2022 Worlds: Japan defeats Finland

Finland has its worst-ever finish in a major tournament.

A 1-0 shootout victory over Finland in the fifth place game will keep Japan in Group A. Finland finishes after finishing in sixth, their lowest result in tournament history.

Going into the game, everything seemed to favour the Finns. They’ve been the bronze medal favourites since the very beginning, and they’ve never gone home in a position worse than fourth.

During the game, things still favoured Finland. They outshot Japan a whopping 61:17 and stayed out of the box.

Over three periods, it came down to goaltending — Anni Kiesala was less busy, making 16 saves before being bested in the shutout while Miyuu Masuhara stopped all 61. It was largely thanks to Masuhara that lopsided shots from turning into a lopsided score.

The score remained even at zero through three periods. It was Masuhara who consistently made the difference for Japan, but their defensive play was also strong. Where the Japanese team lacks depth, they have been able to make up for it in their systems and their team play, and that was evident in the moments where they managed to hold Finland off.

The game required overtime, where Finland found itself in familiar territory. With a little more than three minutes left in overtime, it looked like Karvinen had ended the game. After review, the play was called offside and the goal was called back. Neither team was able to find the net for the rest of the period and the game went to a shootout.

It was a fitting end for a game that relied so much on goaltending, if a bit anticlimactic. Noora Tulus scored for Finland, but it was Remi Koyama and Haruka Toko who won it for Japan.

Japan should take a lot of confidence from this win. They have proven that they belong in Group A with the best of the best.

It’s a testament to the global growth of women’s hockey that teams like Japan, Switzerland and Czechia are now able to be truly competitive in games against the big three. That’s not to say that they’re on the same level as teams like Canada, the US, and even Finland, but it’s clear that they’re getting there.