IHWC Div I 2008: Japan NT preparations
Posted by simon c on 2008 April 5日 Saturday
The Japanese national team has been preparing to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I tournament at Sapporo in the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. The games will run 13 – 19 April against Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Croatia.Since the end of the Asia League season, the national team has been in training in Hokkaido and has recently played 2 practice matches against Amur of Khavarovsk (an RSL team, but no idea what kind of roster the team brought over, as the box scores only indicate uniform numbers and no names).
Game 1 ended in a 4-4 tie. All goals were scored by the 34th minute in a flurry of a first half. One of the two remaining university players, standout defenseman Haga was used in the 2nd pairing with Aaron Keller. And High1 defenseman Okubo was used in the 4th pairing, but successfully quarterbacked the power play and assisted on 2 PPGs. Kikuchi (Seibu) allowed 4 goals, though the number of shots was not recorded.
Japan eked out a 2-1 win in game 2 against an Amur squad that was fresher after a day of rest. Obara (Seibu) scored both goals on the power play this game, and combined with his 2 PP points (1G + 1A) in game 1 and has been playing great. Haruna (Oji) continued his hot play from the AL playoffs where he reeled off 9 straight victories (only allowing more than 2 goals in a single game), as he only let in 1 of the 19 shots he faced. Haruna has the hot hand and the original Japanese NHLer Fukufuji will be tied up in the ECHL playoffs with the Bakersfield Condors, so the Oji veteran should be the starting goalie in the upcoming tournament. AL’s top scorer in recent seasons Nishiwaki who is playing with the Dayton Bombers this season, and if his team loses in the first round of the playoffs (a best of 3 play in series), then he’ll be able to squeak into Sapporo for the start of the tournament.
JIHL/ALIH and Japanese national team veteran Ryan Kiyoshi Fujita, who always plays way above his size, was nowhere to be seen over the Amur games although he’s listed on the long list of players in training camp. It’s unknown whether he was dropped because of injury, fitness, or team plans.