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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 »

    Oji Eagles win 2008 Anyang Cup

    Posted by simon c on 2008 September 7日 Sunday

    We’re missing results from action on 5-6 Sept, but Oji Eagles have won the 2008 Anyang Cup with their win over hosts Anyang Halla earlier today.

    Sharks kept things respectable in the 0-3 loss to the Cranes with former Dayton Bomber and Team Japan member Nishiwaki scoring one and assisting on another. Oji cruised their way to their victory over the hosts with a hat trick by Kei Tonosaki.

    9.7

    CRANES 3-0 SHARKS
    1(1P)0
    2(2P)0
    0(3P)0
    19:54(NPC) G24 A11 A7
    24:11(NPC) G11 A24 A17
    30:07(NPC) G47 A16 A14

    HALLA 4 – 7 EAGLES
    0(1P)4
    1(2P)3
    3(3P)0
    06:50(OJI) G5 A9
    10:12(OJI) G16 A6 A7
    17:15(OJI) G82 A12
    19:18(OJI) G82
    24:42(OJI) G9 A12
    26:27(OJI) G34 A7 A3
    27:45(AHL) G36 A1 A25
    32:54(OJI) G82
    48:51(AHL) G1 A25 A36
    53:04(AHL) G25
    58:52(AHL) G36 A79

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    Chris Yule to Nippon Paper Cranes!

    Posted by simon c on 2008 June 7日 Saturday

    For whatever reason, the Seibu Prince Rabbits’ Chris Yule, a Team Japan veteran, had been released by the club following the 2007-08 season, even though with 10 goals and 25 assists for 35 points in 30 games he was tied for 5th in the league in scoring! Well, the Nippon Paper Cranes have signed the 33 year old Yule (via Kataribe Jiro-san) who is amazingly going into his 15th season in Japan. The Cranes reached the AL playoff finals this year, and a top sniper in Masahito Nishiwaki (24 goals in 2006-07 was 5th in the league) is returning from a year in the ECHL and should be a stronger player than before he left Japan. With these additions, the Cranes will definitely be one of the favourites to win it all in AL 2008-09.

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

    2007-08 Japanese players in North America

    Posted by simon c on 2008 May 29日 Thursday

    Now that the Spokane Chiefs have been crowned as the Memorial Cup champs, Gatineau Olympiques’ Takuma Kawai’s season has ended, along with the seasons of all Japanese players in North America. Here are their 2007-08 stats.

    Player

    Team

    League

    GP

    G

    A

    P

    PIM

     

    Kawai, Takuma

    Gatineau Olympiques

    QMJHL

    47

    5

    8

    13

    20

     
     

    (Playoffs incl. Memorial Cup)

    17

    1

    2

    3

       

    Nishiwaki, Masahito

    Dayton Bombers

    ECHL

    64

    14

    17

    31

    44

     
     

    (Playoffs)

     

    2

    0

    1

    1

    0

     

    Takahashi, Kazuma

    Utah Grizzlies

    ECHL

    28

    0

    5

    5

    31

     
                     

    Player

    Team

    League

    GP

    W

    L

    T

    GAA

    Sv%

    Fukufuji, Yutaka

    Bakersfield Condors

    ECHL

    47

    18

    18

    1

    3.39

    0.899

     

    (Playoffs)

     

    6

    2

    2

    2

    3.55

    0.912

    Kawai played regularly on the powerful Olympiques team, but was converted from forward to defense with 15 games left in the season. He only managed 1 goal in the Q playoffs, but got 2 assists and was an even +/- 0 at the Memorial Cup. Hopefully his appearance in the Memorial Cup sparked an interest in some NHL teams to take a flyer on him with a late round pick.

     

    The five-foot-11, 190-pound Kawai is actually a forward who was moved to defence in February because of injuries on Gatineau’s blue-line. He made an impact in Monday’s Memorial Cup loss to Belleville with two assists.

    He’s a role player with a feisty, hard-hitting style _ hence the missing teeth _ which are desirable qualities whether he plays forward and defence.

    “It was kind of hard at first,” Kawai said of the switch. “I had to adjust. I’m enjoying it right now. I like to make a pass and make a hit too.”

    “Now, I have to use my head a lot. (Before) I just skated, made a hit and came back.”

    Kawai’s older brother Ryuichi Kawai is a defenceman for the Seibu Prince Rabbits of the Asian Hockey League. The younger Kawai started following his brother to hockey practice when he was three years old.

    Nishiwaki is one of Japan’s top forwards and among the league leaders in scoring (more than a point per game) when he was in the Asia League. It took him some time to establish himself on the Bombers, but being 6th on the team in scoring, he was an important player. Hopefully he’ll challenge himself overseas again, as this was only his first season in the States, and he should be better adapted to the minor league hockey environment next season. After Dayton lost out in their best of 3 first round series, Nishiwaki came back to join Team Japan in time for the World Championships Division I in Sapporo where he scored 2 goals in 5 games.

    Takahashi was more of a role player back in Japan where he scored less than a point per game but had at least 1 PIM per game (119 PIM in just 41 GP in 2004-05). He managed to hang on for a full year on the Utah roster, even though he was scratched for many games and was asked to be a role player with limited ice time when he got into games. Hopefully he’ll get another crack at the ECHL next season, as he definitely took a step up from the previous season when he played in the SPHL. 

    Fukufuji was lucky enough to get called up to the NHL the previous season when the LA Kings didn’t want to risk putting Jason LaBarbera through waivers where he probably would’ve been picked up by another team, as he was absolutely dominating the AHL then. Anyways NHL proved to be way beyond Fukufuji’s level as he was shellshocked into 4.37 GAA and .837 Save % in 4 games before being sent back down. Yutaka had a reasonable season and excellent playoffs despite being on a weak team (hence the unimpressive numbers). Hopefully the team in front of him will be better next season, and if he continues his solid play, maybe he can get some time in the AHL between the pipes. I’m interested in seeing what he can do at that level, as he’s proven himself in the ECHL over 5 seasons (including parts) already. 

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, International, Japan, opinion, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    ECHL Playoffs update

    Posted by simon c on 2008 April 28日 Monday

    Fukufuji almost singlehandedly won the first round of the ECHL playoffs for his Bakersfield Condors against the Victoria Salmon Kings, but he was spraygunned with 61 shots, so it would’ve been a true miracle had the Condors won, as Victoria was truly superior in every other facet of the game. Fukufuji intends on playing in North America again next season, hopefully he’ll get a chance with an AHL club.

     

    Every party has a spoil-sport and this one almost did, too. His name was Yutaka Fukufuji. The Bakersfield Condors goaltender was the reason the Salmon Kings were forced into overtime for the victory.

    Fukufuji, the first Japanese-born player to play in the NHL, almost single-handedly forced a Game 7. Regulation time was dominated in almost every facet by the Salmon Kings. Every aspect except one — goaltending.

    The shots clock at the end of regulation time read a glaring 57-23 in favour of Victoria and ended 61-25.

    “He [Fukufuji] stood on his head all series and kept them in it,” said Goldie.

    “But we knew if we kept putting the shots on him, some had to eventually go in and we got one more goal than they did tonight.”

    But the dominant Salmon Kings not only had to solve the gallant crease efforts of Fukufuji, they had to do it by contending with five against-the-grain goals by the Condors that kept pulses pounding amid the deafening din caused by the near sold-out crowd.

    Despite holding a wide edge in play, the Salmon Kings had to fight back from 2-0, 3-1 and 4-3 deficits. But after finally taking a 5-4 lead on third-period goals by Marc-Andre Bernier and Ryan Wade, the Salmon Kings saw the opportunistic Condors tie it 5-5 on former Senators draft-pick Andrew Ianiero’s fifth goal of the series at 13:16 of the third period.

    In a game in which the shots were flowing for them like winter-rain water out of the Sooke Reservoir, the S-Kings were forced into the strange and painstaking position of trying to climb back into a game that might have turned into a blowout against a goalie of lesser calibre that Fukufuji.

    Bernier had two goals for Victoria and Wade, Chris St. Jacques and Paul Ballantyne one each. Ianiero led the Condors with two goals.

    But the biggest goalbelonged to the tricky Goldie in OT, who took a lovely two-on-one pass from Estrada and made a move around Fukufuji that was truly worthy of a golden goal.

    Now the Salmon Kings are facing the Utah Grizzlies in the second round. The Grizzlies feature Japanese forward Kazuma Takahashi, but he was a healthy scratch and didn’t make the trip up to Victoria for the first 2 games of the series, which the teams split with blowout scores of 6-0 and 1-6.

    As reported earlier Nishiwaki’s Dayton Bombers lost the best of 3 mini playoff round, so he flew back to Japan in time to play in the World Championships Division I B which was hosted by Sapporo. He played well in the tournament, but it was not enough for Japan to advance to the top division as Japan finished a strong 3rd in the tourney.

    Posted in 02_English, ECHL, hockey, information, International, Japan, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Day 1: 2008 IHWC Div I B in Sapporo

    Posted by simon c on 2008 April 14日 Monday

    Opening day of the 2008 IHWC Division I Group B in Sapporo, Japan went as expected as the 3 favourites won handily over their weaker oppositions, controlling the play, as far as I can tell from the stats (no live TV coverage in the host country, shite). Japanese power play was extremely effective, scoring 4 goals, including one by Nishiwaki of the ECHL Dayton Bombers who just returned to Japan in time for the tournament and made his presence felt immediately.

    SAPPORO, Japan – Ukraine swept over the promoted Croats in the tournament opener while Hungary had a narrow win against Estonia. Hosts Japan had a perfect start in the evening game with a 5-0 against Lithuania.

    Lithuania – Japan 0-5 (0-4, 0-0, 0-1)
    SOG: 19 – 31
    PIM: 34 – 14

    Japan wanted immediately to prove to their fans in the packed Sapporo Arena that the team has the ambition to compete with Ukraine and Hungary for promotion to the 2009 World Championship in Switzerland. The hosts scored four unanswered goals in a furious opening period and they never looked back. Although, never really of promotion calibre, Lithuania has recently proved to be a very difficult opponent for the best teams on this level, but they were fundamentally outplayed during the first 20 minutes, and also outshot 17-8.

    Japan struck with goals approximately every fourth minute. After Yosuke Kon’s opener at 4:23, Masahito Nishiwaki (9:09) and Sho Sato (12:55) connected with power-play goals before Darcy Mitani finished the rampage at 18:02 with the 4-0 marker.

    The middle stanza was scoreless despite several Japanese power-play opportunities after the Lithuanians showed some poor composure, taking slashing, boarding and roughing minors.

    Ryuchi Kawai got his team’s third PP-goal early in the third to extinguish all hopes of a miraculous Lithuanian comeback. The Lithuanians continued to show frustration by taking bad penalties. Goaltender Nerijus Dauksevicius displayed the worst tempers when taking a 10-minute misconduct penalty (protesting an obvious call) with seven minutes left. Masahito Haruna got the shut-out, making 19 saves.

    Estonia – Hungary 3-5 (1-2, 2-1, 0-2)
    SOG: 11-46
    PIM: 16-12

    Croatia – Ukraine 0-4 (0-1, 0-1, 0-2)
    SOG: 27-41
    PIM: 10-12

    Hungary – Estonia highlights including a beautiful open ice hip check.

    Posted in 02_English, ECHL, hockey, information, International, Japan, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008 IHWC Div I Group B in Sapporo

    Posted by simon c on 2008 March 18日 Tuesday

    It’s amazing that this all East European (except for Japan) tournament is being held in Japan at all. I wonder what went down in the host city nomination and the subsequent voting process.

    The tournament will run from 13-19 April at Tsukisamu Arena in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan and the other participating teams are Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Hungary.

    This is Japan’s best chance to win the dvision and qualify for the top group, playing in front of the home crowd, and having ECHL regulars G Fukufuji (unimpressive .891 save percentage this season, but he’s on one of the worst teams in the league so all goalies at Bakersfield are sporting a sub-.900 mark after posting better numbers in previous seasons) and F Nishiwaki (14+16=30 pts in 54 games so far, but was one of the leading goal scorers in the AL the two previous seasons) on the national team with their ECHL clubs slated to miss the playoffs. ECHL season runs to the first week of April, so these two will be able to join the national team for this Div I tournament at home that’ll run from 13-19 April. Oji goalie Haruna has been having a fantastic AL playoffs, posting 1.88 GAA and .924 save % so far in 8 games, and he’s had some success in international tournies if my memory’s correct. And Seibu’s Kikuchi, who is always solid in Asia, is also available, so Japan should be solid in goal, hopefully the porous defense from last year’s tournament has somehow been improved, but I don’t see how.

    Other interesting candidates remaining on the Japan team selection squad (down to 30 now, but there will be further cuts before the start of the tournament to get down to regulation size) are D Okubo playing for High1 of the Korean entry to the AL, he totally drove their offense this past season, and led AL defensemen in assists and points. University kids D Haga of university champs Toyo University (who scored a hat trick in the university championship finals), D Yanatori of finalist Meiji Univ., and F Kuji of Waseda University are also included in the selection camp. Other players are the usual suspects from AL teams including naturalized Canadian born veteran players (all Japanese descent Nikkeis) D Aaron Keller (Oji), F Ryan Kiyoshi Fujita (Seibu), and F Darcy Mitani (Cranes).

    Interestingly, the national team will play two warm up games again Amur Khavarovsk (the B team, I assume). 1 April at Tomakomai Hakucho Arena, and 3 April at Sapporo Tsukisamu Areana, both games start at 19:00.

    The 30 man selection camp squad (in Japanese).

    IIHF website for this tournament.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

     
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