Cranes Win! Seibu goes into history
Posted by simon c on 2009 March 26日 Thursday
Monday 23 March 2009, Higashifushimi, Tokyo.
Game 7 of the 2009 Asia League Ice Hockey Finals. The full house witnessed history.
This was going to be the final game for the Seibu Prince Rabbits (formerly Kokudo and Seibu Railway hockey teams) no matter the team won or lost against the Nippon Paper Cranes. The two teams have been waging an epic battle for the championship with Seibu coming back from being down 1-3 in the series to force the deciding game.
In fact, the Cranes themselves came back from being down 2-3 in their semifinals against Anyang Halla of Korea to reach the finals, and before that they dispatched the other Korean team in the league, High1, in the play-in round of the playoffs with a 2 game sweep (best of 3). Meanwhile, Seibu swept the semifinals against the Oji Eagles, but all games were decided by a 1 goal margin (excluding the empty netters).
Game 7 started off quickly, like Game 6, on a Cranes goal as Darcy Mitani opened the game in the 4th minute with a power play tally. But unlike Game 6, the first period did not turn into a wild goalfest, and both teams played solidly, though not without chances.
Crane (and former Seibu/Kokudo) Chris Yule sitting alone in the Cranes bench after the first period.
The Cranes added 2 more goals in the 2nd period and seemingly already wrote the end of the history for the Seibu hockey club. But captain Takahito Suzuki came out huge for Seibu as he scored with 4 seconds left in the period assisted by retiring Kiyoshi Fujita (thanks Ryan! you were the best player in the league for a long time, Theo Fleury of Japan in the best sense, and lots of fun to watch, you’ll be missed) and Daisuke Obara. This was a huge goal as going into the second intermission being 2 goals or 3 goals down makes a massive difference to team morale.
In the third period, Seibu continued to pressure and kept on peppering the Cranes net with shots but Cranes goalie Hisashi Ishikawa totally stood on his head as he saved 54 of 56 shots (!) on net to earn the victory and championship for the Cranes.
Congratulations, the 2009 champion Cranes! And thank you Seibu for all the memories! (and hopefully the team will survive in one form or another and elite level hockey will be played in Tokyo next season.)
Playoff MVP Hisashi Ishikawa who backstopped the Cranes to the championship capped off by his herculean efforts in Game 7. Ishikawa played 14 of the Cranes 16 playoff games, and was a well deserving recepient of the award.
Joel Dyck Oshiro holding up the AL Championship trophy properly (that is, sideways)
More random photos and videos from the game follows this break:
Own a piece of history! Khavarovsk Golden Amur has not played in the league since 2004-05, and Yutaka Fukufuji played 4 games for the LA Kings in 2006-07 (and received a rough welcome) becoming the first Japanese NHL player, but has hardly gotten any looks above the ECHL since then. (Much like Yuta Tabuse in the NBA, I guess, couldn’t stick in the big leagues and the trailblazing hasn’t created any followers, yet.)
Ironically, the most TV cameras and press that I’ve ever seen at a hockey game in Japan.
Seibu players look on as the Cranes celebrate.
Cranes tossing up their shacho the Nippon Paper (hockey club?) president into air in celebration (douage).
Cranes group photo with the championship trophy and huge 最強 (strongest) flag in the stands.