Halla’s poor season continues, Daemyung and the IceBucks rack up big scores, Sakhalin start pulling away at the top of the table
Six teams were in action this weekend with 2 matches in Korea and 1 in Russia.
Anyang Halla v Tohoku Freeblades
With Halla picking up only 1 win the previous weekend and the Freeblades not picking up any, it was a case of both teams trying to get themselves back on track with the midway point of the season fast approaching.
Game 1. Halla started the brighter of the two teams picking up the lion’s share of the early possession and shots on goal, but it was the Freeblades who were first on the score sheet. After Matt Dalton brilliantly stopped Dong Hwan Kim at the near post, the Blades were able to recycle possession and pick out Go Tanaka on his own at the far post for an easy finish. After this, the game became the Yuto Itoh show as he kept out 16 Halla shots in the second period and 17 in the third to earn his second shutout of the season and a big 3 points for the Blades.
Game 2 saw Halla’s first line offense combine and score after 23 seconds, with Ki Sung Kim picking up his third goal of the season. Having not hit the back of the net in 45 attempts the previous day, you could feel the sense of relief in the Anyang Ice Rink.This relief, however, lasted less than 2 minutes as Ryo Tanaka pulled one back on a power play. 3 minutes later Ryo Tanaka got his second of the game, skating around the back of the net to shoot in off the back of Matt Dalton‘s leg. The second period saw Anyang dominate the shooting stats again, 21:2, but still couldn’t find their way through Itoh. Logan Pyett got to hit the showers early as he got charged with a Game Misconduct for a charging offense on Kuk Hwan Mun in the 35th minute. Another onslaught of shots on Itoh in the third period ensued, but it was eventually Woo Sang Park in the 54th minute who was able to poke a shot through a crowd past the goaltender to tie up the game. The Freeblades didn’t panic however and were able to restore there lead through Takuma Kawai with 61 seconds on the clock. He was able to snipe past Dalton into the top left corner with Halla defenseman Eric Regan providing an unintentional screen on the goalie. Blades held on for a 3-2 victory.
The Freeblades, Yuto Itoh especially, played 2 excellent games and earned their 6 points through a tight defense and taking opportunities when they presented themselves. The big question on everyone’s mind is “Why is Halla playing so poorly this season?”. There may be a few reasons:
1. Hallas poor Powerplay. Highlighted in there last 2 games especially. Halla spent a huge amount of time over the 2 games on the PP yet only scored 1 goal. They have had similar problems in previous games too, especially on the road.
2. Failure to replace goalscorers. Mike Testwuide, Mike Radja, Sang Hoon Shin and Jin Hui Ahn all left Halla during the offseason. All four of these players were able to skate first or second line and were all able to pick up goals last season. Testwuide 23 goals in 44 games, Radja 9 goals in 18 games, Sang Hoon 21 goals in 42 games and Jin Hui 19 goals in 47 games. This season Brock Radunske has since returned from injury and Ruslan Bernikov and Scott Barney have been brought in also. Radunske has just come back from major hip surgery and was always going to need time to dust off the cobwebs, Bernikov, however, hasn’t been able to match the standards he set a Sakhalin as of yet and hasn’t played in the last number of games. Barney so far has done well leading the team in goals, 5 in 12 games, but he is playing on the third line mostly which may limit his potential.
3. Players may be focusing too much on the Olympics. Some of the fans have expressed concerns that some of the Korean national team players may be easing off the gas a little in the Asia League games due to their involvement in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. While it is understandable that playing in the Olympics will probably be the highlight of many of the players’ careers, from the fans point of view they still want the team to be competing at a high level in their domestic league. Hopefully, this isn’t the case. The Japanese teams especially, seem to be playing every game with a far more physical and high tempo style of hockey, usually reserved for playoffs, due to the fact that the season is so short this year. Halla will need to be playing at their best to keep up with them.
Maybe Halla are having trouble finding their feet or maybe it’s just a lot of bad luck coming together but they could struggle to make the playoffs if they don’t improve soon.
Daemyung Killer Whales v Nikko IceBucks
Daemyung returned to home ice with 4 losses in their last 4 games. The IceBucks hit the road after 2 wins at home against the Freeblades.
Game 1. This game was a quite a spectacle for the neutral fans as it was back and forth on the ice for all three periods. Nikko drew first blood 14min into the first period as a quick breakaway saw them bear down on Tyler Weiman‘s goal, popping a pass from behind the net for Kazuma Iwamoto to neatly finish off. The second period saw Daemyung respond with 3 goals in a row. The first coming from Yuta Suzuki during a 5 on 3 PP, the second from Woo Je Sung a minute later during the remaining PP and the third and nicely finished backhand from Yae Hun Hwang on a breakaway. Nikko did manage to pull one back before the end of the period with Makuru Furuhashi shooting a nice wrister into the top corner of the net. Nikko took control of the game again at the start of the third period. Ryuichi Kawai netting a PP goal and Takeshi Saito putting them ahead 4-3 in the 9th minute of the period. Then with 7 minutes remaining in the game, some neat passing back and forth between Matt Murley and Yuta Suzuki saw Murley smash home a PP goal to tie up the game once more.
OT saw the Icebucks create more chances, one flurry of shots in particular almost winning the game for them, but Weiman held out to push the game to a shootout. Doo Hyun Hwang and Takeshi Saito both scoring before Hiromichi Terao shot the GWG to earn the IceBucks the extra point.
Game 2 started in a somewhat similar fashion as the IceBucks took an early lead again. An excellent pass from Makuru Furuhashi out wide left Petteri Nummelin with the easy job of just rounding Weiman in nets tapping the puck over the line. Daemyung then picked it up a gear and responded with 4 PP goals in a row. Matt Murley picking up the first after some nice passing by Daemyung, Woo Je Sung got a touch on a Shun Sakata shot 3 min into the second period to give them the lead, Brett Parnham shooting the third with a near side effort that goalie, Yutaka Fukufuji, will be disappointed in himself with and the fourth goal from Hyung Kyeum Kim. Nikko did manage to pull one back in the third when Hiroto Sato pounced on a loose puck and backhanded it past the goalie but this was only a consolation goal as Brett Parnham got his second of the night with an empty-netter from his own blue line with 39 seconds remaining on the clock.
Sakhalin v Nippon Paper Cranes
Sakhalin were home again this week after last weeks two wins over High1. The Cranes put in two good performances against Halla in Kushiro picking up one win.
Game 1 saw both teams contest a fairly even first period, with Vitaliy Zatsepilin picking up the only goal of the period in a goalmouth scramble during a PP. Alexey Tkachuk doubled their lead with just over 4 min left in the second as he picked up an Alexey Eremin faceoff win to smash past Mitsuaki Inoue in net. The Cranes got their first and only of the game 3 min into the third period after a nice drive down the ice by Shunsuke Shigeno then Ikki Ikeda sticking a slapper past Andrei Stelmakh. Sakhalin saw out the game strongly again as Vitaliy Zatsepilin got his second PP goal of the game 2 minutes later and Kirill Startcev put the game to bed with 8 minutes to go with a scrappy effort in the crease. Sakhalin 4-2 Cranes
Game 2 was more of the same as Sakhalin took a 1-0 out of the first period. Kirill Srartcev opening the Sakhalin account for the day. Kirill Polyansyiy doubled the lead 14 minutes into the second period before Alexey Eremin made it 3-0 3 minutes into the third. Kenta Takagi was able to get one back 2 minutes later during a PP and Shinya Yanadori made it two in a row for the Cranes to give them some hope with just over five minutes remaining int he game. But alas this was not to be as Sakhalin stuck in their 4th of the through an Andrey Golyshev open netter to give them their second victory in as many days
Videos by Anyang Halla, On The Sports and OneTeamSakhalin Youtube channels
Photo by Daemyung Killer Whales Facebook Page