Anyang Halla, Nikko IceBucks continue to dominate

TOKYO, Japan – Anyang Halla remains undefeated while the Tohoku Free Blades remain winless after the second weekend of Asia League Ice Hockey play.

Halla easily dispatched the hapless China Dragon in two matches played at the Beijing Hosa Hockey Arena on Saturday and Sunday. A third game will be played on Tuesday. This is the first time in four years that Halla has travelled to Beijing. During the last three seasons, Halla played its road games at the Songjiang Stadium in the Songjiang District of Shanghai .

Nine different Halla players scored during Saturday night’s contest, the home and season opener for the Dragon.   Halla’s 9-2 victory put them on a three-game winning streak after they won both matches against High1 last weekend. With the win, Halla earned three points, jumping to the top of the Asia League standings with eight points.

Rookie Woo-Young Kim, scored his first professional goal for Halla just 2:43 into the first period.

“I was really happy to get my first goal,” Kim said after the game. “I didn’t expect to have easy goal like this. It’s going to be long season and I will do my best for the team rest of the way.”

Halla added three scores within two minutes later in the period before Dragon center Weiyang Zhang beat Halla net minder Hyung-Seung Eum to put the home team on the scoreboard. Ric Jackman had the only tally in the middle frame, off a set up by Yon-Jun Lee and Brock Radunske at the 25:38 mark.

Halla%27s Geun-Ho Kim moves freely in the China Dragon zone during Saturday%27s game. Photo Credit: Anyang Halla

Halla%27s Geun-Ho Kim moves freely in the China Dragon zone during Saturday%27s game. Photo Credit: Anyang Halla

China Dragon’s Katsumasa Kondo struck first in the third period, making it a 5-2 contest. Halla’s Won-Jung Kim scored 72 seconds later, and Halla remained in control for the rest of the game.

Byung-Chun Jung had an unassisted tally to make it 7-2 at the 53:51 mark and then defenseman Yoon-Hwan Kim added a power play strike at the 57:24 mark. Kwon-Jae Lee scored the final goal with 47 seconds remaining to establish the 9-2 final score.

Halla outshot the Dragon 47-16 while the club went 1 for 6 on the man-advantage. Net minder Hyung-Seung Eum stopped 14 of 16 shots and earned the win. The Dragon failed to score, going 0 for 5 on the man-advantage. Halla’s Geun-Ho Kim earns an honorable mention with four assists in the game.

The Korean Mighty Bears had another easy win on Sunday, beating the Dragon 10-1. Forwards Won-Jung Kim, Min-Ho Cho (2), Brock Radunske (2), Geun-Ho Kim, Kwon-Jea Lee and defenseman Ric Jackman scored for Halla. Weiyang Zhang had the lone goal for the Dragon.

Halla outshot the Dragon 49-14 while the club went 3 for 5 on the man-advantage. The Dragon failed to score, going 0 for 3. Net minder Sung-Je Park stopped 13 of 14 shots and earned his ninth consecutive win. Halla lost forward Alex Kim with a lower body injury in the first period. His status is unknown.

South Korea’s other ALIH team, High1, was also victorious on the road in both of their matches against the Nippon Paper Cranes. High1, outshot 35-22, scored five unanswered goals on Saturday night, led by import Michael Swift’s three point performance (2 G, 1 A). Defenseman Hideyuki Osawa had the lone score for the Cranes at the 59:07 mark.

On Sunday, High1 earned a 5-4 overtime victory when Darcy Mitani struck at the 62:37 mark, assisted by defenseman Ryuichi Kawai and Yu-Won Lee. Lee had a three point game (1 G, 2 A) and Michael Swift had a four point game (1 G, 3 A).

The Nikko IceBucks also swept their two-game series against the visiting Tohoku Free Blades, highlighting a reversal of fortune for both teams thus far this season. The IceBucks have consistently placed near or at the bottom of the Asia League standings and have failed to make the playoffs after the last two seasons. After this weekend, they are ranked second in the Asia League, tied with Anyang Halla with 11 points.

The Free Blades on the other hand, seem to be in a free fall, having lost all four contests in the first two weeks of the 2011-12 season after being named co-champion of the league in the spring.

The IceBucks were outshot 50-25 on Saturday, but dominated the contest and earned a 10-4 victory. Dong-Hwan Song opened the scoring just 25 seconds into the game; the first of seven unanswered goals against the Free Blades.

IceBucks defenseman Kazuyoshi Yamaguchi pressures a Free Blades player during Sunday%27s game. Photo Credit: Tohoku Free Blades

IceBucks defenseman Kazuyoshi Yamaguchi pressures a Free Blades player during Sunday%27s game. Photo Credit: Tohoku Free Blades

Defenseman Paul Albers finally put the Free Blades on the scoreboard at the 35:16 mark. The IceBucks’ Dave Bonk answered less than three minutes later followed by Noritoshi Ohmachi’s goal 73 seconds later, making it a 9-1 contest.

The Free Blades’ Troy Riddle scored twice on the power play at 44:30 and 47:27 to make it 9-3. Yohikazu Koshino made it 9-4 with a strike at the 50:22 mark but Dave Bonk sealed the final score at 10-4 with his third goal of the night at the 53:43 mark, nailing his first ALIH hat trick.

Bonk had a total of six points (3 G, 3 A) on the night. Hiroki Ueno had five points (2 G, 3 A) and Dong-Hwan Song had four points (2 G, 2 A).

The IceBucks were assessed 11 penalties for 30 minutes and had two short-handed tallies. The Free Blades received six penalties for 20 minutes and scored twice on the power play.

On Sunday, It was more of the same as the IceBucks defeated the Free Blades 4-1. Andrew Kozek (2), Tetsuo Setaka and Dong-Hwan Song scored for the IceBucks while Go Tanaka had the lone tally for the Free Blades. Frustration reared its head again in the form of a loss of discipline by the Free Blades who were assessed 12 penalties for 34 minutes. The game ended on a low note when a scrap broke out between IceBucks defenseman Takyuki Ono and Free Blades forward Takuro Yamashita.

Anyang Halla is in first place in the Asia League Standings with 11 points and the IceBucks are in second, also with 11 points. The Nippon Paper Cranes are in third place with seven points followed by High1 (six points), the Oji Eagles (one point), the Tohoku Free Blades (zero points) and China Dragon (zero points).

On Tuesday, High1 will visit the Oji Eagles for the first of two games (Game Two is on Wednesday) while Anyang Halla and China Dragon close out their three-game series in Beijing.

Contact the writer at robert.keith@prohockeynews.com

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