Austrian forward Michael Grabner watches this puck go on for his game-winning goal in the 3-0 win over Japan. Photo: Jelena Levsina
Power play leads to 3-0 win vs. Japan
After a disappointing start with two clear losses Austria bounced back on the last day of play with a 3-0 blanking of winless Japan.
The Austrians outshot Japan in each period, 40-24 in total, but didn’t have an easy game against the Asians, who came here as the last-seeded team after advancing to the Final Olympic Qualification from the Preliminary Round.
The power play made the difference. Austria had two power plays and capitalized on both while the Japanese were not able to make use of four Austrian penalties including 39 seconds of 5-on-3 play early in the game.
“We’re disappointed. We had our chances but we were not able to put the puck into the net,” said Japanese forward Takuma Kawai.
With 97 seconds left in the first period during a power play the Austrians eventually opened the scoring after some good pass play. Michael Grabner hit the back of the net after a drop feed from Raphael Herburger.
The game remained open and the second period scoreless but at 7:27 of the third period the Austrians capitalized on the next power play thanks to a shot to the top-left corner taken from behind the right face-off dot by Andreas Kristler.
With 87 seconds left the Austrians also scored a goal five-on-five with a semi-wraparound from Thomas Raffl for the final score of 3-0.
“Today we finally implemented what we planned before. We played compact on defence and scored the goals,” said Raffl, the team captain and elder brother of his teammate and NHL forward Michael.
Finishing third was of course not what the Austrians planned especially after winning the Final Olympic Qualification for Sochi 2014.
“We knew we would play against top nations but our roster was not well balanced. The teams who beat us deserved to win against us, they were simply better.”
After a tough Olympic Qualification for both teams the players will now return to their club teams. At the end of the season Austria will compete in the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in Kyiv, Ukraine, while Japan will play one tier below after having been relegated, at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group B in Belfast.