TOKYO, Japan – The first full week of play in the Asia League saw the Nippon Paper Cranes remain undefeated and sitting atop the standings with 15 points while Korea’s Anyang Halla and Daemyung Sangmu tie for second with nine points each.
Korea’s High1 also has nine points after five games and the Oji Eagles are 2-2 with six points. Yet to win a game are the Tohoku Freeblades (0-3), Nikko Icebucks (0-4) and China Dragon (0-5).
In Tuesday night’s action, High1 dispatched China Dragon 8-0 in Shanghai. Import Michael Swift tallied five goals while Dong-Hwan Song had a goal and three assists. Bin Ishioka scored the game-winner at the 1:47 mark.
Tuesday’s other game was more competitive, with the Nippon Paper Cranes visiting the Tohoku Freeblades at Hachinohe. It was a physical contest with no score until the 30:37 mark, when the Freeblades’ Masahito Suzuki beat Cranes goalkeeper Hisashi Ishikawa to make it a 1-0 contest. It took nearly 16 minutes for the next score; this time it was Daisuke Obara with the equalizer for the Cranes at the 46:29 mark with the feed from Hirokazu Haruta and Naoya Kubo. Obara and Haruta combined again for the game-winner at the 58:00 mark.
The Cranes had a bit easier at home on Saturday and Sunday with 13-0 and 6-3 victories over the China Dragon. If anything positive can be said about the Dragon’s play this week, it’s that they managed three goals on Sunday from Ling Chen (short-handed), Sho Tanaka and Rick Soo. With just 20 shots on goal in two games, the Dragon continues their perpetual struggle with their lack of an offensive game. A little help for goalkeeper Daisuke Sakai would also surely be appreciated. Sakai has played all five games thus far, seeing 4:45:47 playing time and facing 253 shots (109 more than his closest peer).
Daemyung Sangmu earned two road wins this weekend against the Nikko Icebucks. Won-Jung Kim opened the scoring on Saturday at the 6:13 mark with a little help from Min-Ho Cho and Sang-Woo Sin. Woo-Sang Park made it a 2-0 game at the 19:09 mark with the assists from Yong-Jun Lee and Yu-Won Lee. The Icebucks’ Kei Tonosaki finally beat Sangmu goalkeeper Sung-Je Park at the 55:01 mark assisted by Yuya Yamada and Junichi Takahashi but Sangmu held on against an extra attacker for the win.
On Sunday, Yoshinori Iimura had the lone goal for the Icebucks at 28:57 to tie the game after a Min-Ho Cho score for Sangmu less than three minutes earlier. Woo-Sang Park scored the equalizer at the 43:47 mark, assisted by Hyun Mok Hong and Yoon-Hwan Kim. Yong-Jun Lee scored the game-winner with six seconds remaining in regulation, assisted by Woo-Sang Park and Hyun-Soo Kim.
Anyang Halla also earned a pair of wins this weekend at Goyang, visiting their in-country rivals, High1. Tae-An Kwon opened the scoring on Saturday for High1 with a goal at the 22:27 mark, assisted by Jung-Sik Choi. Despite poor ice conditions (understatement), it was all Halla for the remainder of the contest. Kuk-Hwan Mun scored two goals in less than three minutes, beating High1 goalie Mitsuaki Inoue each time with feeds from Brock Radunske.
On Sunday, it wasn’t so much poor ice conditions but poor officiating; however Halla was in full control with goals from five different players (Woo-Je Sung, Jeff Dimmen, Bum-Jin Kim, Brock Radunske and Young-Jun Lee). Hyeok Kim prevented the shut-out; sneaking one past Hall goalkeeper Ho-Sung Son at the 47:57 mark.
High1’s Michael Swift leads the league in goals (9) and Nippon Paper Cranes’ Adam Miller leads the league in assists (13) and points (14). Anyang Halla leads the league on the power play (85.71%) and the Tohoku Freeblades lead the penalty kill (100%).
Sangmu will visit the Icebucks on Monday to open a busy week of games.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Twitter: @prohockeynews