Author: Steven Wills

9/1/2018 Cranes fly high over Icebucks, Free Blades cut through Eagles

Cranes fly high over Icebucks

The Nippon Paper Cranes continued their high flying home opening success with  a 6-1 thrashing of the Nikko Icebucks. For the Cranes it was their 11th home opening victory in 16 seasons and fourth win in five openers against the Icebucks.

Sniper Hiroki Ueno started the scoring for the Cranes with a power play marker at 5:47 into the game with assists from new additions Maxim Potapov and Vyacheslav Trukhno. The two became the first Russian born players to record points for a Japanese based team and will be counted on for production all season.

The Icebucks failed to convert on a powerplay but Mitsuyoshi Konno beat Drew MacIntyre with 47 seconds remaining in the frame on a play setup by Kazuma Iwamoto and newcomer Joonas Alanne. Nippon held a 12-6 shot advantage in the first.

It only took 1:50 into the second for Kenta Takagai to put the Cranes up 2-1 with assists from Ushu Mei and Trukhno. Trukhno would make history at 35:49 when he became the first Russian to score for a Japanese team with assists going to Yuki Yamazaki and Kento Suzuki. The 3-1 lead was enough for the Icebucks to replace Yutaka Fukufuji made 22 saves on 25 shots. Kohei Ono finished out the second for Nikko.

Ono was tested quickly in the third period as Nikko killed off a Cranes powerplay two minutes into the period. However, shortly after, Nippon struck quickly with two goals in 16 seconds from Ueno and Yokuto Takami which lead to Hiromichi Terao taking his frustration out with a head shot that cost him five minutes and a game misconduct.

Naoya Kubo Rounded out the scoring with his first goal in two seasons.

Shots: Cranes 35 Icebucks 20 Powerplay Cranes 1-3 Icebucks 0-2.

Free Blades cut through Eagles

A 64:45 roller-coaster ride with 9 powerplays and 4 lead changes sent most of 1137 fans at Hachinohe home with a smile on their faces. Oji gained the first chance when Takuma Kawai took a slashing penalty but it was short lived when Takafumi Yamashita drew a holding call 1:05 later. Luckily for the Eagles the Blades couldn’t convert any of their three power play chances in the period. The Eagles seized a 4 on 4 play to open the scoring at 18:55 with Yamashita finishing off the play with assists going to Seiji Takahashi and Dominic Forget.

A more energized Blades team came out in the second period and Go Tanaka scored a powerplay marker at 23:55 from Shigeki Hitosato and defenseman/assistant coach Logan Stephenson. The 1-1 was short lived as again the Eagles struck during a 4 on 4 chance with Forget getting his first Asia League goal with assists from Yamashita and Takahashi. The teams would trade unsuccessful  powerplays before the Blades tied it up again. This time the veteran line of Kota Shinohara, Junya Yamada and Yoshikazu Kashino were the Blades saviors.

Tohoku took the momentum of the second to jump out to a 3-2 lead 1:50 into the third on Shigeki Hitosato’s first aided by Shinohara and Nick St. Pierre. The Eagles tied it up again less than three minutes later on a goal by Masato Domeki with helpers from Shuhei Kuji and Yusuke Kon.

Overtime started with Oji carrying over 1:44 of powerplay time from the third period but Michikazu Hata was solid in the Blades net as the roller coaster game came out of its final turn with 15 seconds remaining for Timofey Shishkanov to score the winner for the Blades.

Shots: Blades 31 Eagles 31 Powerplay Blades 1-6 Eagles 0-3.

16th Asia League Ice Hockey season starts today!

The 2018-19 Asia League ice hockey season starts today with a pair of games.

The Nippon Paper Cranes host the Nikko Icebucks @ 17:00 in Kushiro, Japan. The Cranes are 10-5 in season home openers, but have lost the last two including a 4-3 shootout loss to the Icebucks last season.

Today will be the fifth time the Cranes open at home against Nikko and so far they have a 4-1 record.

Season Cranes Icebucks
17-18 3 SO 4
12-13 5 SO 4
10-11 3 1
03-04 6 5

In the other opening day game, the Oji Eagles visit the Tohoku Free Blades in Hachinohe, Japan @ 17:00. It is the Blades 10th anniversary this year and they look to make their seventh playoff appearance. Tohoku are 5-4 in season home openers.



Asia League 15th season


The Asia League started its fifteenth season with all eight teams in  a shortened 28 game schedule due to Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The opening weekend saw a few players hit milestones:

400 points – Masato Domeki, Oji Eagles

10 shutouts – Inoue Mitsuaki 井上 光明

5 shutouts – Itoh Yuto 伊藤 優人

50 wins – Hata Michikazu 畑 享和

50 wins – Yuta Narisawa 成澤 優太

450 games played – Kota Shinohara, Tohoku Free Blades

250 game played – Kim Ki-Sung, Anyang Halla

100 games played – Yusei Ohtsu, Nikko Icebucks

100 games played – Dmitri Fakhrutdinov, Sakhalin

Oh Shoot! David Bonk signs with Nippon Paper Cranes

Six Year Asia League Vet signs with Cranes after tenure with Nikko Icebucks

David Bonk of Brandon, Manitoba reunites with his old linemate, Hiroki Uneo. The duo did some serious damage while with the Icebucks. Bonk always fierce competitor, will set up a goal, score a goal or push your nose to the back of your head depending on the situation. He joins a Cranes team that finished fifth last season and had quick departure from the playoffs.

The Cranes will depend on the Icebucks all-time leading scorer’s 61 points a season average to lead them to a better finish in 2017-18.

Source: Nippon Paper Cranes Facebook Page

Icebucks sign Finnish forward, Jesse Niinimaki

Well traveled 33-year-old forward to suit up for his 17th professional team

The Nikko Icebucks have announced the signing of Jesse Niinimaki, who is coming off the  most productive season of his career. The 190 cm forward played for Yunost Minsk last season and finished sixth in league scoring with 41 points (7 G 34) in 39 games. He finished second in assists and in power play scoring with 2o points (3 G 17 A).