International Ice Hockey Federation

Japan upsets Italy

Japan upsets Italy

2016 Worlds likely without Azzurri

Published 23.04.2015 17:25 GMT+2 | Author Martin Merk
Japan upsets Italy
Japanese forward Yuto Osawa takes a shot on Italian goalie Andreas Bernard. Photo: Miroslaw Ring
Japan upset Italy with a late comeback. In the last five minutes of the game the Asians changed fortunes to beat Italy 3-2 on fast counter goals.

It would be the first time since 2004 that Italy doesn’t earn promotion when playing in a Division I tournament and most probably for the first time since 2009 a team other than Austria, Kazakhstan, Italy and Slovenia will earn promotion.

Italy has only very slim chances if it beats Kazakhstan in regulation time and Poland beats Hungary in overtime or shootout on Saturday while both teams lose their games today in regulation time.

With Italy virtually out, three teams are mainly in the race for the two spots for the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia.

Undefeated Kazakhstan can earn promotion straight back to the top division already tonight against Poland while Saturday’s Hungary-Poland game will likely decide which of these two teams will go up.

The last time Japan beat Italy in a men’s World Championship event was in the 1978 World Championship B-Pool in Belgrade, the same event Hungary had its last win against Italy until yesterday.

“In the first three games it didn’t go as we wanted it to be so we are happy that we won and now we have one game left,” said Japanese goalkeeper Yutaka Fukufuji, who was back in the net after being pulled against Kazakhstan.

“Everyone stayed focus, we didn’t make so many individual mistakes anymore like against Kazakhstan when they were able to score goals on us so easily.”

After the first period it looked like Italy reached another level after the disappointing loss to Hungary. The Japanese were lucky Italy only led 1-0 after the first period.

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After some tic-tac-toe passing and a rebound after an Anton Bernard shot it was Luca Frigo, who brought Italy the much wanted lead with 26 seconds left in the period.

Japan came out stronger for the second period and scored a late goal as well. With 72 seconds left in the middle frame, Mei Ushu’s shot from the blue line was deflected into the net by Markus Gander.

The Italians came out battling harder in the third period. At 7:24 their offensive efforts eventually paid off. With strong physical play Joachim Ramoser got the puck at the boards in the offensive zone. His shot was blocked by Fukufuji as was Brian Ihnacak’s but with the second rebound Ramoser regained the lead for Italy.

But the Japanese are known for never giving up and they didn’t. With 4:04 left in regulation time Japanese defenceman Shinya Yanadori scored on a rebound after a quick counter-attack by Go Tanaka. 70 seconds later Yushiroh Hirano beat Italian netminder Andreas Bernard through his five-hole after a breakaway to gain Japan the lead for the first time.

The Japanese celebrated an incredible victory that may facilitate their battle against relegation with Ukraine on Saturday while the Italians were heartbroken after losing a game they thought to have won on two late counter attacks.

“Against Ukraine it will be a big game for us. They are a good team but if we want to stay in this group we have to win,” Fukufuji said.


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