Eagles make the most of home advantage, Freeblades and Bucks rack up the goals Hachinohe, High1 pick up up their first sweep of the season.
Another weekend where 6 teams were in action, with Halla and Sakhalin sitting out this weekend.
Oji Eagles v Nippon Paper Cranes
The Eagles were home for the first time in 3 weeks and looking to pick up some wins after a difficult trip to Sakhalin the previous week, coming away with no points. The Cranes, who didn’t play last week, also came back from their last game in Sakhalin with no points.
Game 1. The Eagles opened the scoring just before the 5-minute mark on a power play. Daisuke Obara inserting the puck into the net as Mitsuaki Inoue was only able to parry Shuhei Kuji‘s shot on goal before Ryo Hashimoto could flick it out to the waiting Obara. Eight minutes later the Cranes leveled the game. After some nice passing in the Eagles defensive area, Masahito Nishiwaki‘s shot was blocked by a skate, the resulting loose puck was then dummied (missed?) through the legs of Shinya Yanadori and picked up by Shogo Nakajima who had an easy time finding the bottom left corner of the Eagles net, with Yuta Narisawa struggling to get back in his crease after the initial shot.
The start of the second period saw the Cranes put the Eagles goal under a lot of pressure before Kenta Takagi picked up a cross-checking penalty for the Cranes with just under 2 minutes gone. The Eagles were able to retake the lead in the resulting power play as Masato Domeki got a tip on a Takafumi Yamashita first timer to knock the puck past Inoue for his 4th goal of the season. Halfway through the period Masato Domeki was able to fight the puck away from two Cranes defensemen on the edge of the crease and set up Yosuke Haga to scoop the puck over the trailing leg of Inoue to double the Eagles lead.
2 minutes into the 3rd period saw Hayato Aiki go on a solo run around the back of the Cranes net before spinning and sending a neat backhand pass across the crease to Tomoya Echigo who tucked the puck under Inoue‘s pads for the final goal of the game. Eagles 4:1 Cranes
Game 2. Both teams started the game brightly with plenty of shots on goal and chances for each way but it took until the 15th minute of the second period before either team could break the deadlock. Picking up a pass on a quick break out of defense, Sho Sato was able to drive forward into the offensive area, fending off a number of defensemen before sniping a peach of a shot into the top corner of Mitsuaki Inoue‘s net to give the Eagles the lead. Inoue didn’t have the best visibility but a great shot nonetheless. Just over a minute later both teams were level again as Hiroki Ueno dispossessed the Eagles on their PP to skate uncontested down the ice to pick himself up a nice shirt handed goal.
With just over 6 minutes gone in the third period, the Eagles took the lead once again as Ryo Hashiba unleashed an inch-perfect wrist shot from just inside the blue line over the left shoulder of Inoue for his first goal of the season. The Cranes responded again ten minutes later, this time on the powerplay. After some good work on the boards by Taiga Irikura, Shunsuke Shigeno smashed a shot past Yuta Narisawa into the back of the twine to set up a grandstand finish. Neither team could pick up the regular time winning goal so it went to overtime. Unfortunately, it was a goalie mistake that decided the game in OT. Yuta Narisawa leaving his crease to deal with a loose puck hit a lazy pass to his defenseman which was picked up by Shuheu Kuji who sent the puck across to Daisuke Obara who had a whole open net to aim for. Eagles 3-2 Cranes
The Eagles seem to do much better at home having won all but 2 of their games in Tomakomai, the Cranes also seem to hate being on the road having lost all of their games away from home ice. Halfway through a short season, there’s still a chance for every team to make the playoffs, as there’s only a difference of 5 points between 3rd and 8th place in the table. These results could push the Eagles on to gain some momentum and stay in the upper echelons of the league table but the opposite could happen for the Cranes if they can’t pick up some W’s soon. Next up for the Eagles is Sakhalin at home where they will hope to prolong their solid home record. The Cranes have no game next weekend but have mid week games the following week also against Sakhalin.
Tohoku Freeblades v Nikko IceBucks
Both teams returned from their 6 game trips to Korea with mixed results. The Freeblades and Bucks both picking up 3 wins respectively.
Game 1 was the first home game for the Blades in almost a month as they looked to hold on to their 2nd place position in the league table, and with Logan Stephenson returning from injury it looked as though they would have a good shot at that.
The Bucks were the first off the mark as Takeshi Saito got himself a PP goal after 8 minutes in the first. Goshi Ito‘s slapshot spilled by Yuto Itoh with Saito in the right place at the right time to stick the puck into the roof of the net. Five minutes later the Freeblades were back on level pegging through a Go Tanaka goal after Yutaka Fukufuji couldn’t get a Goshi Kumagai shot under control.
Two and a half minutes into the second period the Bucks were ahead again. Maito Omuku‘s shot missing the net but rebounding off the boards into the path of Mitsuyoshi Konno who had the entire left side of the net to aim for with Itoh still stuck on the right. Two minutes later the teams were level again as the Freeblades picked up a Powerplay goal, a long-distance effort from Ryo Omiya finding the top right corner of the net through a Kota Shinohara screen. Midway through the period, the Bucks were once again up by a goal after a nice lay off by Yuri Terao allowed Takeshi Saito to smash a shot past Itoh. The Blades responded again six minutes later with another PP goal. Dong Hwan Kim setting up Junichi Takahashi on the left side to blast a shot in off the inside Fukufuji‘s right-hand post. With less than two minutes remaining in the second period, the Freeblades took the lead for the first time in the game. Following a couple of good saves in succession by Fukufuji, Kota Shinohara was able to bundle the puck into the net through a group of players.
Midway through the third Kazuma Iwamoto broke free with the puck behind the Blades net before popping a pass out to Yusei Ohtsu who could first time it into the top shelf to tie up the game for the fourth time. 4 minutes later the Bucks retook the lead on another PP as Ryuichi Kawai‘s shot from the blue line was tipped by Makuru Furuhashi then Hiromichi Terao past Itoh into the back of the net. The game was then tied up for the fifth time with just under 5 minutes left in the game, Takuma Kawai‘s pass to the edge of the crease was met by Ryo Tanaka and deftly flicked into the back of the net to send the game into overtime. Following a scoreless overtime, Petteri Nummelin shot the game-winning goal in the resulting shootout to give the IceBucks the 6:5 win
Following the defeat in the Saturday goal fest the Freeblades were desperate to pick up 3 points to keep them near the top of the table and today they got their wish.
The Sunday game provided another goal fest but it was ultimately in the favor of one team. The first goal of the game came as a shorty for the Freeblades. On the penalty kill, they were able to get the puck to Takuro Yamashita on the left wing who raced on the net, two on one, with Ryo Tanaka before sliding a pass to Tanaka who stuck it away. The teams were back on level pegging less than 30 seconds later when Petteri Nummelin found Yuri Terao all alone at the back post with a nice pass who had plenty of time to hit the back of the twine. The next 7 goals in the game all went to the Freeblades. Midway through the first, Ryo Omiya set up Kazuki Yamamoto who stuck a nice slap shot past Kohei Ono in the Bucks net.
At the start of the second Ryo Omiya went on a nice solo effort down the left wing before cutting inside and sticking a shot past Ono into the bottom right corner of the net. Midway through the second on a Blades PP, Logan Pyett‘s shot on net was spilled by Ono before Takuro Yamashita was able to gather the puck and find Go Tanaka waiting by the left post for an easy tap-in. Three minutes later the Blades got their second shorty of the game when Go Tanka released Michitaka Motono down the right with a pass off the boards who was able to hit a wrist shot in for goal number 5. Then with under ten seconds left in the second period, following some good work between Logan Stephenson and Yoshikazu Kashino the puck was fed to Kota Shinohara who stuck the puck past Ono into the bottom left of the net for goal number 6.
Midway through the third, Logan Stephenson was able to get his name on the scoresheet picking up the puck on the Bucks blue line following a Blades breakaway to score his third goal of the season. Shortly after Yuri Terao had a chance to get one back through a penalty shot, after being hooked by Junichi Takahashi, but Ryo Kano was up to the task and kept the shot out. The final goal of the day was scored by Takuma Kawai on a PP with just under 7 minutes remaining following a decent set up by Go Tanaka. Final score Freeblades 8:1 IceBucks
The Blades continued their high scoring season with 13 goals in these two games. The IceBucks kept up their habit of taking points from the Freeblades too. Game 1, while being a great spectacle for the neutrals, would have been a disappointing game for the Blades, especially defensively. Logan Stephenson‘s return should help them shore up a defense that has been somewhat leaky as of late. They can definitely outscore any team in the league so once they keep the goals conceded to a minimum they will definitely be pushing for a top spot in the league. The Bucks have been doing a decent job this season, while not really generating too much momentum, they have been picking up enough wins here and there to keep them in the hunt for playoff spots. If they can continue this they should be still around in March come postseason.
High1 v Daemung Killer Whales
High1 came into the game with 1 win and 1 loss during the previous weekend against the Freeblades. They knew they needed points quickly as they were sitting at the bottom of the table with all the other teams picking up points. Daemyung returned to action after having the previous weekend off but they did manage 2 wins against the Freeblades also in their midweek games a week and a half previously. They came into the games sitting in 4th spot only 1 point off Halla in 3rd place and 4 points off the Freeblades in 2nd.
The big talking point before the game was the absence of Daemyung goaltender Tyler Weiman due to personal circumstances. Regular backup Chang Min Lee wasn’t chosen to start, instead, new signing Yeon Seung Lee was handed his debut. With just over 30 seconds gone, High1 were one goal up. Jong Soo Park‘s initial shot seemed to get unintentionally blocked by Mike Testwuide before Mike Swift picked up the loose puck and put it past Yeon Seung in net. With the 5-minute mark approaching, Brett Parnham was able to split the High1 defense with a great pass to release Yuta Suzuki who had no problems in finding the back of the net.
3 minutes into the second period Woo Je Sung intercepted a Troy Milam pass on the center line who sent a pass to Bin Ishioka who controlled the puck on his skate before dispatching it past Bacashihua for the Daemyung lead. 14 minutes into the period Woo Je Sung lost the puck in the offensive zone which allowed Hyeon Kuk Cho to make a quick breakaway and set up Kyeok Kim for the equalizing goal. Just over a minute later, Daemyung were once again in the ascendancy. Brett Parnham stole a weak attempted clearance by Byung Jun Bae before shifting the puck over to Matt Murley who was waiting unmarked on the edge of the crease for an easy tap-in and 3:2 lead for Daemyung. Then with just under ten seconds remaining in the period, Troy Milam was penalized for hooking Brett Parnham as he was bearing on the net resulting in a penalty shot for Parnham. Although the PS looked as if it was initially saved by Bacashihua, the puck was able to come loose and creep it’s way over the line for Daemyung’s fourth goal of the game. With High1’s backs against the wall, they needed to come up with something in the third period.
Just under three minutes in Hyeok Kim picked up a PP goal to get them right back into it. Five minutes later, following some good work by Hyeok Kim again, the puck was scrambled away from the crease by the Daemyung defense straight into the path of Jong Soo Park who duly obliged with his first goal of the season. With both teams pushing to get in front now, it was High1 who took the lead through Chan Hwi Lee with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game. He was on hand to pick up Hyung Joon Kim‘s blocked wraparound attempt to score his second goal of the season. As Daemyung desperately pushed forward, Hyung Joon Kim then got himself an empty-netter to seal all three points for High1. High1 6:4 Daemyung
With Weiman still out, Yeon Seung Lee started his second game in a row for the Killer Whales. Despite the Whales having the better chances in the opening exchanges it was High1 who took the lead midway through the first period. Yeon Seung left his crease to pick up a loose puck in the corner but his weak pass up the boards went straight to a High1 player. High1 proceeded to pass it around before Ji Man Yoon was able to launch a first timer into the top right corner of the Daemyung net. High1 went on to double their lead just under a minute later despite being on a penalty kill. Mike Swift winning a faceoff in his defensive zone got the puck to Troy Milam who switched it out to Mike Testwuide. Testwuide then found Swift with a long range pass on the center line who went by two defensemen before hitting a shot that should have been a routine save for Yeon Seung in net, but the puck managed to find its way through and over the line. Mike Swift picking up his 11th goal of the season.
Just over halfway through the second period, High1 extended their lead to three goals when a Byung Jun Bae shot from deep was redirected into the net by Jung Sik Choi for his second goal of the season. It was at this point that Yeon Seung Lee‘s baptism of fire came to an end as he was switched out for Chang Min Lee for the remainder of the game. Just over 3 minutes later Woo Je Sung received a high sticking penalty for what looked to be an accidental hit as the player was turning around. Visibly displeased, Woo Je tested the strength of the glass in the penalty box before he entered it earning himself a 10 min misconduct major. More window testing and questioning of the referee’s ability to do his job earned him an additional 20 min game misconduct and a 25 min match penalty to let him hit the showers early. In the meantime, the battle of the number 51s started in front of the High1 bench with Woo Young Kim earning himself a 2 min roughing penalty and a 10 min misconduct, Geon Hee Han picking up a 2 min unsportsmanlike penalty. With less than 2 min left in the period, Daemyung finally got themselves off the mark when Matt Murley teed up Yuta Suzuki in front of net during the 4 on 4.
Early in the third High1 were on the scoresheet once again with another PP goal when Troy Milam‘s shot was redirected into the net by Hyeon Kuk Cho. Six minutes into the period Brett Parnham shot his 8th goal of the season on a Daemyung breakaway, Matt Murley setting up Parnham to slide one through the five-hole of Jason Bacashihua. With just over 5 minutes remaining a Woo Young Kim shot was spilled by Bacashihua onto the stick of Matt Murley who had enough time to wait and pick out his spot in the back of the net to get the Killer Whales within a goal of High1 in the last few minutes. But just like the previous game, Daemyung again got caught with a late empty-netter from High1, this time Ji Man Yoon hitting the back of the twine. High1 5:3 Daemyung
The major discussion coming out of this game was Tyler Weiman‘s replacement. With Weiman posting up a solid season so far, 2.57 GAA and .912 SVS%, it was always going to be difficult for the backup to fill his skates. Most people had been expecting regular backup goalie Chang Min Lee to be between the sticks but most people were surprised to see Yeon Seung Lee‘s name on the starting teamsheet, despite being a university team player less than a week previous. In my opinion, this is what swayed the games in the favor of High1. Not to belittle the High1 scorers this weekend but Yeon Seung looked very green still when it came to shot-stopping ability and decision making. Obviously, nerves may have come into it, being his professional debut, maybe it came down to a lot of bad luck or maybe the scout’s info wasn’t very accurate. Whatever the reason I can’t understand how Chang Min didn’t start these games. Even though he had only played 4 games in the last two season, he has a season and a half under his belt of training with a professional team, facing higher quality forwards week in and week out at training.
In terms of the results, High1 needed these 2 wins badly to put them back in the hunt for playoff spots as the bottom 6 teams are all close on points now. Daemyung needs to get Weiman back as soon as possible and hope that this weekend’s results don’t slow down what has been a good season so far for them.
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