German forward Marcus Kink with a scoring chance in front of the Japanese net.
Japan no problem in opening game
Germany had a good start into the Final Olympic Qualification by opening Group E in Riga with a 5-0 blanking of Japan.
The Japanese are not the favourite here but didn’t come to Riga to be a pushover. In the first game against Germany that was easier said than done though in a clash between two countries that are separated by 11 places in the World Ranking. Having seven NHL players on the German roster didn’t make it easier for the Asians either.
“They have a lot of skill, it was very hard,” said Yuki Miura, “but we didn’t give up.”
The Germans needed less than four minutes to open the scoring. Brooks Macek capitalized in front of the net after a diagonal pass to the crease from Leon Draisaitl at 3:26.
With 2:38 left in the period and Takeshi Saito in the penalty box, Patrick Hager sent a shot from the face-off circle after a drop pass from Tobias Rieder. Florian Schutz screened Japanese goalie Yutaka Fukufuji and deflected the puck but didn’t interfere the goalie in the crease as the video review showed. It was one of two goals for him.
“It’s never easy to win a game despite them probably not playing at the same level like us in European leagues. But they can play too and made it difficult at the beginning. After the first goals it became easier for us,” Schutz said.
Germany scored three of the five goals on power plays and outshot Japan 51-13. Early in the middle frame Tobias Rieder added another marker after a horizontal pass from Leon Draisaitl to make it 3-0 for the black-and-yellow team. With the next power play Tom Kuhnhackl increased it to a four-goal lead. Schutz followed suit on a rebound during the next man advantage for the Germans forcing Japan head coach Greg Thomson to use his time-out. For the last period he replaced Fukufuji with Takuto Onoda in the net.
For the Germans the high-score game was a good opportunity to gel together with the new players on the team.
“Most of the NHL players were already with us at the World Championship except for two who are new but we know each other and it’s great for German hockey they can play here with us,” Schutz said. “It’s noticeable that they’re playing at the highest level.”
The Germans will continue tomorrow against Austria and on Sunday against host Latvia. Last time in the Olympic Qualification Austria succeeded against Germany to qualify for Sochi 2014.
“The score [against Japan] has no meaning for the next games. Austria is at par with us, we didn’t succeed against them last time. It will be the two most important games of the year for us. We feel great and have self-confidence,” said Schutz.