Game 14: UKR - JPN / Photo: Sarunas Mazeika
Final day win secures medal
Japan was in command from start to finish as they strolled to brush aside Ukraine 7-1 in their final game of Division IB.
Two powerplay goals and a helper from Japan's top scorer Ryo Hashimoto led the way in a 7-1 destruction that crushed Ukraine's hopes for a medal at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B.
Shogo Nakajima also played an influential role for Japan with three assists, while netminder Yutaka Fukufuji enjoyed a solid game with 27 saves.
Japan has at least bronze secured but still has hopes for better things. They now need to keep fingers crossed for Lithuania to beat Estonia in regulation time during the final game to get their hands on the silver medals.
"We came here to win gold and play creative hockey, but we now look to play with a more aggressive style with more shots and passes than we used to do in the past," said head coach Yuji Iwamoto as he looks to stamp his authority on Japan.
"In our game against Lithuania, my players were perhaps a bit afraid at times. If we want to win gold we need to be stronger and physically cope with this level while also be more confident," continued Iwamoto in the aftermath of completing his first World Championship as head coach of Japan.
Having been relegated from Division 1A last year, Ukraine now had to settle for fourth spot at the 2018 Division 1B in Kaunas and recording its lowest ever overall position since they entered World Championship play in 1993.
Andri Mikhnov scored Ukraine's lone marker against Japan. Bogdan Dyachenko made 19 saves on 25 shots was replaced by Sergi Gaiduchenko with 14:32 to go.
"We had put all our efforts into yesterday's game against Lithuania and were very tired as we had a very short period of recovery ahead of this afternoon game," said Ukraine's assistant coach Oleg Shafarenko.
The point gained in last night's match against the hosts ensured survival in the division for Ukraine. In the wake of their late-night push against Lithuania to overtime, Ukraine struggled from the outset with the pace of Japan.
Dyachenko left a rebound from a shot fired from the left face-off circle by Seiya Hayata with Yushi Nakayashiki reacting quickest to draw first blood after 2:38.
The men in black doubled their lead as they converted on powerplay after 7:47. Moving the puck swiftly, Hiromichi Terao picked out Japan's top scorer Hashimoto who had time to stop the puck with his skate before firing past Dyachenko for 2-0.
Ukraine needed a regular time win in order to win bronze, got a chance to claw themselves into the game. Playing on a 5-on-3 man advantage and holding the puck well, they lacked the killer touch with Dmytro Ignatenko having the final chance to score before the end of the first frame.
Still playing on a one-man advantage, Mikhnov took things into his own hands at 22:19 to cut inside from the right past Kenta Tagaki to fire between the pads of Fukufuji to cut back the deficit to 2-1.
Lethal on the powerplay, Hashimoto stretched Japan's lead to 3-1 after firing from the blueline on the powerplay at 27:05. Tomoya Echigo reacted quickly on a rebound for 4-1 with 4:41 left of the middle frame, before Ukraine's Dmytro Ignatenko slammed a bullet from the blueline off the post just before the second intermission.
Goshi Ito bagged Japan's fifth as he whipped a wrist shot from the slot for 5-1. The misery continued for Ukraine, as Shogo Nakajima surged down from the right to find Echigo who picked out Hiroto Sato for a composed finish as Japan's scored its sixth at 45:28.
In order to halt their slide, Ukraine head coach Olexander Savitsky called a time-out, replaced Dyachenko with Gaiduchenko, before Kenta Takagi closed the scoring with 9:06 as Japan's completed their 7-1 rout.
"Japan was better than us in all components of the game and their league is currently much stronger than ours. We need a more powerful championship and then we will have a better national team," said Shafarenko.