2024 Worlds: Team Japan Recap

Japan remains in the top division of international women's hockey after a difficult World Championship.

2024 Worlds: Team Japan Recap
Team Japan bows following their quarterfinal game against the USA. | Photo via IIHF

Final Record: 1-3-1

Japan finished the tournament with only one victory: a 3-0 win over Denmark. They lost their opening game in a shootout to China and their three other games in regulation. It was a disappointing result in the group stage for a team with a lot of promising young talent.

Japan only avoided relegation because Denmark's win over China went to a shootout. The breakdown of points gave Japan a slight edge in the final standings.

Team MVP: Akane Shiga

Japan's young star, Shiga, led the team in points with two goals and three assists. She was the only player on the team with more than two points. The 23-year-old flew around the tournament ice, making plays, creating chances, and taking shots. Shiga had a point in every group stage game. She was, without a doubt, the team's most consistent skater.

It's worth noting that Shiga scored a nice goal on her PWHL teammate, German goaltender Sandra Abstreiter. Shiga's quick stick popped a rebound into the net behind Abstreiter. It was a big goal against the Germans, who were the surprise team of Group B.

Shiga is this team's best player, and Japan's success this year relied on her stellar performances. Unfortunately, the team wasn't able to put together a defensive performance to support its offensive assets, and Japan landed near the bottom of the standings.

Key Moment: China's comeback

The opening game for China and Japan set the tone of the tournament for the two teams. In an upset over the former Group A team, China opened their tournament with a win.

According to the box score, Japan took the lead early in the third and maintained it until midway through the third. Japan held a 44-9 lead in shots at that point. On the powerplay, Chinese forward YingYing Guan scored to tie the game. The Chinese goaltender's 50-save performance was frustrating for Japan, and allowing two goals on ten shots was also frustrating.

Gaining full points from their game against China could have completely changed the spot Japan was competing for. However, the team never seemed to recover following this loss, and performance from special teams and defence remained poor.

What's Next?

Japan needs to rethink and retool its defensive approach. According to the IIHF's tournament stats, It allowed more goals per game than any other team—4.56 GA/GP.

On the penalty kill, Japan conceded 40 per cent of the time. This didn't even include Japan's 10-0 loss to the USA in the elimination round. Japan played that game without conceding a penalty, according to IIHF statistics.

Japan's U18 women's team was promoted to the top division in January's U18 world championships. Sixteen-year-old Umeka Odaira led the team with four goals and five assists in five games. Haruka Kuromaru had a .962 and two shutouts in the tournament.

Japan has taken considerable strides in the last five years and will continue to do so as the next generation joins the senior team. Japan will remain in group B for next year's world championships.

Where to Watch Japan's Stars

Akane Shiga: PWHL Ottawa's push for the playoffs

Haruka Toko: SDHL's Linköping HC, eliminated from playoffs

Aoi Shiga: SWHL's HC Ladies Lugano did not make playoffs

Ayaka Hitosato: SDHL's Linköping HC, eliminated from playoffs