International Ice Hockey Federation

From Russia with a GWG

From Russia with a GWG

Japan’s Akimoto scores upset against Slovenia

Published 20.04.2014 19:50 GMT+9 | Author Martin Merk
From Russia with a GWG
Daisuke Obara, who scored the 1-1 goal, tries to defeat Slovenian goalkeeper Andrej Hocevar. Photo: Kim Soohan
Japan defeated Slovenia 2-1 to earn its first World Championship win ever against this opponent. Slovenia had previously held a 5W-1T record against the Asians

The game-winning goal was scored Denis Akimoto. The son of a Japanese father and a Russian mother grew up a ferry-ride away in Russian Far East city Khabarovsk before his family moved to Japan where the 22-year-old defenceman has been playing for seven years – since this season for Asia League champion Nippon Paper Cranes after graduating at Toyo University.

“I’m so excited!” Akimoto said about scoring the game-winning goal in his first IIHF game with the senior national team. “It’s my first goal for the national team. We played a good game.”

It was a north-south game for the start in which any team could have opened the scoring. The best chances came on breakaways like Daisuke Obara’s after seven-and-a-half minutes of play or a two-on-one with Slovenia’s Tomaz Razingar and Bostjan Golicic with two minutes left in the opening frame.

The result after one period: a 7-5 shot advantage for Japan and a goalless score.

Slovenia came out stronger in the second period in which the top-seeded team started to play like a favourite but didn’t seem to be rewarded until late in the period after a power play. Jan Mursak circled around the cage and fed Ziga Pavlin with a drop pass that led to the 1-0 goal.

But the Japanese are known for never giving up and they created more offensive action for the start of the third period. At 4:47 Seiji Takahashi tried it with a wraparound. Andrej Hocevar made a block save but Daisuke Obara capitalized on the rebound.

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“Our game is to play solid on our own end and catch them on counter-attacks,” said captain Aaron Keller. “Everybody is pretty happy.”

For Slovenia it came even worse. Although the Japanese weren’t efficient in their power plays before they made use of an important one when Akimoto hammered the puck into the net at 13:13 with a distance shot that shocked Slovenia.

The favourite recovered but was without luck in the offensive zone. Also a time-out and replacing the goalkeeper for a sixth player didn’t help prevent the first-ever loss against Japan.

“We played simply not well enough. We did too many mistakes,” Slovenian defenceman Miha Stebih said. “It is what it is now. We need to analyze this game and see what we did wrong. We are good enough to earn promotion.”

The last time Japan won against Slovenian players was during the era before Slovenia’s independence when the Japanese defeated Yugoslavia 6-1 at the 1978 World Championship B-Pool in Belgrade.


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