Halla back in the groove, High1 and the Freeblades go tit for tat, Sakhalin maintain form to stay at the top of the table
As some of the teams hit the halfway point in their season, we take a look at the six teams that were in action this weekend.
Anyang Halla v Nikko IceBucks
For the second weekend in a row, Halla were on home ice, against a Bucks team who were now playing their 5th and 6th game in 9 days. Halla came in with 2 losses in their previous 2 games while the Bucks picked up 2 wins midweek against High1.
Game 1. Sitting in 7th place in the league coming into the game, the reigning champions were badly in need of some points to stay on course to make the playoffs. Halla tried to shake things up this weekend by making a lot of changes to the lines and bringing Ruslan Bernikov back into the fold. The first period began with Halla taking charge and after a couple of flurries at either net, Sang Wook Kim was able to break the deadlock after 3:21 with a nice backhander, following some good work behind the net by Bernikov. 3 minutes later Maito Omuku was able to steal the puck from Hyun Seung Lee behind the net and stick in a wraparound past Matt Dalton. Both teams then created chances before Sang Wook Kim released Ruslan Bernikov at half ice to slot past Yutaka Fukufuji one on one to give Halla the lead after 13 minutes. Two minutes later Eric Regan doubled Halla’s lead with a great slap shot just inside the blue, with Brock Radunske providing the screen. The second period saw more back and forth action with both teams creating plenty of chances before Woo Sang Park was able to tickle the twine after 13 minutes with a well-placed finish past Fukufuji. Ki Sung Kim was able to put Halla 5:1 up just before intermission picking up a loose puck from Kohei Ono before spinning and shooting into the back of the net. Scott Barney knocked in the 6th Halla goal 2 minutes into the third period following some tidy hand skills to take him away from three defensemen and then a neat finish in the bottom left. Halla continued to dominate for the rest of the period before Kuk Hwan Mun slotted a nice pass in front of the net for Young Jun Kim to stick into the roof of the net with 54 seconds remaining on the clock to give Halla a 7:1 victory.
Game 2. The first period was a tightly contested affair with both teams creating plenty of chances, the Icebucks having the better of those chances before Scott Barney was able to wrangle the puck over Fukufuji‘s shoulder into the top right corner with 19 seconds left in the period. Halla started strongly in the second period getting in a few shots on the Bucks net before Don Ku Lee and Sang Jin Park got on a 2 on 2 breakaway with Don Ku hitting the back of the net to put Halla up by 2 goals. Halla continued to dominate the period and went up 3:0 thanks to Woo Sang Park 5 minutes from the end of the period. Halla made it 4:0 early in the third with Scott Barney putting in some work to dig out the puck from behind the Bucks net and lay it off for Won Jung Kim to easily pop one in. Although a bit late to the party, the IceBucks did step it up a gear then and were able to pick up a goal 5:20 into the third as Takeshi Saito was able to get a stick on a loose puck in the middle of a goalmouth scramble. The Bucks then got their second of the game when Yuri Terao was tipped Petteri Nummelin‘s slap shot between the legs of goaltender Matt Dalton with just over 6 minutes left in the period. Unfortunately for the Bucks they just ran out of gas and couldn’t pick up the third goal needed to make Halla sweat at the end of the game. Final score Halla 4:2 IceBucks
Halla picked up some badly needed points to push them up to 3rd place in the table, at the time of writing. The new lines and an added sense of urgency has Halla looking like the team that won 2 championships in a row again. Can they keep this kind of hockey going? Only time will tell. It must also be taken into account that they played a tired IceBucks team who has just played a lot of hockey in a short space of time, so that may have been a contributing factor. Halla have time off until their next game against the Blades in Hachinohe on October 28th, while the Bucks are out next weekend, October 21st, also against the Blades in Hachinohe.
High1 v Tohoku Freeblades
High1 came into the game on a bad run of form, having been swept at home by the IceBucks in midweek. Having beaten Halla twice in Anyang the previous weekend, the Blades were swept by Daemyung in Incheon midweek.
Game 1. Welcoming back Troy Milam from injury, High1 were hoping to pick up some points against a Blades team with a lot of hockey behind them the past week and try to lift themselves from the foot of the table. Things didn’t go as planned as the Blades took an early 2 goal lead. First through Kota Shinohara in the 10th minute and then the second, a short-handed goal from Ryo Tanaka in the 14th minute. High1 were able to respond with a Mike Testwuide goal with 2 minutes remaining in the period. The second period started much the same as the Freeblades were first off the mark again when Kota Shinohara hit the back of the twine two and a half minutes into the period for his second of the game. Han Soo Ban put the score at 3:2 when he shot his first goal of the season. Another goal for a Shinohara put the Blades up 4:2, although this time it was Yuhei Shinohara. Takuro Yamashita decided to get in on the action with a PP goal 13 minutes into the period and Go Tanaka got the Blades sixth of the day with four and a half minutes left in the period. High1 managed to pick up a third goal 3 minutes into the third period through Hyung Joon Kim, but it was all in vain as Kazuki Yamamoto hit luck number 7 for the Freeblades with a single second left on the game clock. High1 3:7 Freeblades
Game 2. High1 needed a big response after the heavy result against them the day before. Both teams started the first period evenly with both sides getting a number of chances on net until the 15th minute when Troy Milam served a delicious long range pass from the blue line diagonally across the face of the goal where Mike Swift could tip it into the top left corner of the net with one touch. Freeblades responded with a number of chances on net until Troy Milam took the game by the scruff of the neck again with another long-range effort with just over two minutes left in the first period. This time he shot on net from the blue, Itoh was only able to block it and Tae An Kwon was there to knock the rebound past the helpless goaltender. 2:0. The first ten minutes of the second period saw both goaltenders make some fine saves to keep the scores as they were. 13 minutes into the period saw Ryo Omiya receive a 5-minute major penalty for clipping as well as a game misconduct, for a hit on Tae An Kwon. Ji Man Yoon for High1 received a roughing penalty for retaliating on Omiya and captain Mike Swift received a 10-minute misconduct penalty for his part in the skirmish, resulting in a 4 on 4. Troy Milam picked up Mike Testwuide‘s resulting faceoff win and shoot it top right past Itoh into the back of the net. High1 continued to push forward with Itoh making a string of excellent saves to keep his team in the game. Hyung Yun Shin extended High1’s lead to 4 goals 8minutes into the third period, receiving a pass from Mike Swift on their offensive blue line and using a Blades defenseman as a screen before sniping one past Itoh into the top left corner. 4 minutes later Go Tanaka pulled one back for the Freeblades with a deflected shot past Bacashihua before Chan Hwi Lee put the icing on the cake with the fifth goal for High1 with 3 seconds remaining on the clock. Hyung Joon Kim‘s shot rebounding off the boards behind Itoh‘s net to Chan Hwi Lee who was more than happy to knock it in. High1 5:1 Freeblades
The Freeblades recent form looked to continue after Game 1 but it seems as though too many games in the last week finally caught up with them in Game 2 as they looked a lot more sluggish. High1’s defensive woes continued. Troy Milam returning was a big boost for them but Jeff Dimmen going on the long-term injury list with an ACL injury was the last thing they needed as they still seem to be struggling after losing Dong Hwan Kim and Bryan Young. In Game 2 they skated with only 5 defensemen. They do have goals in Mike Swift and Mike Testwuide however, but if they can’t fix their defensive problems then neither player is going to be as effective as they potentially could be.
Sakhalin v Oji Eagles
Sakhalin, at home for the third weekend in a row, came into the game on a 4 game winning streak. The Eagles, on a 3 game winning streak, were back in action after a week off.
Game 1. Sakhalin were quickly on the front foot with Takafumi Yamashita picking up an interference penalty for the Eagles after 22 seconds. in the resulting power play, a deep pass from Dmitrii Fakhrutdinov found Alexey Eremin free in front of the crease who stuck the puck top shelf without any second thoughts after 59 seconds. Just over 3 minutes later, during a period of sustained pressure for Sakhalin, Mikhail Klimchuk got some space to skate around the net and lay it off to the waiting Fedor Khrapak for the second goal of the night. The 9th minute then saw Kirill Polyanskiy almost single-handedly circumnavigate the Eagles defensive zone before spinning and smashing one past Yuta Narisawa in net. The Eagles managed to pull one back in the first period as Daisuke Obara smashed one home from deep on an Eagles power play. The second period was a much tighter affair with both teams creating a number of chances with Sakhalin probably just shading it in terms of dominance. This continued until the 3rd minute of the third period when Artem Senator took a boarding penalty and Shuhei Kuji was able to put in another longe range PP effort for the Eagles with 9 seconds left in the PP. Sakhalin restored their two-goal lead with another PP goal halfway through the third period, Kazumasa Sasaki picking up two minors for boarding and roughing. Fedor Kharpak‘s passed to Timofey Shishkanov who’s shot was well blocked by Narisawa but the late arriving Andrey Golyshev poked the puck over the line through a crowd of bodies for Sakhalin’s fourth goal, despite pleas from the Oji players for an interference call on the goaltender. Sakhalin held out for the 4:2 win
Game 2 saw a much tighter game between the two teams. 6 minutes into the first period Oji were able to take the lead. After some nice interplay between Daisuke Obara and Shuhei Kuji, Obara slid a pass perfectly into the path of the onrushing Seiji Takahashi who was able to rifle a shot past Yan Shaliapneu into the back of the twine. Sakhalin tied the game up midway through the first with Roman Alekseev shooting a first timer into the back of the net on a PP. 8 minutes into the second period Sakhalin took the lead for the first time in the game. Alexey Eremin lined up Nikolai Zhilin for a slapshot on net from the blue that was cleverly tipped in by Dmitrii Fakhrutdinov for his first goal of the season. Sakhalin continued to dominate the rest of the period up until the final minute. A quick break, through Ryo Hashimoto and Seiji Takahashi, allowed Takahashi and Shuhei Kuji to race to a two on one at the opposite end with Kuji picking up the equalizer with 35 seconds to the buzzer. 5 minutes into the third it was Sakhalin’s turn for a quick break. Alexey Eremin, winning a faceoff in his own defensive zone, got the puck to Mikhail Klimchuk who skated almost full rink untouched to take the puck around Yuta Narisawa and into the back of the net for the game-winning goal. Sakhalin 3:2 Oji Eagles.
Sakhalin don’t appear to be slowing down as of yet. They keep grinding through the gears and picking up routine wins. Having said that their last 6 games have been at home which could be a big factor. The trip to Sakhalin itself is always one of the more difficult ones for the other teams, especially when it comes as the first game back after a break, which is the predicament the Eagles found themselves in. Although Sakhalin looked dominant, Oji never looked outclassed and one would expect them to pick up some points next weekend at home against the Cranes.
Videos from Anyang Halla, On The Sports and OneTeamSakhalin Youtube channels