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TKO From Tokyo: Japan Eliminates Team USA at World University Games

Kendra Myers (right) and Team USA are out of medal contention



The U.S. National University Team's run for a repeat podium finish at the World University Games in Granada, Spain came to a screeching halt on Saturday, thanks to a 4-1 loss to Japan.

With the defeat, Team USA dropped to 0-2-0 in Group A while Japan improved to 2-0-0. China, which opened with a defeat of the U.S. on Thursday, throttled host Spain in Saturday's late game to join Japan at 2-0-0. With only one round robin game left for each team, therefore, the two Asian nations have clinched the pool's two semifinal bids. Canada and Russia, both 1-0-0, have locked up advancement out of Group B, with specific seeding and matchups to be determined by the final set of group games.

As for the American side, their remaining pool game will take place at 2:30 Monday afternoon against Spain. After that, Team USA will have two more games abroad for placement purposes, versus both Spain and Kazakhstan. Those contests will take place between Tuesday and Friday of next week.

In the Japan match on Saturday, things could not have started much worse for the U.S., as the opponents ran out to a 37-7 shooting advantage through two periods. Still, the deficit remained just 1-0, on a Moeko Fujimoto 5-on-3 goal with 6:18 left in the first, and with Massachusetts teammates Paige Harrington and Caleigh LaBossiere boxed for checking and delay of game, respectively. Caitlin Nosanov (Davenport) played a crucial role in keeping things close with 36 saves in the opening 40 minutes, finishing with 43 in total.

Team USA came alive in the third period, where special teams would prove, briefly, their salvation, then once again their undoing. With 11:01 remaining, Vermont's Emily Ford won a power play draw back to Harrington. The former Lady Icer then found Colorado State's Molly O'Neil on the right-side wall, and O'Neil walked to the middle and sniped to tie things up.

A draw would have kept the team's hopes alive, and although the score remained 1-1 into the final four minutes of the game, it was not to be. Sena Suzuki put Japan ahead to stay on the advantage with 3:21 left, on a shot from center point that appeared to be helped through with a deflection in front. O'Neil went off for hooking shortly after, allowing Fujimoto her second score, this time with 1:52 left and by pushing the puck past Nosanov's pad during a net-front scramble. Runa Moritake added a fourth power play goal for her team (in eight total attempts) 14 seconds from the finish for the final margin.

The victory was a measure of revenge for Japan, which was stymied by 37 saves from the Lady Ice Lions' Katie Vaughan in the bronze medal match of the 2013 World University Games tournament in Pergine, Italy.

Penn State's Madison Smiddy once again logged big minutes on the U.S. blueline Saturday, this time partnering with ECWHL rival LaBossiere. She fired one of the team's 16 shots on goal during the third period and had a second-period power play wrister blocked down in front. The Grand Rapids, MI native was playing on the penalty kill for a couple of Japan goals but remains a +1 for the tournament.

Group A
GPWDL+/-GF:GAPts.
1
x - Japan
2
2
0
0
+14
15:1
6
2
x - China
2
2
0
0
+13
14:1
6
3
United States
2
0
0
2
-4
2:6
0
4
Spain
2
0
0
2
-23
0:23
0
X
Group B
GPWDL+/-GF:GAPts.
1
x - Russia
1
1
0
0
+11
12:1
4.5
2
x - Canada
1
1
0
0
+6
7:1
4.5
3
Kazakhstan
2
0
0
2
-17
2:19
0
x - clinched semifinal berth

Date 
Opponent
Time (ET)Coverage/Result
Thu. Feb. 5
China
11:00 a.m.
L 1-2
Sat. Feb. 7
Japan
11:00 a.m.
L 1-4
Mon. Feb. 9
Spain
2:30 p.m.
Streaming TBD
Twitter
Live Scoring
Tue. Feb. 10 or
Thu. Feb. 12
Classification Game
TBD
Thu. Feb. 12 or
Fri. Feb. 13
Classification Game
TBD

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