After a 16-year drought, the Japanese women’s hockey team finally got back on the Olympic scoreboard today against Russia in round-robin play.
Just 33 seconds into the third period, Ayaka Toko launched a long-range shot through heavy traffic and past Russia goalie Anna Prugova to tie the contest at 1-1.
You can check out the long, or rather, very long-anticipated goal from Japan over on NBCOlympics.com.
Until Toko’s goal today, the most recent Japanese goal in an Olympics had come in a 6-1 loss to China on Feb. 11, 1998 during the Nagano Games (which they qualified for as the team from the host nation).
That was the last time the team – popularly known as “Smile Japan” – had been in Olympic competition prior to Sochi.
But it can be argued that Toko’s goal should have been more than an equalizer versus the Russians, who took the game, 2-1, and eliminated Japan from medal contention.
Earlier, toward the end of the first period, Japan appeared to have pulled even when Prugova mishandled the puck following a shot and it wound up crossing the goal line.
But the referees whistled the play dead, apparently believing that Prugova had covered the puck, and didn’t award Japan a goal. You can also visit NBCOlympics.com to see the controversial call.