Having an official decide the outcome of a game is one of the worst occurrences in sport. Unfortunately, that was the case in Tuesday's preliminary round meeting between Japan and Russia in the women's ice hockey tournament.
Russia advanced to the quarterfinal round after defeating Japan in regulation, 2-1, however, the game likely would have required overtime had the on-ice and off-ice officials properly communicated at the tail-end of the first period. Japan appeared to score a late period goal, as an odd angle shot crept over the Russian goal line. Anna Prugova, the Russian goaltender, fell on top of the puck while it was over the line and the on-ice officials blew the play dead. Everyone on the ice complied with the call, including Japan.
However, the off-ice officials wanted the play reviewed, but failed to properly gain the attention of the on-ice officials. The puck was dropped in the Russian defensive zone and subsequently nullified any chance of reviewing the previous play.
The play ended up looming large as Japan lost by a single tally and tainted an otherwise fantastic game.
Nana Fujimoto, Japan's goaltender, registered 36 saves on 38 shot attempts and shinned brightest in a stellar defensive performance by Japan. Russia was credited with 21 shots on goal in the second period, but failed to capitalize on any of the opportunities. Japan was held to only four shots in the second stanza, but opened the third period on fire, as Ayaka Toko brought the game even at one just 33 seconds into the final period of regulation. Toko's goal was the first Olympic strike from a Japanese player in 16 years.
Despite a healthy attack by Japan, Russia was able to regain and maintain the lead after Alexandra Vafina scored on a short-handed breakaway at the mid-way point of the third period. The strike came moments after Fujimoto denied another short-handed breakaway attempt by the Russians.
The win is Russia's second of the tournament, bringing the club's point total to six. Russia will challenge Sweden (who also has six points) for first place in Group B on Thursday. Japan will also wrap its schedule on Thursday against Germany (who is also 0-2-0 in the tournament).