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.
Image from: Freeblades Facebook Page
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
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