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China and Japan face-off for first time in a generation

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Having last played each other on Olympic ice at Nagano’s Aqua Wing Arena on February 11, 1998, China and Japan renewed rivalries in Beijing. The Nagano match saw China prevail by a 6-1 mark, behind a hat trick by Guo Wei and legendary goaltender Guo Hong between the pipes.

Although a shootout decided the winner in Beijing, a new pair of legends emerged for China. Goaltender Jiang Zhou (Kimberly Newell) assembled one of the most exhilarating performances of her career, quickly becoming a fan favorite beyond the stunning visuals of her dragon themed goalie pads.

The first period saw Japan outshoot the host Chinese by a close 9-7 margin, the only goal taking place via power play. With Beika Li (Rebekah Kolstad) called for an illegal hit at 16:48, Japan capitalized. Assistant captain Ahana Hosoyamada broke the scoreless tie, with Shiori Koike and team captain Chiho Osawa recording the assists.

Following Japan’s goal, another power play opportunity followed. Called for an illegal hit, China’s Mi Le (Hannah Miller) went to the penalty box for the remainder of the period. Zhou remained poised, preventing Japan from adding to their lead.

Throughout the second period, Zhou remained an essential factor for China. As Japan posted 13 shots on net during said period, they were unable to benefit from another power play opportunity. Called for a third illegal hit, China’s Ni Lin (Rachel Llanes) served the penalty at the 7:03 mark of the second.

Outshooting Japan in the third period, peppering goaltender Nana Fujimoto with nine shots, China managed to tie the score. Boazhen Hu (Maddie Woo) scored the equalizer to a loud roar of support from the Chinese fans, preventing Fujimoto from posting her first Olympic shutout in Beijing. Assisted by Beika Li, it marked China’s most emotional goal of the tournament, simultaneously instilling confidence that a win was possible.

With the superlative goaltending of Zhou and Fujimoto, overtime was required as the score following regulation was 1-1.  Signifying the first overtime game in Beijing, Japan logged five shots compared to four for China, neither team able to solve the sensational goaltending.

Going to a shootout round, another first in Beijing, the first three shooters on both sides were unable to score. With the intensity rising, speculation on who would score in the shootout, the fourth round provided the answer.

As Zhou denied Haruka Toko, Mi Le placed the puck past Fujimoto, scoring one of the most exciting goals in Beijing so far, a flood of emotion ensued. With sister Ayaka Toko shooting for Japan, Zhou delivered once again, recording the save for China, giving the hosts their second win, remaining in contention for a berth in the quarterfinals.

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