Category: Game Preview

Hockey In Asia Podcast 5 – February 2019

Preview of the 2018/19 ALIH Playoff Semi Final
Reviewing the end of season awards 
Discussing the future of the Asia League after this season
Predictions for the playoffs
Host: David Dunne (Daithi O Duinn)
Guest: Stompin’ David O’Flaherty
Guest: SangYoon Lee 이상윤 Insta: @hockeynightinkorea

Hockey In Asia Podcast 2 – April 2018

Previewing the 2018-19 Asia League Hockey Season
Rules on Import players
Potential for new teams in the league
Changes fans would like to see in the league

Host: David Dunne (Daithi O Duinn)
Guests: Colin Dabbs (Hockey In Asia Photographer), Pablo Sherman (Hockey In Asia Media Coordinator), David O’Flaherty, Ryan Stephenson, Yassine ‘Yaz’ Houri

Asia League Hockey Finals – Preview

As another, albeit short, season winds to an end we have the little matter of the Asia League Championship to tend to.

Anyang Halla will head into their 4th Asia League playoff final in a row but will face off against an unfamiliar foe, the Oji Eagles, who will be appearing in their first final since the 2013-14 season. At the start of the playoffs, everyone and their dog had money on a third Halla Sakhalin final. But after a couple of rousing performances in Takomakai, the underdogs etched themselves out a 3-2 win over the heavy favorites.

Oji will come into the game on the back of 8 playoff games, having also played a qualifying round against the Nikko Icebucks to get into the semifinal. They seem to be peaking at the right time in the season too with some of their big players coming to the forefront in the postseason, most notably Stephane Veilleux, Barry Tallackson and Shuhei Kuji. All three players have been posting impressive numbers in a small number of games.

PLAYER REGULAR SEASON POSTSEASON
Stephane Veilleux GP: 28 G:A: 8 TP: 16 GP: 8 G: 4 A: 2 TP: 6
Barry Tallackson GP: 28 G:A: 12 TP: 17 GP: 8 G: 3 A: 1 TP: 4
Shuhei Kuji GP: 26 G: 12 A: 15 TP: 27 GP: 8 G: 4 A: 3 TP: 7

In between the pipes, Yuta Narisawa has improved on his regular season stats in the postseason too.

PLAYER REGULAR SEASON POSTSEASON
Yuta Narisawa GP: 24 GAA: 2.27 SVS%: .923 GP: 8 GAA: 1.95 SVS%: .937

Halla are also on a decent run coming into this game. Despite having lost the first game of their semifinal series they picked up 3 wins in a row to earn their place in the finals. Seemingly suffering from some Olympic hangovers, it took a full strength Halla team a couple of games to shift up through the gears and get back to a team that looks like they could potentially win a third championship in a row.

Unsurprisingly, Matt Dalton has been the standout player for Halla again, maintaining his .942 save percentage from the regular season.

PLAYER REGULAR SEASON POSTSEASON
Matt Dalton GP:20 GAA: 1.78 SVS%: .942 GP: 4 GAA: 1.50 SVS%: .942

At the other end of the ice, no one player has been out and out leading the teams in goals. For the majority of the season, the third line has been heavily relied on for goals, outscoring the first line 24 goals to 18. In the postseason, the goals have been spread throughout the team, Brock Radunske being the only player to hit the back of the net more than once.

This looks like it could be an interesting tie. Both teams seem to have generated some momentum at the right time. Oji’s extra playoff games and participation in the Japan cup could definitely push things in their favor with the extra match fitness, especially with a lot of Hallas non national team players not getting much in the way of match practice for close to 3 months.

Oji have been relying on their 2nd line for a lot of their goals whereas Halla have been depending on their 3rd line to hit the twine for them. A lot of these games could come down to the strength in depth of both teams, which would give Halla the edge. Halla’s main concern will be their power play conversion which has been very poor as of late. Obviously, they need the goals from the PP but consistently failing to pick up points with an extra man on the ice can be very demoralizing for a team.

Prediction: Halla to make it 3 in a row (3-1).

In the regular season, Halla had a 3-1 record over the Eagles and I think that could be the case again in the finals. I can see the Eagles picking up a win at home, possibly catching Halla flat-footed in the first game, but overall I think Halla will have too much for them, having 3 strong lines and a good special team.

Asia League 2017-18 Playoff Semi Final Preview

After last night’s victory for the Eagles over the Icebucks in the first round of playoffs, the Semifinal picture is set up.

Sakhalin vs Oji Eagles

Anyang Halla vs Tohoku Freeblades

 

Sakhalin vs Oji Eagles:

3/10, 3/11 & 3/12- Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk

3/17, 3/18 – Tomakomai (if needed)

Sakhalin is coming into the playoffs after a very long break. The last competitive game they had was on December 8th, and they had already cemented top spot in the league by then so the game didn’t count for anything.

Oji, on the other hand, will be coming into these games on the back of the Japan Cup and a tightly contested first round of playoffs.

On paper, this should be an easy win for Sakhalin. In the regular season, Sakhalin picked up 4 wins from 4 games against the Eagles. In regular season scoring, Sakhalin posted a +30 goal differential compared to Oji’s +1 GD.

Oji Eagles will be relying heavily on their high scoring third line of Captain Shuhei Kuji, Daisuke Obara,  and Seiji Takahashi, who posted a combined total of 79 points in the regular season. Sakhalin’s first line will be expected to do most of the damage for them with Alexei Eremin, Kirill Startcev, and Nikolai Zhilin putting up a combined 82 points during the season.

While the Eagles will have some momentum going into the game and Sakhalin look like they will have some rust to shake off, I can’t look past Sakhalin making it to the final for the 3rd year in a row. I can see the Eagles maybe picking up a victory but and forcing at least one game in Japan, but I feel that the Sakhalin machine is too big and well organized to be threatened in any meaningful way.

Prediction: Sakhalin progress to the final (3-1)

Anyang Halla vs Tohoku Freeblades:

This should be the more interesting of the semi-final ties. Both teams, in this case, should have no rust issues as the Freeblades played in the competitive Japan cup in February and the majority of the Anyang Halla team were part of the Korea National team that took part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Games between the 2014-15 finalists are always tightly contested affairs with plenty of hits. Freeblades hold an advantage over Halla in the regular season, winning 3 of the 4 games. Scoring wise, Halla holds a +19 goal differential to the Freeblades +3, most of this down to Hallas superior defensive record.

Individually, neither team had any stand out scorers this year, with Scott Barney leading the Halla scoring charts with 9 goals and the Freeblades Go Tanaka and Kota Shinohara both on 10 goals. It was a case of depth throughout the lines that pushed both teams towards the higher end of the league table with some of the higher scorers coming from the third lines.

With the return of the national team players, after their heroics at the winter Olympics, the ball seems to be firmly in Anyang Halla’s court to make it to the finals. With a full team and all of the big names in prime condition after months of Olympic training, Halla will be favorites going into this series. That’s not to say that that the Freeblades won’t give them a game. If Halla doesn’t go at these games at full tilt then the Freeblades are more than capable of taking advantage. Any Olympic hangover or cockiness from the Halla players could be a death sentence for them in terms of making the final.

This will most likely come down to the battle of the goalies between Yuto Itoh and Matt Dalton. Whichever is on the better form in the series could be the difference maker.

Prediction: Halla progress to the final (3-0)