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Japan Falls to Romania at IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship But Avoids Relegation

Under new coach Jarrod Skalde, the Japan's men's ice hockey team kept it close in every tournament game it played and will remain in Division I, Group A.

Japan lost to Romania 4-2 at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship on Saturday, May 4, but avoided relegation for next year's tournament.

In the Division I, Group A game at Sparkasse Arena in Bolzano, Italy, Yu Sato scored at 6 minutes, 21 seconds into the third period to pull Japan to within one goal.

New Japan coach Jarrod Skalde elected to pull goalie Yuta Narisawa with just under three minutes left but Matias Haaranen scored into an empty net to seal the win.

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Japan defenseman Kotaro Yamada looks to score against Romania on May 4. (JAPAN ICE HOCKEY FEDERATION)

The result left Japan with a record of one win, one overtime loss and three losses for four points. Japan avoided relegation when South Korea lost to Italy 8-1 on the final day to finish last in the standings with three points.

Romania took a 1-0 when Roberto Gliga beat Narisawa just over four minutes into the first period.

Japan Ties it Up Late in 1st Period Against Romania

Sota Isogai equalized for Japan late in the first period when his centering pass deflected in off a defender's skate past Romania goalkeeper Zoltan Toke for an unassisted goal.

It was Isogai's third goal of the tournament. The speedy forward finished tied for third in tournament scoring with five points in five games.

ice hockey
Forward Sota Isogai had five points, including three goals, in the tournament. (JAPAN ICE HOCKEY FEDERATION)

Japan would have been in good shape to get out of the first period level but Yevgeni Skachkov scored just 18 seconds after Isogai's goal to give his team a 2-1 lead.

Szilard Rokaly made it 3-1 for Romania midway through the second period with a backhander that beat Narisawa and there was no further scoring until Sato's goal in the third.

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Japan coach Jarrod Skalde instructs his players during a game against Slovenia on May 3. (JAPAN ICE HOCKEY FEDERATION)

Building Blocks for Japan's New Ice Hockey Coach

Despite the loss, Skalde said there were positives to build on.

"I like how hard we competed," Skalde said, according to the IIHF website. "We wanted to come out skating but every time we grabbed momentum, they seemed to score."

The coach added, "We had to keep fighting to get the momentum back but, overall, I liked our compete and how we skated today."

Prior to Saturday's game, Japan lost to Hungary by a score of 3-1 in its opening game on April 28. Two days later, Japan went to overtime against Italy but lost 4-3.

On May 1, Isogai and Sato scored third-period goals to lead Japan to its only win of the tournament, a 4-3 decision over South Korea.

Japan also lost 3-1 to Slovenia on May 3.

Given that former NHL player Skalde just took up his post in early April, it is not a terrible result for Japan. Japan stays at the current Division 1, Group A level and now will focus on qualifying for the 2026 Winter Olympics.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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