2013-2014 Asia League Opening Weekend

2013-2014 Asia League Opening Weekend

08 Sep 2013 | Matthew Cross
 

Eagles pick up where they left off, Cranes does better than last year, Sangmu makes a statement and High1 gets an easy start

 
 
 
 

The 2013-2014 Asia League season started with four games this year. Thanks to the newly added Sangmu team out of Korea, all teams get to participate in this years opening weekend. Previously China typically joined in a week or two later in the schedule.

Sangmu is a team made up of Korean players performing their military service, they're not allowed any imports and can only use players in the military. Not all players are eligible, for example Geun-ho Kim and Seung-yup Lee have been shipped off to the military, but due to their grade, they get office jobs and can't play on the team. The defense minister has stated that they intend to keep the team going until 2018, but the team hopes to continue after that. They've retained Daemyung Resorts as a corporate sponsor to help fund the team.

Another big change in the league this year is the rule on imports. Previously various teams were allowed a varying number of imports, as many as seven for China and as little as two for most of the Japanese teams. Starting this year, the teams will each be allowed three imports, though not all are taking advantage of it showing a greater reliance on domestic players.

Also the increase in teams means an increase in games, and the season will become more balanced. Game counts by month, September 29, October 30, November 20, December 27, January 29, February 27, March 6 + playoffs.  For a total of 162 regular season games. The new schedule removes the front-heavy schedule of past years where teams would play nearly half their games in the first two months then languish through a very relaxed schedule the rest of the year.

It is hopeful that the addition of another team might spur some further growth in the league. A boost in popularity in Korea with a run up to the Olympics might be enough to see the league grow further.

Saturday

Freeblades vs Cranes 1-2

Last year the Cranes struggled against the Freeblades, winning only a single regulation game and one in overtime. Despite a solid effort, a little bit of penalty trouble cost the Blades in this game. Tied 1-1 since mid-way through the second period, a delayed call against Kawamoto saw Obara score the winner for the Cranes. The Blades pulled the goalie for the last 90 seconds but couldn't manage to tie it before the clock ran out.

Eagles vs Icebucks 3-2

Last year the Eagles had very little trouble with anyone. They did have the most trouble with the Bucks. Tonight though, they had very little trouble. They outshot the Bucks by a healthy margin and maintained the lead throughout the game. The Bucks tried pulling Fukufiji with only four seconds left, but even with a face-off in the attacking zone, it's unlikely to have been fruitful in such a short time.

Halla vs Sangmu 6-1

This game marked Sangmu's debut game. It's normal to expect some opening game jitters, but Sangmu had the full-on shakes. Radunske scored just 18 seconds in and Halla kept rolling the entire night. Despite rapid fire shots in the second and third, Sangmu couldn't make any headway. They were given further assistance in the form of very lopsided penalty calls against Halla, including several 5 on 3s, but couldn't find the back of the net. Min-ho scored their lone goal on one of the 2-man advantages. Halla put on their typical flashy opening ceremony, and Sangmu broke with tradition at the end of the game. Rather than bowing as is common in the league, they saluted the fans and gave a military cheer.

Dragons vs High1 1-8

China had a Russian on their roster but he was absent from the line-up on opening night. There is no word on what happened to the Canadian contingent that was there last year. It was expected that they were going to stay for the long-term and help-out, but it seems to be yet another failed project involving China. As expected, High1 was all over them, but they showed discipline in taking just a small number of penalties through-out the game. High1 got goals from several players, but Swift had a four point night for the team.

Sunday

Freeblades vs Cranes 3-5

After the loss the day before, it would be expected that a team might be tense. The end of the first period saw a significant dust-up between the teams as 3 players went off on each time for high-sticking and roughing. The Freeblades actually held a 2-1 lead after the first, but after tying it in the second and then getting the lead back early third, the Cranes walked away with it. Hiroshi Sato tied it for the Cranes and Obara scored the winning goal. The Blades tried to pull the goalie again but this time it cost them as Nishiwaki scored on the empty net.

Eagles vs Icebucks 8-1

The Icebucks surely would have wanted to make up for the loss the night before, but instead they were routed. The game saw a lot more penalties and Fukufuji couldn't seem to get his groove going for the Bucks. He was lit up twice in the first minute and the Eagles just never stopped. Could the Eagles be poised for another record setting year? Time will tell. Lampe had a four point night for the Eagles.

Halla vs Sangmu 4-5

Bucking the trend, Sangmu made a statement in their second game: "They are not to be taken lightly". They might have fewer players than other teams, and no imports, but they can still play. After another quick goal to open the game, Halla may have thought it would be another walk in the park. This time though Sangmu tied it up and even took the lead. Halla took it back again quickly in the second, but Sangmu tied it with only three minutes to go. With the announcer still stumbling through the words, Min-ho Cho flew down the ice and scored his second goal in only 12 seconds giving Sangmu the lead. Halla tried to pull the goalie and with a wild scramble in front of the net, Park shut the doors and gave Sangmu their first victory in the Asia League. Halla was again heavily penalized in this game and Sangmu scored all but their final goal on the man-advantage. The second intermission was marked by a video marriage proposal and a suitably embarrassed fiance who said yes.

Dragon vs High1 1-8

This time it was Dong-hwan's turn to have himself a four point night. There is little to say about games against China. It's amazing it wasn't worse. High1 outshot China 25-1 in the second period. It speaks volumes about their goaltending, they just need the other people on the ice to do something. High1 outshot China 60-13 in the entire game. While the stats were in High1's favour on Saturday night, Sunday was out of control. Roman Pantyukhov  was still nowhere to be seen on the line-up, so one wonders what China's plan is this season. Attemps have been made to contact the team, but no answer has been received yet.







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