BEIJING (Reuters) -China ended Japan’s unbeaten streak in the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament on Sunday, upsetting their rivals 2-1 in a tense shootout win, while the United States locked up a routine win over Switzerland.
China forward Mi Le landed the only shootout goal past Japanese net minder Nana Fujimoto to roars from a limited but nonetheless enthusiastic home crowd who chanted and waved flags and banners.
“Obviously it’s a big one for us and it’s kind of an emotional high,” said China head coach Brian Idalski. “Coming from behind against a team as dynamic in transition and solid defensively — that was big for us.”
Japan assistant captain Akane Hosoyamada converted a power play chance in the first period but Chinese forward Hu Baozhen answered early in the third, sneaking the puck past Fujimoto for her first Olympic goal to force the overtime.
“Sometimes a shootout can go either way so, yeah, (it’s) super positive but we have to dial it back in and make sure we’re ready for a very good Swedish team tomorrow,” Idalski told reporters.
The team did not emerge from the affair unscathed, however, as assistant captain Zhang Mengying collided with a team mate in the first period, crumpled to the ice and had to be removed on a stretcher. She suffered an upper body injury.
Idalski told reporters it was not clear yet whether the injury would prevent Zhang from competing further in the tournament.
China recovered from a 3-1 loss to Czech Republic in their Beijing opener to defeat Demark by the same margin on Friday.
The top three finishers in the five-member Group B will advance to the quarter-finals and Sunday’s triumph puts China in good standing, with Sweden and Denmark both winless so far.
Japan retained their spot atop the Group B standings despite the loss and will play Czech Republic in their final preliminary game on Tuesday.
Later on Sunday, defending champions United States walloped Switzerland 8-0, with veteran Hilary Knight kicking things off early in the first period. Jesse Compher, Kelly Pannek and Dani Cameranesi also recorded goals.
“It had nothing to do with the opponent, it had everything to do with us. We just felt we were really ready to play well and we certainly did that,” U.S. head coach Joel Johnson said.
“We generated a lot of offense, kept a lot of puck possession and, more importantly, created some really good scoring chances that were tough to defend.”
The U.S. face arch rival Canada on Tuesday in their final group stage game of the tournament.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery in Beijing; editing by Clare Fallon)