Japan advances, Denmark & China demoted
by Andrew Podnieks|10 APR 2024
photo: Matt Zambonin/IIHF
Japan overwhelmed a desperate Danish team tonight in the final game of the preliminary round, winning by a 3-0 score to qualify for the quarter-finals on Thursday. The win also served to push the Danes and Chinese out of the playoff picture and into Division I-A for 2025.

It was a short trip up for both nations, as they had earned promotion to the top level only last year.

Group B couldn’t have ended more dramatically. Denmark needed to win to advance to the playoffs and remain in the top level, but a Japan win would have relegated the Danes and the Chinese. In the end, Denmark scored only four goals and won only one game.

The price of victory is steep, however, as Japan will now face hosts United States on Thursday in the last of four quarter-finals that day.

Riko Kawaguchi had to stop just eight shots for the shutout, while Denmark's Emma-Sophie Nordstrom was sensational in turning aside 28 of 30 shots. Japan played the game penalty free for only the second time in their WW history.

"We lost our first three games but we stayed confident and motivated and just tried to score a goal when we had to," said Akane Shiga. "Today we are happy with how we played and with the result, and we look forward to playing the United States on Thursday."

"We worked hard as a team, we battled, but not in front of their net, which is why we didn't score any goals," said a disappointed Danish captain Nicoline Jensen. "We're disappointed now. We had good team spirit. We told ourselves if we don't win we want our opponents to know we're a tough team to play against. We did what we could. Hopefully we inspire young girls in Denmark by being here. We're sad that we have to go down agin but Emma-Sophie is an amazing goalie and very inspiring."

Japan got exactly the kind of start it needed, earning an early power play and then capitalizing on the chance. Nordstrom blocked a first shot but gave up a juicy rebound, and Remi Koyama got to the loose puck first and made good with the chance at 4:47. It was the team's first shot of the game and only Koyama's third goal in 27 Women’s Worlds games.

The Japanese were the better team all period, earning another power play and outshooting the Danes, 9-3. If that weren’t enough, they overwhelmed Denmark in the second period, spending long periods of time in the offensive zone and peppering Nordstrom with shots from in close. She was the only reason the game didn’t get out of hand.

Early on she made quick saves off Yoshino Enomoto and Akane Shiga, but these didn’t inspire her teammates, who were slower to the puck all over the ice. Midway through the second, Japan deservedly doubled its lead off a great play by Shiga. She carried the puck to the net, cut across the middle, and then found Suzuka Taka to the back side for a perfect pass at 10:17.

Japan continued to dominate, and the Danes could do little about it.

In the third, there was no let up, and Denmark had nothing left to give. Coach Bjorn Edlund pulled Nordstrom with more than four minutes left, but that resulted only in an empty netter from Rui Ukita half a minute later.