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    2008-09 AL Season Review

    Posted by simon c on 2009 April 9日 Thursday

    I’m currently lacking both the brain cells and the time to do this properly, so the 2008-09 Asia League Ice Hockey season will be reviewed in bullet point style.

    • Nippon Paper Cranes reign supreme again! Asia League power house returns to the top after fighting through 3 rounds of playoffs, and going the full 7 in both the semi and finals. The Cranes last won the trophy 2 seasons ago, so it was a short absence from the top.
    • Seibu Prince Rabbits fold. The tin foil hat says that this is part of Seibu Group’s attempt to rid of Tsutsumi colours (including the baseball team’s uniform colour, literally). There’s hope of the team being resurrected as an independent pro club team as seen in an earlier post on this blog.
    • Anyang Halla is back, but High1 falls back. Anyang Halla added quality imports, got its sniper Song Dong-Hwan back from 2 years of military service (he didn’t miss a beat, being 4th in league scoring 3 seasons ago as well as this past season), and rookies who immediately contributed by finishing top 10 in scoring (Kim Ki-Sung and Park Woo-Sang who were just from universities drafted in the offseason). High1 was 2nd in the 2007-08 regular season, but fell down to 5th place and immediately got swept in the first round play in against the Cranes. 1st to 4th this year was a complete toss up, but then there was a big gap to High1 in 4th. High1 will be looking to climb back up to the top half of the table next season, and especially not to finish the season below their Korean rivals Halla.
    • The bottom of the table was occupied by the usual suspects, the Nikko Ice Bucks and the Chinese entry, the China Sharks. But things were upside down this past season with the Sharks crawling out of the basement thanks in large part to Wade Flaherty’s Herculian efforts (he won the Best Goalie Award) and kicked the troubled Bucks down into the basement. 
    • Since there were no double digit blowouts like in previous seasons when teams could run up the score on Chinese teams, finally for the first time, stats in the Asia League is actually quite credible (no need to sift through strength of schedule, opponents, and run a query). So let’s take a look at the scoring board:
    • 0809_al_scoring
    • High powered offence of Halla has 5  players ranked in the top 11, including a rookie in Kim Ki-Sung, and sniper Song Dong-Hwan who returned to the league after missing the last 2 seasons due to mandatory military service for all Korean adult males (except big time celebrities and sports figures it seems, if they can win exemptions or wiggle their way out). There are many of the usual suspects on the list including Suzuki and Prpic of Seibu, but who knows what their future holds for now. And Chris Yule showed his former team that he was still an offensive force. 
    • Additionally, defenceman Jon Awe (AHL 12+17=29) finished on top of scoring for defencemen ahead of Asia League and national team vet Aaron Keller (OJI 5+19=24) and AL sophomore Richard Rochefort (SPR 7+17=24), and Halla’s other import Brad Fast (7+27 = 34) ranked high in league scoring, prompting an unprecedented move by an AL team when Anyang Halla re-signed all their imports to multi-year deals with scoring leader Brock Radunski signing a 3-year contract and the others to 2-years.
    • This was in part prompted by Halla’s awesome offence as they became the first non-Japanese team to win the regular season (and were one win away from becoming the first non-Japanese team in the playoff finals). The awesome Halla offence racked up 150 goals in 36 games for a very impressive 4.17 G/G with and converted astonishing 38% of their power play chances for 54 goals. I’m sure Halla is glad to have their offence intact for next season, as they were only a win away from reaching the finals.
    • While all other teams allowed 95 goals or more, the finally nicknamed Oji Eagles impressively only let in 77 goals, and were also 2nd in the league in both the power play and the penalty kill.
    • Finally, since Deanna brought her big camera with her to game 7 of the finals, we have some good pictures of the final game for the Seibu Prince Rabbits.

    (Photos courtesy of Deanna)

    Cranes celebrate first goal of the game by Darcy Mitani.

    186-goalscored

    Seibu Prince Rabbits and Japan national team captain Takahito Suzuki who almost singlehandedly won the championship for Seibu, scoring the game winner with 45 seconds left in game 6, then both of Seibu’s goals in game 7.

    037-suzuki1

    Cranes goalie Hisashi Ishikawa, the playoff MVP, who unbelievably stopped 54 of 56 shots for the game 7 victory.

    284-ishikawa

    Cranes with the Asia League trophy, congratulations!! (and let’s hope there are at least 7 teams in the league again next season..)

    460-trophy

    more photos after this break:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion, statistics, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Nikko IceBucks injuries

    Posted by simon c on 2008 October 1日 Wednesday

    Only 5 games into this 2008-09 AL season (36 games long), the Nikko IceBucks have already been hit by the injury bug in their games against the Seibu Prince Rabbits and the China Sharks. Forward Kojiro Tsuji and Defencemen Keisuke Toda and Toshiaki Okamoto are all out of the lineup for an extended period of time, this came in a crucial period of the Bucks season where the team plays 6 games in the first 12 days of October where a 3 game Korean roadtrip is thrown in for good measure.

    Tsuji is out for 2 months with a spine fracture.

    Toda is out for 3 weeks with a right ankle bone fracture.

    Okamoto is recovering from his left wrist fracture but won’t be able to return to the team for another 2 weeks.

    Since the Bucks have a bare minimum roster of 23 players, and all injured players received significant playing time last season, these injuries have critical impact on the team in a very trying part of their schedule. We’ll see how the team copes with this situation starting with the game against a resurgent and powerful Anyang Halla (their power play firing at 110%, literally, as AL measures PP success against PP time, and Halla have scored 11 PP goals in only 20 minutes of man advantage) tonight at home at Kirifuri Arena.

    Posted in 02_English, 03_Translations (英訳ポートフォリオ), Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

    AL 2008 Preseason Wrap

    Posted by simon c on 2008 September 17日 Wednesday

    The Asia League 2008 preseason schedule in Japan has concluded with a series over games over this past long weekend and here are the results:

    9.14 Seibu Prince Rabbits 6 (1-0, 2-1, 3-2) 3 Nikko IceBucks (@ Higashifushimi, Tokyo)

    The Bucks yet again did not dress their two imports, Mickey Gilchrist and Eric Lafreniere. Let’s hope that’s their missing ingredient for some success in the upcoming AL season. The Bucks only played 2 preseason games against Seibu and lost them both. Seibu went 1-5 in Bayern, Germany in late August and won both games against the Bucks to finish the preseason 3-5 (though, only winning against weaker opposition, so it’s a bit difficult to gauge the now Chris Yule-less Rabbits strength at the moment, I’ll see the 2 teams in action as the 2008-09 regular season opens on the 20th.) 

    80th Hokkaido Ice Hockey Championships (A class)Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

    Semifinals

    9.13 Nippon Paper Cranes 5 (2-0, 0-0, 3-0) 0 Toyota Jidosha Hokkaido Centuries

    9.13 Kushiro Koseisha IHC 0 (0-2, 0-2, 0-6) 10 Oji Eagles

    As expected, the AL teams totally outclassed their amateur opponents, though Toyota did well keeping things close against the Cranes until the final frame (though I have no idea what kind of lineup the Cranes iced that day).

    3rd place match

    9.14 Toyota Jidosha Hokkaido Centuries 9 (1-0, 4-1, 4-1) 2 Kushiro Koseisha IHC

    Toyota proves once again that they’re the best amateur side on the northern island of Hokkaido.

    Finals

    9.14 Nippon Paper Cranes 2 (1-1, 0-1, 1-0, 0-1) 3 Oji Eagles

    Eagles squeak by the Cranes in OT to take the Hokkaido Championship.

    33rd Annual Mainichi Cup Oji Eagles v Nippon Paper Cranes @ Tsukisamu Arena, Sapporo

    9.14 Nippon Paper Cranes 2 (0-1, 1-1, 1-0, 0-1) 3 Oji Eagles

    Eagles repeat the feat the very next day in their annual match against the Cranes.

    Eagles look to be in top form already, having gone undefeated in the Anyang Cup then defeating the Cranes in consecutive games. Though the Cranes have added elite point-getter Chris Yule and with the return of Masahito Nishiwaki (ECHL Dayton Bombers last season), they’re also a force to be reckoned with. Hokkaido teams may very well rule the roost again this season (especially with the Cranes going with imports who are veterans with NHL experience, unlike their cheapskate import attempt last season. Cranes were also undefeated in the Anyang Cup.)  

    Coming up, regular season opens on the 20th, so hopefully a season preview post before that, as there has been a fair number of player movements across the league. (Oh, and I also have to prepare for a couple of hockey pool drafts  :P  )

    And in an interesting practice match, the Japanese universiad team defeated Korea’s Yonsei University 2-0 on 9 September in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Nikko IceBucks 2008-09 Changes

    Posted by simon c on 2008 September 7日 Sunday

    The Nikko IceBucks have welcomed 4 new members to the team for the 2008-09 season. 2 have passed open tryouts and they are defenceman Hiroki Iwasaki (Komadai-Tomakomai – Harrington College, Jr.A) and forward Shoichi Nakanishi (Nikko HS – Waseda Univ). And it’s good news that the team has the financial resources for 2 imports this season, and they are Eric Lafreniere (FRA-1) and his Middlebury (NCAA Div III) teammate for 3 seasons Mickey Gilchrist (AIHL Newcastle North Stars) who absolutely destroyed Aussie competition over the summer by scoring about 4 points a game to win the AIHL scoring title in only 15 games. Lafreniere and Gilchrist are both small but capable forwards and should be well suited for the less physical AL game. The Bucks have a bare minimum roster of 12 forwards, 8 defencemen, and 3 goalies, so player conditioning will be most important as any injury will be devastating to the squad.

    Pictures are small but the Nikko IceBucks have announced their new jerseys for this season

    Also, the Bucks are collaborating with Tobu railways (which connects Tokyo to Nikko), and will wear special Tobu railway uniforms against Seibu (which is sponsored by the Seibu railways). And special wrap Tobu trains will run between Tobu-dobutsu-koen and Nakameguro, starting in late September.

    Preseason finally got under way for the Bucks (latest out of the 7 AL teams) with a 1-3 loss (final goal an emptynetter) today to Seibu who went on an 11 day 6 game training trip to Bayern in Germany late last month.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    アイスバックスがMickey Gilchrist選手を獲得

    Posted by simon c on 2008 September 2日 Tuesday

    アジアリーグの日光アイスバックスが、2008年AIHL (オーストラリア・アイスホッケー・リーグ)で圧倒的破壊力を見せて、たったの15試合出場で30G+37A=37P (1試合4ポイント強!)を獲得してポイント王になったオタワ出身のMickey Gilchrist 選手と契約をした模様です。久しぶりの外国籍選手です。まだ公式発表されていませんが、なかなか面白い獲得です。資金難のバックスはいつも他のチームが探していないところで選手を発掘していますので、またまた注目選手が出てきました。ビザ関係でチーム合流に遅れなければ、9月前半のSEIBUプリンスラビッツとのプレシーズン・マッチで拝見できそうですね。しかしアジアリーグよりレベルの低いであろうオーストラリアリーグ、ホームページについてはとても充実しているみたいです、是非ALに見習ってほしい(^^;

    追記:Gilchrist 選手、今年までアメリカの大学Division III の学校でプレーしていて、毎年ポイントランキングでチームの1位か2位でした

    Posted in 01_日本語, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Asia League 2008-09 (tentative)

    Posted by simon c on 2008 July 17日 Thursday

    Still no official announcement yet but some details are trickling out about the upcoming Asia League Ice Hockey season (from International Hockey Forums). *My thoughts in italics.

    —————————–

    Per a top official from one the teams in the league, the following changes and schedules will apply the the 2008-09 Asia League season:

    1) This season and next, the China Sharks will be allowed to have a total of seven import players. As for the Korean teams the limit will be four imports until 2011.

    *Additionally, Sharks are supposed to have moved their team from Beijing to Shanghai. Hopefully they’ve found a permanent home now as they’ve been a rogue team changing hometowns every season (and consequently getting no local support or attendance, coupled with bad/lack of marketing probably). No word on the number of imports for Japanese teams, but they’ll probably remain the same with 2 per team, except for Nikko IceBucks who were allowed to ice 3-4 imports last season but were unable to afford them.

    2) Pre-season: A Total of 5 teams will participate (Halla, High1, Sharks, Cranes, Oji)

    *This is probably in reference to the preseason Anyang Cup which was held last season for the first time and AL wants to make it an annual tournament. Seoul’s Yonsei University also participated in the tournament last season and fared well (tying or playing a 1 goal game against an AL team last season). China Sharks replace SEIBU PrinceRabbits in the tournament this year, it seems.

    3) Shootout: Starting this season, there will be a shootout after overtime if the game is still tied. Three players from each team will shoot. If nothing is decided, next goal would be a winning goal. If nothing is decided after the 7th shooter, the same player can take the shot until the winning goal is scored

    With the introduction of the shootout, the regular-season point system also has been changed.

    New Point Format: W (3 point) L (0) OTW (2) OTL(1) SOW (2) SOL (1)
    Old point Format: W (3 point) L (0) OTW (2) OTL (1)

    *Though they’re exciting, I saw nothing wrong with having ties during the regular season. I mean if the teams couldn’t decide on a winner through regulation and overtime, then a tie is well deserved. But then again eliminating ties makes all games worth 3 points, and I guess that’s fair, since the 3 point win wasn’t brought into the AL to encourage scoring (the games already feature lots of scoring, unlike when soccer introduced the 3 point win).

    4) Playoff Format: Until last season, 6 teams out of 7 made the playoffs. Starting this season, five teams will make the playoffs. For the 1st Round, 4th vs 5th seeded team will play a best-of-three series. The 1st,2nd ,3rd seeded teams get a bye.

    For the second round, 1st seeded team plays the mini-series winner, and the second and third seeded teams play each other. It will be a best-of-seven series format.

    The finals, for the first time, will also be a best-of-seven series.

    *I like this change. It makes getting into the playoffs more difficult in this small 7 team league. And there is still value in finishing in the top 3, especially 1st as they get a bye and get to play a series worn 4th or 5th seed. Wonder if the Bucks and the Sharks will have a fighting chance for the last playoff position.

    5) There will be a total of 36 regular season games per club during the 2008-2009 regular season, up from 30 games last season.

    *Great improvement! The league has been reducing the number of regular season games (probably for cost cutting reasons). But this had been really hurting the only truly professional club in the league, Nikko, because the Bucks rely on gate receipts as their primary income, whereas other teams are sponsored by corporations/government. Plus hopefully I’ll get to catch more games live with this change.

    6) The pre-season starts Sept. 4th~7th for the clubs. The regular season runs Sept. 27 to Jan 25.

    7) The playoffs will start on Feb 19, ending no later than March 24.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    2007-08 Asia League Ice Hockey Regular Season Review and Playoff Preview

    Posted by simon c on 2008 February 16日 Saturday

    The 2007-08 season of AL was competed with 7 teams (the league makeup changes every year, hopefully we’ll get some new teams entering the league in the near future). The top 6 teams make the playoffs (haha), the top 2 teams get a bye in the first round where 3rd plays 6th and 4th plays 5th.

    I was going to write a more thorough season review and playoff preview, but work and the recycle paper scandal (and the McLennan story that was too good to pass up) took up too much of my time, and the playoffs begin today, so here’s a quick summary. (EDIT: Or so I thought, this turned out to be, by far, the longest article I’ve written so far for my young blog. And it seriously needs editing and is full of grammatical and other errors… but I’ve got a real job and this is just a hobby so please bear with my late night stream of consciousness, thanks.)

    Final Standings

    RK

    Team

    G

    W

    OTW

    T

    OTL

    L

    GF – GA

    Points

    1

    Seibu Prince Rabbits

    30

    20

    0

    1

    0

    9

    138 – 73

    61

    2

    High1 Ice Hockey Team

    30

    17

    2

    1

    2

    8

    118 – 89

    58

    3

    Oji Ice Hockey Team

    30

    17

    1

    2

    2

    8

    112 – 74

    57

    4

    Nippon Paper Cranes

    30

    15

    1

    2

    1

    11

    97 – 85

    50

    5

    Anyang Halla Ice Hockey Club

    30

    13

    1

    2

    1

    13

    93 – 92

    44

    6

    HC Nikko IceBucks

    30

    8

    2

    2

    0

    18

    60 – 109

    30

    7

    China Sharks

    30

    3

    0

    0

    1

    26

    63 – 159

    10

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/9/standings.html

    Scoring Leaders

    RK

    Player Name

    No

    Team

    GP

    G

    A

    P

    1

    KIM, Alex

    79

    HG1

    30

    23

    28

    51

    2

    PRPIC, Joel

    33

    SPR

    27

    17

    30

    47

    3

    SMITH, Tim

    21

    HG1

    30

    23

    23

    46

    4

    MARTINEC, Patrik

    43

    AHL

    29

    7

    29

    36

    5

    ENDICOTT, Shane

    12

    OJI

    30

    13

    22

    35

    5

    MITANI, Darcy Takeshi

    20

    NPC

    28

    13

    22

    35

    5

    SMITH, Bud

    58

    HG1

    30

    9

    26

    35

    5

    SUZUKI, Takahito

    18

    SPR

    30

    13

    22

    35

    5

    YULE, Chris

    75

    SPR

    30

    10

    25

    35

    10

    FUJITA, Kiyoshi

    40

    SPR

    28

    16

    18

    34

    10

    SAITO, Takeshi

    19

    OJI

    30

    11

    23

    34

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/9/point_rank.html

    Goalie Stats (sorted by Save %, goalies who faced over 100 SOG in bold)

    RK

    Player Name

    Team

    No

    GP

    SOG

    GA

    Saves

    Sv%

    GAA

    1

    KATAYAMA, Kazuhito

    SPR

    20

    4

    79

    5

    74

    93.67

    1.88

    2

    McLENNAN, Jamie

    NPC

    29

    14

    415

    33

    382

    92.05

    2.5

    3

    KIKUCHI, Naoya

    SPR

    39

    29

    801

    64

    737

    92.01

    2.37

    4

    HARUNA, Masahito

    OJI

    61

    20

    513

    43

    470

    91.62

    2.22

    5

    KIM, Sun-Ki

    AHL

    32

    1

    23

    2

    21

    91.3

    2

    6

    EUM, Hyun-Seung

    HG1

    31

    29

    854

    78

    776

    90.87

    2.81

    7

    ISHIKAWA, Hisashi

    NPC

    61

    18

    538

    50

    488

    90.71

    2.97

    8

    KANAMARU, Hisashi

    HG1

    39

    4

    83

    8

    75

    90.36

    3.47

    9

    HASHIMOTO, Michio

    NIB

    1

    30

    1031

    100

    931

    90.3

    3.39

    10

    OGINO, Junji

    OJI

    30

    10

    228

    23

    205

    89.91

    2.5

    11

    GUARD, Kelly

    CSH

    1

    2

    59

    6

    53

    89.83

    3

    12

    SON, Ho-Seong

    AHL

    33

    27

    698

    77

    621

    88.97

    2.98

    13

    PARK, Jun-Soo

    AHL

    30

    5

    89

    12

    77

    86.52

    3.6

    14

    KIYOKAWA, Kazuhiko

    OJI

    45

    2

    41

    6

    35

    85.37

    4.2

    15

    KAWAGUCHI, Rei

    NIB

    30

    2

    22

    4

    18

    81.82

    6.95

    16

    YU Yang

    CSH

    30

    18

    428

    78

    350

    81.78

    6

    17

    XIE Ming

    CSH

    33

    8

    170

    33

    137

    80.59

    7.35

    18

    MATSUMOTO, Shiro

    SPR

    31

    1

    7

    2

    5

    71.43

    6

    19

    TADA, Kyohei

    OJI

    55

    1

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/9/gksp.html

    1.seibu Seibu Prince Rabbits (20-1-9, 61 pts) – First round bye

    Another solid season by the bunnies. Like in previous years, the team started training hard early in the summer with a regimented program under the guidance of their conditioning trainer. This worked as the team started off the season 7-1-1 (Sept-Oct) and solidly in first place. But this team can get sloppy and streaky during the regular season, and only the luck of their schedule allowed Seibu to claim top of the table. The Rabbits finished the season with 3 straight games against the lowly Bucks, easy 9 points (8-0, 4-1, and 8-2 wins) to overtake High1 for 1st place. But the bunnies went only 4-6 leading up to the Bucks games at the end of the season.

    Seibu did beat Oji and the Cranes to capture the All Japan Championship on 10 Feb, and the bunnies are deadly clinical on the power play leading the league with incredible 34% conversion rate. Seibu is definitely the favourite in the upcoming playoffs, especially with the unstable Cranes this year, and the unknown factor of High1 in the post season. Seibu features the highest scoring Asian trained player in the league in the veteran Takahito Suzuki, as well as Prpic, Fujita, and Yule who all cracked the top 10 in scoring. Then again, they did run up the score 15-3 against the Sharks one game, so the AL scoring leader board and goal differentials figures are still not very reliable. And all these players are on the wrong side of 30, so they have the skills and experience, but a youthful team may outskate and out-grit them.

    Okubo_Fujita

    Okubo (High1) and Fujita (Seibu)

     

    2. High1High1 (19-1-10, 58 pts) – First round bye

    21-1-12 for 62 points last season as Kangwon Land (34 game schedule in 2006-07). On a per game basis High1 earned 1.93 pts, with a GF of 3.93 and GA of 2.97. Whereas Kangwon last season was 1.82 pts, 4.5 GF, and 3.24 GA. Upon first glance it seems like the team did better last season, but there were two Chinese minnows last year, where as they combined to form the somewhat more competitive China Sharks this year. So, it’s difficult to compare with just those raw numbers.

    But one aspect of the team that definitely improved was the power play unit. It went from league average 24% (5th out of 8 teams) to an impressive 31%, good enough for 2nd in the league. Not taking stupid penalties, and containing the High1 power play will be the key for the team that meets them in the semifinal (Oji or Nikko). Korean teams did have an easier schedule than the Japanese teams though, as they got to beat up on the Sharks 3 extra times when compared to their Japanese counterparts. So this may really have been a 3rd place team had the schedule not been unbalanced with the extra regional games.

    The incredible aspect of the High1 season was that the team lost its starting goalie Ho-Seong Son (34GP, 89 Sv%, 3.14GAA), top scorer Kyu-Hyun Kim (26+38=64pts), and young national team player Kwon-Jae Lee (1+5=6pts) all to its archrival Anyang Halla. So, High1 was reasonably expected to struggle this season. But in their place Hyun-Seung Eum (29GP, 91 Sv%, 2.81GAA) and Korean-American import Alex Kim (23+28=51pts, good enough for the league scoring title) more than filled in. Japanese defenseman Tomohito Okubo continues to be crucial to the team’s success with 28 assists (2 shy of league leader Prpic’s 30) and 33 points to lead all defensemen, and he’s the only foreign based player, besides NHL experienced goalie Yutaka Fukufuji, to be invited to the national team selection camp. Together with D Byoung-Wook Hwang (8+12=20pts) and the Smith brother (Tim 23+23=46pts, Bud 9+26=35pts) the High1 fivesome is truly a force to be reckoned with.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, opinion, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

     
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