2008 AL semifinals result and finals preview
Posted by simon c on 2008 March 11日 Tuesday
Games 3 and 4 of the 2008 Asia League Ice Hockey semifinals were played last week.
2008.3.5 Oji 4 – 1 High1
(Oji wins series 3-0)
2008.3.5 Cranes 7 – 2 Seibu
2008.3.6 Cranes 2 – 1 Seibu
(Cranes win series 3-1)
Oji handily swept the 2nd place team in the regular season High1, outscoring them by an aggregate of 17-8 in the 3 games. High1 seems to have gone down without much of a fight (except for game 2), the team’s definitely got potential, so I’m hoping for a better playoff performance from them next season. Oji makes its first ever AL final (it has been Cranes – Seibu (Kokudo) every season in this league’s brief existence). For this once glorious team that won numerous Japan League and Japanese Championship titles, this could be a return to glory (though, getting to avoid Seibu and the Cranes leading up to the finals was probably the biggest blessing). Oji’s last Japan League title came in 1994, so they’ll be gunning for the trophy for sure.
Cranes vs Seibu, this has been the staple of Asial League championship every season (and in Japan League championships leading upto the creation of the Asia League in 2003). Yet again, the Cranes won a playoff series on the back of their new goalie Jamie McLennan. Though the Cranes demolished Seibu 7-2 in game 3, McLennan won game 4 all by himself making 36 saves in the 2-1 win to seal the series at home while in Kushiro, Hokkaido. He has been absolutely stellar throughout the playoffs posting 93.75% save percentage in round 1 against Halla, and a 92.8% save percentage against the most explosive offense in the league in Seibu in the semifinals. Other than getting involved in some rough stuff in game 2 and taking some penalties that led to Seibu power play goals, Jamie has been just amazing. If he keeps his cool, the Cranes can take the Hokkaido derby final and defend their AL title. Oji’s best bet to dethrone the champions may be to get under McLennan’s skin. After all, a goalie fresh out of the NHL (he was a backup only last season) is well above the level of play in this league (AL is probably a similar in level to a less physical ECHL).