Smiles turned upside down as Japan KO’d

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan battles Finland in women’s ice hockey quarterfinal action at the Beijing Games on Saturday.

Japan, which was looking to break into the final four in the women’s ice hockey tournament at the Beijing Games, fell 7-1 on Saturday to Finland, ranked No. 3 in the world, in the quarterfinals.

Nicknamed “Smile Japan,” the No. 6-ranked team had advanced to the medal round as the top team from Group B, while the Finns were third out of Group A.

Japan, in its fourth Olympic appearance in women’s hockey, finished sixth in the tournament, based on the team’s results and figures from the preliminary round.

However, in their first venture into the medal round, Smile Japan saw all hope to be among the world’s top four teams turned upside down.

Akane Shiga put Japan on the scoreboard in the first period, but Finland only stretched its lead over the second and third periods.

“To be frank, our opponents were very good,” said teary-eyed Japan captain and forward Chiho Osawa.

Japan, with its “be faster and run more” approach, went down to a team executing the very kind of style it aims to play, making the loss even harder to take.

Smile Japan had numerous penalties, giving the Fins a player advantage by putting them on the power play, which is how Finland recorded the opening score. In fact, Japan was down 2-0 just five minutes into the game.