Japan, Ukraine score high

OQ Gr. J: Japan-Romania 7-0, Ukraine-Croatia 6-0


The Japanese players celebrate a goal in the 7-0 routing of Romania. Photo: Yuuri Tanimoto

SAPPORO - Japan and Ukraine scored decisive victories on the second day of play in the Men's Olympic Qualification Preliminary Round 2 Group J on Saturday at the Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo. Japan routed Romania 7-0, while Ukraine pounded Croatia 6-0. The results set up a title match between the two winners on Sunday. The winner will advance to the Final Olympic Qualification round in early September.

Japan vs. Romania 7-0 (0-0, 5-0, 2-0)

Japan broke open a tight game with five goals in the second period as Shuhei Kuji, Yushiroh Hirano, Hiroki Ueno, Masahito Nishiwaki and Daisuke Obara all found the net.

The first period was a scoreless one that saw Japan dominate puck possession. Japan fired 16 shots on goal but could not score.

Romania managed only three shots in the opening frame.

Japan's quickness was evident as the Romanian skaters struggled to keep up with the pace of the hosts. Japan had the lone power play in the period, but was unable to take advantage of it.

Kuji broke the deadlock with 14:31 left in the second when he scored from the slot on a 3-on-1 break on a nice pass from Obara.

Romania hung tough until Hirano flipped in a shot just off the crease with 6:37 left in the frame.

The floodgates opened soon after as Ueno took a long pass and scored on a breakaway at 4:31. Nishiwaki and Obara then scored within 94 seconds and it was suddenly 5-0 as the Romanian defence became porous. Romania goalie Geller Ruczuj did his best but could not halt the onslaught.

Kuji added a second goal in the third period and Takuro Yamashita closed out the scoring with 2:37 left in the game.

Japan goalie Takuto Onoda made 14 saves and posted a shutout in his debut for the senior national team.

“I was a little bit nervous before the game. We had to win this one," said Onoda. "This gives me confidence. My performance was 100 percent tonight.”

Kuji was content with his two-goal outing in the victory.

“It was good that everybody played well tonight,” Kuji said. “In my mind I am always thinking about scoring. Tonight was good for me and the team.”

Japan coach Greg Thomson appeared pleased with the performance of his charges.

“I felt the team played a very good hockey game tonight,” said Thomson. “We didn't score any goals in the first period, but we stuck to our game plan and they came in the second.”

Thomson pointed out that this is the way it goes on occasion.

“Sometimes that's how it is in sports,” Thomson stated. “You don't get it on the first or second try, but it comes on the third. We stuck to our game plan and they started going in. You really have to concentrate in games like this.”

Romania coach Kjell Lindqvist was honest with his feeling after the defeat.

“Japan is one or two divisions better than us,” commented Lindqvist. “They are very speedy. Sometimes too speedy. It is tough for a slow team like us to be able to stop their rushes.”

Lindqvist felt his team had few decent opportunities on the night.

“We had maybe two or three good chances to score,” Lindqvist said. “Japan was too good for us. We have to accept that.”

Ukraine vs. Croatia 6-0 (3-0, 1-0, 2-0)

Goalie Eduard Zakharchenko recorded his second straight shutout as Ukraine blanked Croatia 6-0 on Saturday at the Tsukisamu Arena.

Georgi Kicha scored his first goal for the Ukrainian national team and added two assists in the victory.

Ukraine's speed and power proved too much for Croatia to handle. Ukraine fired 57 shots on goal to Croatia's 26 in the triumph.

Croatia is 0-2 after the defeat and has yet to score in the tournament.

Ukraine wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as Artem Gnidenko flipped in a shot near the crease just one minute into the first period. Kicha and Yuri Petrangovsky assisted on the goal.

The game quickly moved into a fast-paced affair and Ukraine boosted their lead to 2-0 with 12:32 left in the first when Olexander Pobyedonostsev scored on a one-timer from the point. Artem Bondaryev had an assist on the play.

Petrangovsky put in a rebound of a missed shot by Kicha with 4:18 remaining and Ukraine was in command with a 3-0 advantage.

All of Ukraine's goals were scored at full strength despite the fact they had four power-play opportunities in the period.

Croatia goalie Vilim Rosandic did well to keep it at 3-0, as he stopped 19 shots in the opening frame.

Kicha scored from the slot on a power play to make it 4-0 with 15:54 left in the second period.

Croatia played better in the second, picking up the pace and creating a few scoring chances with 10 shots on goal. Ukraine killed off two power plays in the second.

The third period provided more of the same, as Croatia scored on goals by Roman Blagy and Bondaryev for the final margin.

Ukraine coach Olexander Savytsky thought his team played well.

We asked our wingers to make fewer mistakes in the offensive zone, commented Savytsky. "They played more active than Thursday. It was good."

Savytsky noted that getting the first goal was significant.

We scored the first goal quickly and that really helped us, Savytsky said. "We kept up the pressure after that."

Croatia coach Danijel Kolombo knew his squad was facing a tough test.

It's hard to play against a pro team with an amateur team, stated Kolombo. "They scored early in the first and after that moment we started to chase the game, which isn't good in hockey. We made four penalties (in the first period) after that and could not get back on track."

Zakharchenko gave the credit to his fellow players following the contest.

Today's game was a bit easier than yesterday, because it was the first game, said Zakharchenko. "My teammates played well in front of me. I especially want to cite the play of No. 4 [Vsevolod Tolstushko], who blocked many shots."

Kicha was pleased with his contribution in the win.

It was a great feeling to get my first points for the national team, stated Kicha. "We feel better after acclimatizing ourselves here. The team was in a good condition today.

Ukraine defeated Romania in their opening match on Thursday, while Japan downed Croatia 3-0.

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