TOKYO, Japan – The Nippon Paper Cranes maintain their hold on first place in Asia League Ice Hockey with a 6-0 record and 18 points. The Oji Eagles have taken the second slot with a 5-0 record and 15 points followed by High1 (6-4, 12 points) and Daemyung Sangmu (6-4, 12 points).
On Monday, a last-second score by Yoshinori Iimura gave the Nikko Icebucks a 3-2 win at home over Daemyung Sangmu. Iimura’s shot beat Sangmu goalkeeper Sung-Je Park at the 59:59 mark off a set up by Tetsuya Saito and Matt Waddell. This was a bittersweet win after a pair of losses last weekend to Korea’s newest club.
It looked like Sangmu would take another win after two early scores. Alternate Captain Hyun-Soo Kim tallied the first goal at 3:47, assisted by Byung-Chun Jung and Sang-Woo Sin. Just 92 seconds later, Jung made it a 2-0 contest with a goal assisted by Woo-Sang Park and Kim.
The Icebucks’ defense came to life in the second frame and the team struck back with three unanswered goals. Yuta Suzuki cut the lead in half with a score at the 22:12 mark, assisted by Takuto Gorai and Kei Tonosaki. Late in the third period, Hiroki Ueno tallied the equalizer at 56:23 with the feed from Dave Bonk and Matt Waddell. Yutaka Fukufuji earned the win with a stellar performance, stopping 33 of 35 shots faced and holding off all Sangmu attackers for the last 54:41 of play.
Tuesday’s action saw China Dragon travel to Kushiro for a 14-1 beat down by the Nippon Paper Cranes, highlighted by a five-goal performance by Mike Radja. Miles Beason had the lone score for the Dragon, assisted by Jiachang Bao and Longtan Liu.
On Thursday, China Dragon traveled to Tomakomai to meet the Oji Eagles. It took 20 seconds for the first goal and the Eagles won the game 8-0. Yosuke Haga had two goals for the home team. The Eagles defeated the Dragon 7-0 the following afternoon. Hiromichi Terao and Mike Kompon each had two goals to lead the scoring for the Eagles.
Daemyung Sangmu travelled to the Misawa Ice Arena to take on the Tohoku Free Blades, who were looking to earn their first win of the season. Things didn’t go their way however, despite a spirited effort. After a scoreless first period, Goshi Kumagai struck first for the Blades, assisted by Ned Lukacevic and Naoto Mizuuchi at the 21:54 mark.
Sangmu answered back with a power play strike by Won-Jung Kim at the 24:00 mark. Hyun-Soo Kim beat Blades goalie Michikazu Hata to make it a 2-1 contest at the 35:57 Mark, set up by Min-Ho Cho and Don-Ku Lee. The Blades tied it up again at 45:08 When Shohei Ikeda delivered a feed from Ryo Tanaka to the back of the net. Naoto Mizuuchi gave the Blades their final lead of the game less than four minutes later, assisted by Ned Lukacevic.
Sangmu’s Woo-Sang Park made it 3-3 at 49:53 and then tallied the eventual game-winner on the power play at 57:32. Don-Ku Lee added the final blow at 59:36 for the final score of 5-3. It was the fourth win for Sangmu and the fourth loss for the Blades. Sung-Je Park earned the win, stopping 50 of 53 shots faced.
During Saturday’s final game, High1 went on the road to meet and beat Anyang Halla in a 5-2 slugfest.
Chan-Hwi Lee scored the first of three strikes by High1 in the opening frame, assisted by David Brine and Tae-An Kwon. After matching penalties were called at the 13:25 mark, Bin Ishioka scored the second goal just 25 seconds later. David Brine and Ryuichi Kawai were credited with the assists. Brine scored next, beating Halla goalkeeper Ho-Sun Song with a feed from Ishioka to make it 3-0 at the 19:20 mark. Hyeok Kim delivered the secondary assist.
Michael Swift scored the only goal of the middle frame, making it 4-0, with the helpers from Yosuke Kon and Dong-Hwan Song.
Halla’s special teams finally solved High1 goalie Mitsuaki Inoue at the 45:51 mark when defenseman Dustin Wood delivered a feed from fellow blue liner Jeff Dimmen. Brock Radunske offered the secondary assist. Halla scored again with 3:16 remaining in the game on an unassisted strike by Kyung-Hun Kang.
With Halla’s goalie pulled in favor of the extra attacker, Dong-Hwan Song put the nail in the coffin with seven seconds remaining, cementing the 5-2 final tally. Michael Swift and Yosuke Kon delivered the assists. Mitsuake Inoue earned the win, stopping 32 of 34 shots faced.
On Sunday afternoon, China Dragon was taken down for the third straight game by the Oji Eagles, 8-1. Rich Soo scored the lone tally for the Dragon, assisted by Tian Xiang Xia and Shuji Kikuchi. Mike Kompon had four points (2 G, 2 A) for the Eagles and Shuhei Kuji scored the game-winner with assists from Kompon and Masato Domeki.
In the final game of the weekend, the Tohoku Free Blades made a goalkeeper change and earned their first victory of the season with a 2-1 win over Daemyung Sangmu. Michio Hashimoto stood tall in net for the Blades and stopped 46 of 48 shots face on the night. The game was decided with all scoring in the second frame. Go Tanaka tallied the first goal for the Blades, beating Sangmu goalie Sung Je Park with a feed from Brad Farynuk on the power play. Darrell Hay was credited with the secondary assist. Farynuk scored the eventual game-winner
Byung Chun Jung put Sangmu on the board 78 seconds later, assisted by Woo Sang Park and Yoon Hwan Kim. The goalkeepers held strong for the remainder of the game and the contest was decided at 2-1 in favor of the Blades.
The Nippon Paper Cranes’ Mike Radja and High1’s Michael Swift are tied for the league lead in goals (10) and the Cranes’ Adam Miller continues to lead the league in assists (18) and points (20). The Cranes lead the league on the power play (57.14%) and the Oji Eagles lead the penalty kill (94.44%).
Asia League action will continue on Thursday when the Paper Cranes visit Goyang to battle High1.
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