24 April 2023
Japan 5 China 2
Day two of Division IB brought a tough loss for Team China. Up against top seed Japan in a game that many felt might determine the destiny of the gold medal, the Dragons led twice in the first period. However, that fast start took a lot of energy out of the team following yesterday’s draining OT win. Japan rallied to get the win and maintain its perfect start to the tournament.
Greg Ireland gave Sun Zehao the start in goal ahead of Ouban Yongli (Paris O’Brien), otherwise, there were no changes to the line-up from the opening-day victory over Ukraine.
China got off to a good start, with Kailiaosi Jieke (Jake Chelios) setting up Fu Jiang (Spencer Foo) for a shot that ripped over the Japanese goalie’s glove on the four-minute mark. However, Japan responded fast thanks to a lucky ricochet. The puck bounced crazily off the back boards and, with Sun sliding the wrong way, Chikara Hanzawa had a simple task to tie the game.
Late in the opening frame, the Dragons regained the lead when Jian An (Cory Kane) potted his second of the tournament when he got to a rebound first.
That was a fair reward for an enterprising opening frame that saw China outshoot Japan 18-9. However, the middle session saw the tempo drop, and ultimately that suited Japan. Late in the frame, they scored two quick goals to move ahead for the first time.
Although China tried to find a way back in the third, it wasn’t to be. An early goal from Yuto Osawa put the Dragons down by two and then Japan dug in and defended with great resolve.
“The guys ran out of gas a little bit,” Fu told IIHF.com. “We went through our energy in the first and we got away from a few of the things that we want to do as a team.
“Japan adjusted well. They work hard, they play as a team. They played a good game today.”
Tomorrow is a rest day in Tallinn. The action resumes Wednesday when China faces the Netherlands. Last season in Division IIA, the Dragons roared to a 5-1 victory over the Dutch and a similar result would be very welcome in our quest for a medal in Estonia.
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