Japan’s bid for women’s ice hockey medal ends with blowout loss to Finland

Japan’s bid for a maiden ice hockey medal at the Beijing Winter Games came crashing to an end Saturday with a 7-1 women’s quarterfinal loss to world No. 2 Finland.

Goaltender Nana Fujimoto did her best to keep Japan in the game with 35 saves, but the world No. 6 side could not contain a fast and physical Finnish outfit led by forward Petra Nieminen, who had a hat trick and two assists.

Akane Shiga got on the board with a goal to cut the deficit to 2-1 late in the first period at Wukesong Sports Centre, but Japan otherwise posed little trouble for the stout Finnish defense.

Finland struck twice from long range early in the opening period, with Nieminen scoring on a power play with just over two minutes gone and Viivi Vainikka adding a second roughly two minutes later.

Shiga provided the solitary highlight for Japan when she sped down the right side in a one-on-one situation before scoring through the legs of Finland goaltender Anni Keisala with 4:59 left until the intermission.

Japan's Akane Shiga reacts after her team's 7-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland on Saturday. | AFP-JIJI
Japan’s Akane Shiga reacts after her team’s 7-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland on Saturday. | AFP-JIJI

Player-of-the-match Nieminen made it 4-1 midway through the second period. She notched her hat-trick with less than a minute elapsed in the third.

Japan had advanced to the quarterfinals after winning three of its four preliminary-round games, including an emphatic 3-2 win over the Czech Republic on Tuesday that sealed top spot in Group B.

Finland will continue its campaign for a fourth Olympic women’s ice hockey medal to go with the three bronzes it has already won.

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