Game 5: JPN - CRO / Photo: Sarunas Mazeika
Rallies back to topple Croatia
Trailing 1-3, Japan clicked into gear to grind out a 4-3 win against a plucky Croatia.
Ryo Hashimoto tallied a brace and an assist in Japan's second day win at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Kaunas. Linemate Makuru Furuhashi had a goal and two helpers as Japan got up speed and got reward for their perseverence as the game wore on.
"First and second period was not good for us, but in the third period the players started only to think about going for the net and shoot and I've seen a big improvement," said Japan head coach Yuji Iwamoto.
Yuti Narisawa got a start in net and recorded 23 saves as Japan remains undefeated in Division I Group B.
Captain Borna Rendulic led the line for Croatia scoring a double as they raced away to a 3-1 lead midway through the second period, while Mislav Blagus and blueliner Ivan Sijan had two helpers each.
Japan's captain Tetsuya Saito spurned a fine opportunity to open the scoring for Japan at 4:43 while racing through clear against Croatia netminder Mate Tomljenovic in boxplay. They got their reward at 15:17 when Hashimoto raked home a Tomljenovic rebound for the only goal of the first frame.
Inspired by Rendulic, Croatia stepped out during the middle period to score thrice. Kotaro Yamada was serving a tripping call when Rendulic boomed home a bullet from the face-off circle. He was at it again 2:17 later when his wrister flew past Narisawa high at the near post as Croatia went in front, 2-1. 22-year-old Josip Jazbec stretched Croatia's lead at 27:13 who looked like being on course for a shock win.
"We were leading 3-1, but to be honest they were much quicker, their passes were on the tape and creating a lot more chances," said Rendulic as Japan took over proceedings more and more as they sparked to life.
Furuhashi pulled one back with 3:41 left of the middle frame and less than three minutes into the final frame the game was tied at three apiece when Yuki Miura's picked out Hiroto Sato who fired past Tomljenovic.
"Although we couldn't keep up with them, our chance came when we had two power-plays in the third period. If we could only have executed better and score that would had finished the game," said Rendulic.
Instead Japan held out when Goshi Ito and Hiromichi Terao served time for minor penalties and then hit the winner with 7:07 left on the clock. Croatia charged ahead and pulled Tomljenovic from the net with 49 seconds to go but all in vain as they recorded their second straight defeat in Division 1B.
"We are preparing for our last two games against Romania and Estonia, who are a little bit on our level as we are fighting to stay in the division," said Rendulic as Croatia are next up against a Ukraine team eager to redeem themselves for their shaky start,
Japan who appears to be getting up to speed will get their credentials severly tested against hosts Lithuania as Division 1B resumes to action on Wednesday.