Slovakia topples Japan, 6-3
by Risto Pakarinen|08 JAN 2023
Slovakia topples Japan in their opening game of the U18 Women's Worlds. 
photo: Chris Tanouye / IIHF

Slovakia got off to a perfect statt in the tournament, as they beat Japan in their opening game and grab the important three points with a 6-3 win.

Slovakia's Zuzana Dobiasova scored a hat trick and Nela Lopusanova picked up four points for Slovakia. Japan's Nagomi Murakami scored two and assisted on another.

"It's amazing," Slovakia's captain Dobiasova. "This is the first hat-trick in my career, I don''t have the words for this. I'm proud toi be the captain of the tean,m everything I do I do for the team."

The first game of the tournament is always important as it sets the tone for the tournament, and especially in a short tournament such as the U18 Women’s Worlds in which the top two teams in Group B advance to the quarterfinal.

It was  obvious from the pening faceoff that both Slovakia and Japan want that spot in the sun. 

Slovakia enters the tournament with four players born in 2008 and another three born in 2007 when the oldest players were born in 2005. (Japan has three 2008s, and one 2007).

"I don't think it's a bad thing, and we showed it on the ice that we came here to play," Dobiasova said. 

Besides, on the ice, nobody asks for your birth certificate. 

Slovakia vs Japan - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship
SVK JPN 08 JAN 2023

The first period was halfway through when Slovakia’s big forward Nela Lopusanova, 14, got he puck in the neutral zone, entered the Japanese zone, flipped the puck between her legs as she skated around the Japanese defender and finished her show with a nice shot top shelf, giving Slovakia the lead in the game. 

Japan tied it just five minutes later when Nagomi Murakami, intercepted a Slovak pass in the Japanese zone, and carried the puck into the Slovak zone. She played the puck to Azumi Numabe who didn’t miss her chance as she beat Livia Debnarova in Slovakia’s net on the glove side. 

Right at end of the first period, Lopusanova finished a monster shift by skating around the Japoanese net before finding another 14-year-old all alone in front. Lenka Karnoskova fired a one-timer that bounced off a defender but found its way to the back of the net with just 3.8 seconds remaining in the period. 

Lopusanova picked up her third point of the game in her first shift of the second period when she assisted Zuzana Dobiasova’s 3-1 which gave Slovakia a nice cushion. 

With about ten minutes remaining in the period, Murakami jumped onto the ice during a delayed penalty. Japan played the puck to her at the hash marks and she fired a wrister just under the crossbar at 29:51. 

Japan chased an equaliszer butat 9.22 into the third period, Dobiasova's slammed in a rebound and gave her country some breathing rom.  Sher finished her hat-trick with a clebver backhander two minutes later. 

Murakami scored her second of the night, ewith four minutes remaining, but in a fitting end to the game, Lopusanova scored her second of the night on a penalty shot. Slovakia – and Lopusanova – just couldn't be stopped today.

"We'll eat right and sleep well so that we'll be ready tomorrow," Dobiasova said. 

On Monday, Slovakia will take on Switzerland.

Slovakia vs Japan - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship