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  • Posts Tagged ‘free blades’

    Free Blades win for real!

    Posted by simon c on 2009 September 30日 Wednesday

    Thanks to the outstanding performance by the hometown goalie Michio Hashimoto, the Tohoku Free Blades notched their first victory in only their 4th regular season game in their young Asia League history with a 5-3 win over the upgraded Nikko Ice Bucks team in the second game of the two game series in Nikko. Hashimoto turned away 39 of 42 shots for a well deserved hero of the game, while his counterpart Naoya Kikuchi had a terrible game letting in 5 goals on only 26 shots. Looks like the league might be even more competitive than my initial prediction for the 2009-10 season.

    bladeswin

    Congrats Blades, and we look forward to more fierce battles in a league with that may have the most parity ever in the short history of AL. Korea-Japan games start this upcoming weekend in October, and this should be very interesting in terms of giving us a clearer outlook on the season.

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

    Asia League opens!

    Posted by simon c on 2009 September 25日 Friday

    Looking at the game sheet for the China Dragon season opener last night, Mikhail Nemirovsky was the only import dressed for the Chinese squad in the 2-8 loss to Oji. It’ll be a long long season for them unless they sign a few more imports. (They’ve declared that the team will not use up all 7 import slots in order to give Chinese players more playing experience. And Asian players don’t count as imports within the league, Japanese rookie goalie Inoue was in nets for the Dragon.)

    Elsewhere, over the weekend, the Japanese and Korean teams opened their seasons. The Korean derby games were both wild shootouts (6-8, 5-4) as the teams split the games. The newly bolstered Nikko Ice Bucks took one of the games from the Oji Eagles despite being badly outshot (2-3, 2-1), and the newcomers Tohoku Free Blades managed to earn their first Asia League point by taking game 2 of their opening series against the defending champs Nippon Paper Cranes to a shootout after the teams were unable to settle the score following regulation and overtime (2-4, 5-4 so). You can find all the scores and game sheets here:

    http://www.alhockey.com/popup/13/scores.html

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

    Asia League 2009-10 Preview

    Posted by simon c on 2009 September 17日 Thursday

    logo

    The ever changing Asia League of Ice Hockey had another paradigm shift this past off season. They’re easier to sum up in point form, so here we go:

    • Seibu Prince Rabbits are no more. The club has folded after finding no takers for its 5-oku yen (~$5m) annual team budget. With this, the league and Japanese hockey has lost their most powerful backer in the Seibu Group. The fallout from this catastrophic event saw former Seibu players becoming Seibu group employees, picked up by other Asia League teams, or moving to teams abroad.
    • Tohoku Free Blades are born! In the place of Seibu, a new team based in the Tohoku region (north east part of the main Honshu island) has joined the league. This is something to be celebrated as times are tough for the entire corporate sports scene in Japan with various company teams folding, disbanding, and suspending operations and hockey being no exception. The Blades are backed by major sports equipment retailer Xebio.
    • s_logoChina Sharks are now the China Dragon. The Chinese entry in the Asia league has severed its ties with the NHL San Jose Sharks after only one season. The Sharks had provided coaching and players who were crucial to the Chinese team avoiding the league basement for the first time in the league’s short history. But the team is heading in a new direction with its Belarusian coach and fewer imports in order to train their domestic players (the Dragon are essentially the Chinese national team). It is unclear what the financial arrangements were when the San Jose Sharks were affiliated with the China Sharks and what brought about this change in direction.
    • The league is shortening the playoffs to a best of 5 format instead of a best of 7 format that produced so much drama last season (bad move). Top 4 teams will make the playoffs instead of the top 5 (I liked the best of 3 play-in round between 4th and 5th place teams). It is also adopting IIHF rule changes that does not permit line changes for teams that committed icing, and also initial faceoffs on powerplays will take place in the offensive zone.

    Now, let’s take a team by team look at the upcoming season in more detail:

    c_logoNippon Paper Cranes (21-4-11, Playoff Champions)

    The defending champions from the 2008-09 season returns with a team largely unchanged. The Cranes have reduced the number of imports from two (Brad Tiley, Kelly Fairchild) to one (Pierre-Olivier Beaulieu) in order to save costs (Beaulieu has only ECHL and German 2nd division experience, thus should be considerably cheaper than the more experienced Tiley and Fairchild, but whether he’ll be able to contribute as much remains a question to be answered), and have also picked up national team member Daisuku Obara from Seibu. The amazing playoff run last season that capped off with the championship trophy was largely due to the outstanding goaltending of Hisashi Ishikawa who absolutely stood on his head in many postseason games. More of the same will be needed for the team to repeat as champions as the top of the league could be a logjam.

    a_logoAnyang Halla (23-4-9, lost in semifinals)

    In 2008-09 Halla became the first non-Japanese team to claim the regular season title. However, the team was unable to overcome the eventual champions Cranes despite having the home ice advantage in a tough 7 game series that went the distance (4 of the 7 games were 1 goal games). The core of the team is intact as Halla has done the previously unthinkable in the AL by inking their successful imports to multiyear deals (3 years for leading scorer Brock Radunske, 2 years each for Jon Awe and Brad Fast). With sniper Song Dong-Hwan back having a successful season (35GP 45P) after missing 2 seasons to military service, the team looks poised to avenge their playoff disappointment from the previous season.

    o_logoOji Eagles (22-4-10, lost in semifinals)

    The Eagles have decided to really save on expenses by doing away entirely with imports for the upcoming season. Instead the team has added national team forwards and former Seibu players Sho Sato and Yosuke Kon (the AL and Team Japan pest, in the Esa Tikkanen mould, it’s a compliment). The production from veteran imports Ricard Persson and Shane Endicott will be missed, but with the parent company Oji Paper’s finances on shakier grounds with the economic downturn, the team will ice an all-Japanese squad this season (though the team still has a “ringer” in Japanese passport holding Japanese-Canadian Aaron Keller who is also a national team defenceman). It’s still a good team, especially with the addition of Sato and Kon, but it’s tough to see this team taking either the regular season title or the playoff trophy home with them.

    h_logoHigh1 (13-4-19, lost in first round)

    The High1 club had a disappointing 2008-09 season being unceremoniously swept out of the play-in first round of the playoffs against the eventual champs Cranes after a 5th place finish in the regular season where they were not in contention with the top 4 teams. The team looks to rebound to 2007-08 form when they finished 2nd in the regular season. The team has brought back Tim Smith who had a successful run from 2006-08 (63GP 106P) and has also brought in new imports D Jeremy Van Hoof and F Trevor Gallant. Along with their Korean rookies, the team has also added Japanese rookie Hiroki Ueno who scored 30 points in 24 games for Waseda University in the Kanto University League (top university league in Japan).

    d_logoChina Dragon (6-4-26, did not make the playoffs)

    The ever changing Chinese entry in the Asia League will play as the China Dragon this season. The former China Sharks became the first team to send a non-Chinese team to the bottom of the standings last season largely in part to the excellent goaltending by NHL and AHL veterans Wade Flaherty (who won AL goalie of the year last season) and big, tough defenceman Steve McKenna, and the team showed the most discipline of any Chinese team in AL history by staying close in many games where they were blown out in the past (well, it may have been mostly due to Flaherty who played every game making 40+ saves per game with a 91.7% save percentage). The Dragon are allowed to have 7 imports on their roster, but intend on entering the season with only 3 or 4 imports in order to be less reliant on imports to better develop domestic players. The team is under the stewardship of experienced Belarusian Andrei Kovalev, and its imports haven’t been announced as of yet. Unless the team can sign a Flaherty-class goalie, look for China to sink back to the bottom of the league standings in the coming season. Oh yeah, and the new Dragon logo is totally underwhelming and uninspiring piece of bureaucratic art(?), don’t they have snazzy designers in Shanghai these days?

    i_logoNikko Ice Bucks (6-2-28, did not make the playoffs)

    The Bucks had their worst season since AL begun by becoming the first non-Chinese team to finish the season at the bottom of the table. The interesting choice of using unproven import forwards Eric Lafreniere (34GP 10P) and Mickey Gilchrist (36GP 19P) did not quite work out, but this is the team that has experienced the most changes during the offseason. Firstly, the Bucks have brought in 6 former Seibu players including national team captain Takahito Suzuki and NT goalie Naoya Kikuchi, the addition of 3 quality defencemen is sure to bolster their game in the defensive zone, and the addition of Bud Smith gives the team flexibility with its top 6 forwards. With such a significant upgrade to their team, the Bucks are the wildcard in the 2009-10 season. If the team gels well, it could finish high in the standings and fight their way through the playoffs. Though a 2 year plan is probably more realistic.

    fb_logoTohoku Free Blades (expansion team)

    The unproven Blades take the place of powerhouse Seibu in the league. The team was created last year based on 14 players who made the cut in team tryouts. Then once the team was officially approved to join the league, the Blades went out and reinforced their lineup with Asia Leaguers and imports. It was a coup obtaining Bin Ishioka (36GP 18P) from Seibu and D Steve Munn and LW Bruce Mulherin have a good trackrecord in the English league the past couple of seasons and have proved to be solid additions to the team so far in the preseason. The goaltending duties will fall on homegrown Michio Hashimoto who got bumped from the Bucks when they acquired Kikuchi, but Hashimoto is capable of stealing some games and will keep the team in games where they have no business being in. The Blades will play most of their games in Hachinohe, Aomori, but will also play a series in Koriyama, Fukushima, another city in the Tohoku region.

    pr_logoSeibu Prince Rabbits aftermath: 6 players including Suzuki and Kikuchi have signed with the Bucks, Kon and Sho Sato have signed with Oji, the Cranes acquired Obara, Kashino and Ishioka went to Tohoku, Yuya Yamada to High1, and G Inoue who was to become the first Seibu player from the Seibu junior team has joined China. Players going overseas are Go Tanaka to German 2nd division team ESV Kaufbeuren, Ryuichi Kawai (along with his younger brother Takuma who is the first Japanese player to appear in the Memorial Cup) are training in Alberta in now-retired Ryan Fujita’s hometown of Taber, Alberta (also Devin Setoguchi’s hometown) and will be trying out for minor league teams, long time ALer Joel Prpic has signed with Medveščak, the Croatian entry in the EBEL (Austrian based international league), and is waiting for his Croatian passport (his parents are Croatian) to be processed and should start playing with them in October.

    To say the least, this should be a very interesting Asia League season with so many changes to the league. I expect Halla to be the team to beat in the 2009-10 season, but the top of the standings could get very congested with the Cranes, Eagles, High1, and the Bucks all having a crack at it. Unless China can bring in a quality goalie, I expect the Dragon to be doormats once again, and the expansion Blades should finish ahead of them with Hashimoto in nets. And since the teams have only been playing preseason games in their respective regions (Hokkaido, Honshu, Korea, and China) probably to cut costs, so we are even more in the dark than usual regarding team strength and chemistry.

    The season opens on 19 September with the Hokkaido teams hosting the Honshu teams and the Korean derby in Anyang. Let’s drop the puck!

    PS This is exactly the 600th post on this blog, yay!

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan, NHL, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

    Blades win!

    Posted by simon c on 2009 September 12日 Saturday

    The Tohoku Free Blades hosted their first preseason game today in Hachinohe, Aomori against the Nikko Ice Bucks. And despite local reports that it was a rough game with lots of penalties against the Blades, the expansion team managed to pull off a wild 9-6 win over the stronger than usual Bucks squad. The shots on goal were Blades 35 – 36 Bucks, so it looks like the Blades have improved a lot compared to their first pair of preseason games in Nikko where they were clearly being outplayed. Apparently there was a decently sized crowd as well (there better be, as it was a weekend game, and the first one against an AL team at that.)

    Edit: Official game sheet. There were 420 spectators, this’ll have to improve during the regular season.

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

    AL Preseason Shorts + Ichiro

    Posted by simon c on 2009 September 7日 Monday

    • Oji Eagles and Nippon Paper Cranes played a pair of free admission preseason games in Tomakomai, Hokkaido over the weekend. Results were 3-2 and 4-1 for an Oji sweep.
    • Tohoku Free Blades were officially admitted into the league on 5 September. Well, this was just a rubber stamping process since the club is starting out its life on stable grounds.

    freeblades-109788

    • Ex-Seibu Prince Rabbit D Ryuichi Kawai and (probably) his younger brother and ex-Gatineau Olympique Takuma Kawai are going to be on the ice for the University of Lethbridge team’s tryouts, even though they’re both not enrolled with the university. Apparently the training camp has guys trying to crack AHL and ECHL clubs, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare. The brothers are staying and training with ex-Seibu Ryan Fujita whose home is about a 40 minute drive from Lethbridge, Alberta.
    • The immortal Ichiro earned his 2000th Major League hit in style with a double against the A’s. Always a showman who marks special occasions with crafty hits or big bombs more often than his usual slap and dash.

    Mariners Athletics Baseball

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

    China Dragon are official

    Posted by simon c on 2009 September 3日 Thursday

    Yes, it sounds like  a Chinese restaurant, but the Chinese entry in the Asia League has cut off its affliation with the NHL San Jose Sharks after one season, and now will be known as the China Dragon and will split their home games between Harbin and Shanghai (It’s good to see elite hockey back in Harbin on one hand, but this’ll lessen the impact in Shanghai, too bad China can only put together one viable AL squad.) The team is currently training in Harbin, and only has one import, the super veteran 42-year old Igor Andryushchenko who was instrumental in the Belarussian Junost Minsk winning the 2007 European Continental Cup (one level below the European Champions League or its equivalent) along with his then teammate and now China Dragon coach Andrei Kovalev.

    The Dragon plan on adding 2 or 3 more imports but they do not intend on maximizing the 7 import slots that they have in order to grow domestic talent. But they will be hard pressed to avoid being a doormat team again without an elite goalie like they had with Wade Flaherty last season. Imports are expected to be Belarussian and Kazakhstani. Though the coach or the Belarussian media still think that the now defunct Seibu Prince Rabbits are the team to beat in the league, so accurate information seems to be hard to come by. Unless the Dragon get an elite goalie, with the traditionally sieve defence of the Chinese, it’ll be a long season, especially with the highly bolstered Bucks lineup to contend with, and the Blades may be no pushovers either.

    Anyways, it’ll be yet another interesting season coming up in the ever changing Asia League.

    The Chinese hockey federation (government) is apparently saving money by going the Belaruss route instead of American, but I thought the Sharks provided coaching and players for almost free last season, but I might be wrong, and the economic downturn doesn’t help. This is mostly speculation.

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

    China Dragon?

    Posted by simon c on 2009 August 31日 Monday

    It’s almost certain that the San Jose Sharks have pulled out of their venture in China with the China Sharks, the only Chinese entry in the Asia Legue. First, in a recent IIHF article, it was announced that China has hired Belarussian Andrei Kovalev to coach both the national team and the Chinese Asia League team (doesn’t say Sharks).

    China hired former Belarusian national player Andrei Kovalev as its new head coach. He signed a contract through April 2010.

    The 43-year-old has plenty of international experience as a player. Kovalev played in eight World Championships and two Olympics with Belarus. He also won U20 gold with the Soviets. He played for Dynamo Minsk and Dynamo Moscow in the Russian and Soviet league before a two-year stint in North America in the AHL and other minor leagues, and 13 years in Germany. He ended his playing career in 2007 with Yunost Minsk.

    After retiring, he worked with Yunost before becoming the assistant coach of HK Vitebsk.

    Kovalev will be assisted by Chinese coaches and he will also be the head coach of the Chinese team in the Asian League. The club is located in a new 8,000-seat arena in Shanghai and it’s the strongest club team in the country.

    Then in the Blades-Bucks preseason games over the weekend, apparently people were given pamphlets for the upcoming Asia League season with a team named “China Dragon”.

    Removal of Sharks personnel (especially coach) from the Chinese team, and the addition of Kovalev definitely indicates a change in direction away from the Sharks, but with the China team’s opening game quickly approaching on 24 September, they’ll have to get their act together in a hurry. And it looks like yet another year where top level Chinese hockey is changing directions with no clear long term plan.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, International, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments »

    Blades – Bucks preseason results

    Posted by simon c on 2009 August 30日 Sunday

    The new AL team Tohoku Free Blades faced off against the bolstered Nikko Ice Bucks over the weekend for two preseason games. These two games were the Blades first official games (their games up to now had been against understrengthed squads, non-AL teams or not full 3×20 games).

    29 August 2009

    Nikko Ice Bucks 4 (0-1, 2-0, 2-1) 2 Tohoku Free Blades

    SOG: 43 – 12

    Attendance: 872

    30 August 2009

    Nikko Ice Bucks 4 (1-0, 2-0, 1-1) 1 Tohoku Free Blades

    SOG: 30 – 16

    Attendance: 882

    The word is that Steve Munn and Jon Smyth were solid for the Blades, Bin Ishioka scored both goals in game 1, Michio Hashimoto kept the team in the game despite being vastly outshot in the first game, and the team was less tense in the second game and played a more overall solid game despite the untelling scoreline.

    Goalies in game 1 were starters and former Buck Michio Hashimoto for the Blades and national team goalie Naoya Kikuchi for the Bucks, backup goalies played in game 2 for both teams.

    Images from game 1 via Freeblades.jp

    006

    010

    012

    014

    More images and game report here.

    On another note, national team defenceman and former Seibu Prince Rabbit Ryuichi Kawai and his younger brother and first Japanese player to appear in the Memorial Cup Takuma Kawai are in a small town near Lethbridge, Alberta at staying at Kiyoshi Ryan Fujita’s house and training. Not sure what they’re aim is but maybe they’re looking for some tryouts in the North American minor leagues.

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

    Free Blades roster set!

    Posted by simon c on 2009 August 22日 Saturday

    The new entry into the Asia League for the upcoming 2009-10 season, the Tohoku Free Blades, have finally signed enough players to form a complete roster. The new players should significantly improve the team and hopefully not make them a yearlong doormat in their expansion season (since the China Sharks don’t have Wade Flaherty anymore, there’s hope).

    New players:

    F Akiyumi Okuyama 31GP 1G+1A=2P (Oji)

    F Masahito Suzuki 34GP 4+11=15 (Oji)

    F Bin Ishioka 36GP 8+10=18 (Seibu) – Bin’s move to China turned out to be just an unconfirmed rumour

    D Kazumoto Imajo (Chuo University captain – was supposed to join the now defunct Seibu Prince Rabbits)

    D Steve Munn (AHL/ECHL)

    D Brad Farynuk (AHL/ECHL)

    LW Bruce Mulherin (EIHL/ECHL)

    LW Jon Smyth (Bundesliga 2nd Division)

    All 4 imports are Canadian.

    Posted in 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, ECHL, hockey, information, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    アイスバックス対フリーブレイズ・プレシーズンゲーム

    Posted by simon c on 2009 August 11日 Tuesday

    対戦カード:日光アイスバックス VS 東北フリーブレイズ

    日時:2009年8月29日(土) 14:00~
    8月30日(日) 14:00~

    場所:栃木県立日光霧降アイスアリーナ

    観戦料:指定席1,500円/自由席1,000円

    ※大人・子供も同料金となります

    前売取扱所:H.C.TOCHIGI日光アイスバックス事務所(http://www.icebucks.jp/)
    栃木県日光市稲荷町2-360-9
    電話0288-53-5166

    主催:(株)スポニチプライム/H.C.TOCHIGI日光アイスバックス

    Preseason games between the Nikko Ice Bucks and Tohoku Free Blades will be held in Nikko on 29-30 (Sat-Sun) of August, faceoff at 14:00, tickets are 1500 yen for reserved seats, 1000 yen for general admission.

    Posted in 01_日本語, 02_English, Asia League Ice Hockey, hockey, information, Japan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »