Japan, Hungary stand out in Budapest
Haruka Toko provided the game-deciding goal a 4-3 shootout win over host Hungary, lifting Japan to a first-place finish at the Five Nations Tournament in Budapest.
The forward finished the tournament with two goals and nine assists, while Rui Ukita notched six goals and three assists. Riko Kawaguchi and Kiku Kobayashi each recorded shutouts. The Japanese, who went unbeaten in three games, outscored opponents 21-3 and outshot them 138-56.
In the most closely contested tournament of the week, the mix of top-level and Division IA teams required shootouts in four of the nine games.
Hungary, which appeared in one more match than Japan, finished with eight points. France (1-0-1-1) placed third.
All three teams will compete at the top-level Women’s World Championship in Brampton. Norway and Slovakia aim to join them with a promotion from the Division IA in Shenzen, China.
The tournament schedule favoured the Japanese, who only played their first game after all teams except France had skated twice. Slovakia was competing in its fourth game in as many days when it fell to Japan, 10-0.
“The Japanese women have a very strong team and they entered the match relaxed,” Slovakia coach Arto Sieppi said. “After four games, we ran out of energy, but that is logical. We saw what our female players are capable of. It was another important step for us on the way forward.”
Slovakia’s Nela Lopusanova had five points in her senior debut. The 14-year-old phenom scored a hat trick in the opener, a 7-6 shootout loss to Hungary. She added two primary assists and a shootout goal in Slovakia’s 3-2 win over Norway the next day.
Lopusanova became the first women’s player to score a lacrosse-style goal in international competition and earned MVP honours with 12 points at 2023 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship.
Making their Budapest homecoming, Fanni Garat-Gasparics and Reka Dabasi powered Hungary’s second-place finish. Garat-Gasparics, formerly of MAC Budapest, had four goals and an assist. Dabasi, a long-time KMH Budapest star, finished with a goal and four assists. Both are playing this season with PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters in New York.