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Japanese National Team Defeats Team Canada 4-3
NR.024.97
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February 21, 1997
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NIKKO, Japan -- Team Japan jumped to a 3-0 lead and held off a late-game Canadian surge to edge Canada's National Team 4-3 on Friday in the second game of a six-game tour of Japan.

The victory was the first for Team Japan in seven tries as the two teams play a 12-game series to help the Japanese club prepare for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano next February. Team Canada swept a six-game series in Alberta and B.C. in January, outscoring the Japanese 38-12 during that tour. And Canada began their six-game tour of Japan with a 5-2 victory in Tokyo on Thursday, but a hot goalie and determined group of Japanese prevailed on Friday, delighting a crowd of 1,612 fans.

Goalie Masahito Haruna stopped 32 of 35 shots and the Japanese made the most of their opportunities, beating starting goalie Jordan Willis four times on 17 shots. Toshiyuki Sakai opened the scoring at 4:53 of the first period and the Japanese got goals from Taku Takahashi and Takahito Suzuki in a two-minute, 20-second span midway through the second period to extend the lead to 3-0.

Sean Selmser scored Canada's first goal at 9:31 of the third period to narrow the Japanese lead to 3-1, but Shin Yahata restored the three-goal lead with a power-play goal at 13:00 of the third period. At that point, head coach Andy Murray pulled goaltender Jordan Willis and inserted Blair Allison into the game in an effort to spark his club.

Canada dominated play in the final period, outshooting Japan 15-5, but they were unable to solve the goalie until the final 30 seconds of the game, when, with goalie Allison pulled for a sixth attacker, Mike Stewart, at 19:31, then Ron Pasco, at 19:54, scored to close the gap.

The two teams play again on Sunday in Kushiro.


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