fu. “We went though our energy in the first and we got away from a few of the things that we want to do as a team.”
Japan opened up a two-goal lead early in the third period with Osawa blasting a one-timer after a perfect feed from Yusei Otsu.
“They adjusted well,” Fu said about the Japanese team. “They work hard, they play as a team. Respect to them, they played a good game today.”
As the minutes ticked away, China began furiously mounting pressure but Japan defended effectively, with several blocked shots.
“We want this so bad, so that’s how it is,” Hanzawa smiled. “You know, block a shot, take a hit, that’s our hockey.”
With Riku Ishida called for high-sticking with 2:53 left, China called a timeout and pulled Sun for a 6-on-4 advantage. But without the fear of icing, Nakajima intercepted a pass and, from his knees, shot the puck the length of the ice into the unguarded net to secure the victory.
“It was a good win for us but we have three games left, so we just have to keep it up,” said Hanzawa.
Japan, the only perfect team after day one, remains so after two with six points. China has only two points but also has probably their two toughest opponents out of the way.
“It was tough having these two games back to back, but that’s hockey,” said Fu. “We’ve got a day off to rest now and we just have to make sure we take care of business the rest of the way and hope everything else works out.”