Cranes and Halla split the difference, Eagles back on track against Daemyung, Freeblades stuck in a rut to the delight of the Bucks, Sakhalin back in the groove on home ice
All teams were in action this weekend with three games in Japan and one game in Sakhalin
Nippon Paper Cranes v Anyang Halla
Game 1 in Kushiro saw the Cranes come in on a 5 game winning streak, four of those against Korean opposition. Halla, on the other hand, were 2:2 in the last 4 appearances. Halla you felt had the experience and quality, but Cranes had the momentum.
It was the momentum that won Game 1 with the Cranes picking up a 2-1 victory. Despite Halla taking the lead in the first through Sang Wook Kim, Ikki Ikeda responded twice in the second and third periods to pick up the W. Even with Halla missing Brock Radunske, this was a very strong performance by the Cranes, outshooting Halla 39:25, shooting 19:7 in the second period alone.
Game 2 saw Halla start much more aggressively. Radunske was back in the fold, in place of Ruslan Bernikov, although no injury had been reported for Bernikov. Despite going down to a Hiroki Ueno goal in the 11th minute, Halla responded with 2 goals late in the first period. Don Ku Lee and Kuk Hwan Mun hitting the back of the net on each occasion. Halla dominated most of the period outshooting the Cranes 14:7. The second period saw the Cranes regain a foothold in the game picking up 2 goals early in the period through Mei Ushu and Shunsuke Shigeno. Alex Plate picked up a nice finish on the edge of the crease in the 35th minute to send the sides into the intermission on level pegging. Cranes outshot Halla 10:6. The third was more of the same for the Cranes, dominating the shooting stats 9:5, but neither team could make the breakthrough.
OT beckoned and despite Halla not registering a single shot on goal they had enough defensive prowess to send the game to a shootout. Kuk Hwan Mun picking up the game-winning goal to finally halt the Cranes impressive winning streak.
Oji Eagles v Daemyung Killer Whales
Back in Tomakomai, we saw 2 teams looking to gain some momentum. The Eagles came into the game in patchy form, with the last 2 series being tied at one apiece, while Daemyung got swept in Kushiro midweek against the Cranes.
Game 1 saw Daemyung start with a first line fully composed of North American players, Yuta Suzuki being the only exception. This didn’t seem to deter the Eagles though as they took a 2-0 lead going into the first intermission. Goals coming from Stephane Veilleux and Shuhei Kuji. Daemyung started brightly in the second with Brett Parnham hitting the back of the net after 4 minutes but Shuhei Kuji responded with his second goal of the game less than a minute later. The third saw Oji come out of the blocks the quickest, Stephane Veilleux shooting his second of the game in the 5th minute to post up a 4-1 lead. Woo Je Sung picked up a goal midway through the period but it was nothing more than a consolation goal. Despite Daemyung outshooting the Eagles 10:5, they couldn’t make up the 2 goal difference. Final score, 4-2 in favor of the Eagles.
Game 2 was played out in much the same fashion. The first period didn’t produce anything overly spectacular with both teams going into the break scoreless. Midway through the second period Seiji Takahashi opened the Eagles account for the day. 5 minutes later Bong Jin Lee responded with a goal of his own on the PP to tie the game up going into the second intermission. In the third period, the Eagles stepped up a gear. Despite being outshot 9:5 they picked up another 3 goals without reply to finish the game as 4-1 winners. Seiji Takahashi picking up his second as well as Daisuke Obara and Barry Tallackson picking up one each.
Nikko IceBucks v Tohoku Freeblades
This was a case of opposite form coming together in this game as the IceBucks came in with a 1:3 record in the last 4 while the Freeblades boasted a 3:1 record.
Game 1, the first period was a tightly contested affair with neither team able to find the back of the net, despite the Freeblades dominating the possession and shooting. The second was where it all kicked off, with a good old-fashioned hockey skirmish. Yu Hikosaka and Mitsuyoshi Konno for the IceBucks and Kazuki Yamamoto and Shogo Iwatsuki for the Freeblades all receiving game misconducts for their valiant efforts. 3 minutes later the IceBucks took the lead through Tetsuya Saito. The third period was another tightly contested affair with neither team giving an inch until the Icebucks scored an open netter 6 seconds from the end to cement the victory. IceBucks 2:0 Freeblades
Following the previous game’s hostile atmosphere this game was expected to be a whole lot of the same. Neither team disappointed with a total of 17 minor penalties and 1 major penalty being racked up.
The home team was first on the scoresheet with Petteri Nummelin scoring his first ever goal for the Bucks with a decent shot from deep during a 5 on 3 PP in the 7th minute. Junya Yamada got the Blades back on level terms with four and a half minutes left on the board in the first. Yusei Ohtsu restored the Bucks lead early in the second with a superb pass and assist from Takuto Gorai. Hiromichi Terao then got in on the action in the 26th minute, with a close-range finish after picking up Nummelin‘s slapper from the blue on a PP. The IceBucks were then gifted a penalty shot as Junichi Takahashi was penalized for slashing Kazuma Iwamoto as he skated on net. Iwamoto missed the resulting penalty shot. Terao then picked up his second of the game in the 36th minute with another PP goal. The third period was more of the same for the IceBucks as they dominated most of the play before getting a 5th goal in the 50th minute through Takuto Gorai to cement the victory. 5-1 win for the Bucks, and also a home series sweep despite being the underdogs.
Sakhalin v High1
Sakhalin were at home again on a decent run of form, getting 3 wins in their last 4 games. High1, on the other hand, had only picked up one W in the last 4.
The game started rather flat as both teams seemed to be trying to figure each other out. No goals and the shot count at 6:4 in Sakhalin’s favor. 4 minutes into the second period Sergey Chubykin opened his account for Sakhalin and gave them a 1-0 lead. The third saw Sakhalin assert their dominance outshooting High1 14:6 but despite this stat, it was High1 who picked up the only goal of the period, Hyung Yun Shin hitting the back of the net 5 minutes into the period to tie up the game. OT beckoned and it was Sakhalin who took the extra point thanks to a Mikhail Klimchuk goal 69 seconds in.
Game 2 saw both teams play a more free-flowing style of hockey. Following the previous games war of attrition, both teams felt they knew how to break down the other. High1 started the brightest on this occasion, Mike Swift getting them off the mark in the 17th minute. High1 then doubled their lead at the start of the second through Hyeok Kim on a 5 on 3 PP, Sakhalin having committed 2 tripping offenses prior to this. 4 minutes later Sakhalin pulled one back on a PP of their own through Kirill Polyansky. 26 seconds later the game was tied up with a goal from Artyom Senator, his first of the season. The momentum had now clearly shifted to Sakhalin and they took the lead for the first time with 15 seconds left in the second period. Kirill Polyansky again hitting the back of the net on a PP. The third period was just a case of Sakhalin going through the gears as Kirill Polyansky picked up his third of the game, and first ever Asia League Hattrick. A fifth goal came through Timofei Shiskanov to put the icing on the cake. Albeit slow starting, it was another dominant performance from Sakhalin. High1 will feel somewhat aggrieved as these were 2 games they could have gotten more from.
Photo credit to Nikko IceBucks Facebook
Videos credited to the various team Youtube Channels and On The Sports Youtube Channel