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Germany 3, Japan 1

Associated Press
Saturday, February 7, 1998; 8:49 a.m. EST

Germany/Japan Hockey
Mike Blake/Reuters
NAGANO, Japan — Germany disappointed a boisterous crowd of flag-waving, partisan hockey fans today with a 3-1 victory over underdog Japan in a preliminary-round opener.

Daniel Kunce scored the go-ahead goal with 9:36 left by jamming in the rebound of Markus Wieland's shot from the point, and Jan Brenda added an insurance goal with 4:55 to go.

Joseph Heiss, playing in goal before NHL All-Star Olaf Kolzig arrives next week, had 20 saves for Germany.

Japan kept the game scoreless against the taller, stronger Germans until 17:03 of the second period, when Jochen Hecht scored from the left circle. The shot hit goaltender Shinichi Iwasaki's glove, then popped over his head before bouncing from the crease into the net.

Akihito Sugisawa tied it with 16:10 left, tapping in a rebound at the goal mouth to set off a wild celebration. The revelry was momentarily halted when the play went under review, but when the goal was allowed it brought the noise in Big Hat arena to an even higher level.

That was to be the highlight for Japan, which went 0-for-7 on the power play.

The fans sprinted into the arena an hour before the game, many carrying Japanese flags and noisemakers. There were several banners draped from the upper deck written in Japanese, although one in English read, ``Go Ahead! Fujita'' — a tribute to Ryan Fujita, one of the team's half-dozen Japanese-Canadians.

With two minutes gone, the crowd let loose a collective ``Ohh!'' after Fujita took a shot that glanced off the left post.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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