Game 1 EST - JPN / JPN no.9 TAKAGI Kenta, EST no.25 SVAROGIN Filipp / Photo: Sarunas Mazeika
Kawai salvages two points vs. Estonia
Despite emphatically winning the shots 42-12, Japan needed overtime to down the valiant Estonians 2-1 as Div. 1B gets underway.
53 seconds into overtime, Takuma Kawai reacted quickest to a rebound from Hiroto Sato's blast from the point to settle matters for Japan in their opener at the 2018 World Championship Division IB in Kaunas.
"It has been the time of change for Japan and we have tried to get many new players into the team, so in this game we find it hard to score, but we will get better," said Yuji Iwamoto in his first season as head coach for Japan.
Having gone behind to a Alexandr Petrov goal, Japan came out in the second frame to fire 21 shots but only managed to find the net once courtesy of a Hiromichi Terao strike
Roman Shumikhin in the Estonian net enjoyed a fine afternoon with 40 saves in an solid defensive display for the Baltic nation who last year finished fourth in the division.
"I am very proud of my players, but it is still a shame we took a look of penalties, especially in the second period which ruined our play, but at the same time it is a big credit to our fine box-play," said Estonia's head coach Jussi Tupamaki.
Estonia, who were without Robert Rooba and Alexandr Ossipov in their first game in Kaunas. The duo served a one-match ban following 25-minute penalties for fighting in the direct aftermath of their final game at the Division 1B in Belfast.
In their opener in Kaunas and with Japan's Ryo Hashiba serving a hooking call Estonia needed only 32 seconds to capitalize at 10:55 to take a shock lead. Andrei Makrov being the instigator from the left as he hit a circle cross ice to Robert Arrak who picked out Petrov who steered home Estonia's opener.
Estonia played with their backs against the wall for most of the second frame, as Japan piled up the pressure as the Baltic nation suffered from four straight minor penalties. Resilient defensive display saw Estonia's hold on to their lead until Ryo Hashimoto picked out Terao who blasted it from the top of the right face off circle low past Shumikhin on his blocker side to tie the game at one each.
Furuhasi then hit the crossbar on a breakaway in the third period with 7:29 left, before Japan finally got reward for their offensive perseverance in overtime.
Japan return to action tomorrow as Croatia awaits, while Estonia will be in action against Ukraine boosted by the return of two of their key-players, Rooba and Ossipov.