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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:

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

    2009 AL Finals Game 6

    Posted by simon c on 2009 March 23日 Monday

    The Seibu Prince Rabbits, in their final season of existance, were down 1-3 in the Asia League Ice Hockey Finals against rivals Nippon Paper Cranes. Facing elimination and in front of the Cranes fans of Kushiro, Hokkaido, the team pulled through with a 7-4 win to bring the series back to Tokyo. Seibu eradicated their scoring draught which only saw them score 4 goals in the 3 straight losses in the previous 3 games.

    Then yesterday was another do or die game for Seibu, as the Cranes were ready to clinch the AL championship in Tokyo.

    The game started off chippy with 10 penalties being called in the 1st period, and it was a wild beginning too with 5 goals being scored as Seibu took a 3-2 lead heading into the first intermission. Seibu’s first goal was a nifty wraparound/bounce off goalie’s leg goal by Obara. And Prpic and Rochefort’s power play goals were perfectly executed with the players set up in the slot with passes from the goal line.

    We were expecting a high scoring and a rough game based on the first period (much like the first game of the series), however things calmed down in the second and the game became a tight affair. Chris Yule, of long time Kokudo/Seibu fame, tied the game in the middle of the second with a power play goal. And the game became deadlocked even though speedy Seibu forwards created many scoring opportunities by blowing past (or trying to) Cranes defencemen. They also managed to hit the post with a shot on one play.

    But, as things were increasingly looking like they were heading to the NHL style endless overtime (20 minute periods, sudden death), Chris Yule took a fatal tripping penalty with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation. This gave Seibu a crucial power play at the end of regulation, and with less than 1 minute to go, captain Takahito Suzuki took the puck from the neutral zone, flew past a Cranes defenceman, neatly tucked the puck in to avoid goalie Ishikawa’s poke check and deked him out at the same time and put the puck in the net for what proved to be the game winner. Seibu 4 – 3 Cranes!

    The Seibu Prince Rabbits club survived to see one more day, and today is the deciding Game 7 of the Asia League Ice Hockey 2009 Finals at Higashifushimi, Tokyo. Seibu has the chance to finish their history with an exclamation mark tonight at 7pm.

    Some photos and videos from the game.

    Seibu wins!

    Cranes fans also brought their big flag, this one saying 最強 (saikyou = strongest) which looks way more badass than the Rabbit logo adorned Seibu flag.

    sp3220036

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

    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 »

     
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