Japan has now qualified for its second-straight Olympic Games. Photo: Seinosuke Uchigasaki
Japan beats Germany, qualifies for Olympic Games
Veteran Hanae Kubo came through when it mattered most on Sunday as Japan beat Germany 3-1 to secure a place in the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
With Japan holding a slim 2-1 lead, Kubo's blast from the top of the faceoff circle with 5:17 left in the third period gave the hosts a two-goal cushion and sent them to their third Olympics following Sochi and Nagano.
It was Kubo's tournament-leading fifth goal of the tournament. The 34-year-old forward scored a hat trick in the 6-1 win over Austria on Thursday and added another goal in the 4-1 win over France on Saturday.
“Kubo came through like she has all tournament,” said Japan coach Takeshi Yamanaka. “She just knows how to score in important situations and played a huge role for us.”
Germany pulled their goaltender with two minutes remaining and desperately tried to get back in it but Japan’s defence stood tall.
“I put the players out I knew I could count on and they did a great job,” Yamanaka said of the final two minutes.
As impressive as Japan was on offense, they gave up only three goals all tournament and finished with the maximum nine points.
Japan got on the scoreboard first when Moeko Fujimoto stuffed a backhand from close range past German goaltender Jennifer Harss at 12:16 of the second period.
Just over two minutes later the hosts doubled the lead on the power play. With Tanja Eisenschmid serving a two-minute penalty for hooking, Shoko Ono tapped in a rebound from the side of the net.
Germany responded with a power play goal of its own late in the second to cut the lead to 2-1.
Eisenschmid took a pass in the high slot and sent a wrister to the top corner with 3:30 remaining.
The first period was high-paced with few whistles. Japan came close eight minutes in on a 2-on-1 break but Kubo was denied by Harss. Akane Hosoyamada rang a slap shot off the crossbar with seven seconds left in the first.
Japan took two penalties late in the first period but Germany was unable to take advantage.
“To beat Japan you have to take advantage of your chances,” said German coach Benjamin Hinterstocker. “We tried everything to beat them. Both teams had chances, it was a high-tempo game and both teams had a chance to win.”
Eight teams will play in the women's tournament in Pyeongchang. The United States, Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland had already qualified along with South Korea which earns a spot as the host nation.Joining them now will be "Smile Japan".