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Team Japan returns to World Championships

After relegation to Division I, the Japanese women look to compete in the top division — hopefully, this time, to stay

Ice Hockey - Winter Olympics Day 11 - Germany v Japan Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images

After failing to win any games in the 2015 IIHF World Women’s U18 Championship, the Japanese women’s under-18 national ice hockey team was relegated to Division I. But Japan was undefeated through all five of their games at the Division I World Championship and earned the gold medal. Their dominant performance means that, after spending just one year in Division I, the Japanese women will be in the Czech Republic to compete again in the top division — in Group B.

Who’s back

Several of the players who won at the Division I World Championship will be back for this tournament, including most of the defensive corps and goaltender Ayu Tonosaki. She had a .966 save percentage and 0.44 GAA during the Division I World Championship.

Sena Takenaka, a defender, won gold in the 2016 Youth Olympic Women’s Skills Challenge event at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

Who's new

Forward Wakana Kurosu was a member of the Tomakomai team that last month won the Nikko Cup, a national girls’ junior high & high school tournament. Forward Yumeka Wajima celebrated a recent team win on Twitter:

With an average age of 15.68 years, Japan will have the youngest team in this tournament.

Schedule

Japan’s preliminary-round games all take place at Přerov Arena in Přerov, Czech Republic.

Saturday, Jan. 7 vs. Czech Republic

4:15 p.m. (CET) [10:15 a.m. (ET)]

Sunday, Jan. 8 vs. Finland

8:15 p.m. (CET) [2:15 p.m. (ET)]

Tuesday, Jan. 10 vs. Switzerland

8:15 p.m. (CET) [2:15 p.m. (ET)]