Anyang faces Paper Cranes in hockey finalsIn becoming the first Korean team in the Asia League to win a playoff series and in the process, earning a spot in the finals, Anyang Halla has achieved a historical feat.
And in an interesting subplot, Anyang will also have a shot a redemption against the team that eliminated it from postseason play in last year’s semifinals: the Nippon Paper Cranes.
Anyang finished last year’s regular season with the best record in the league but lost to the Cranes in a heartbreaking best-of-seven series. Anyang had all but bagged the series with a 3-1 lead before the Paper Cranes managed three consecutive wins to end Anyang’s season.
This year, Anyang is once again the team with the best record in the regular season but the stakes are higher this time around.
The team deadlocked with the Paper Cranes at three games apiece in six head-to-head matchups during the regular season.
“It feels good to reach the finals for the first time, but we’re not satisfied yet,” said Anyang’s head coach, Shin Eui-sik. “We lost a close series to the Paper Cranes last season but this year is going to be different. Our players are showing a lot of determination and as long as they pace themselves, we’re going to end up with good results.”
Anyang defeated Chuncheon High1 in game four by a score of 5-2 to earn a three-games-to-one series win on Wednesday in Chuncheon, Gangwon. Anyang lost the opening game of the series 3-4 but went on to win three consecutive games to close the series.
Anyang’s offense, featuring league MVP and top playmaker Patrik Martinec, outscored its opponents 17-8 in three wins. Although Chuncheon’s top line features top scorers Alex Kim and Tim Smith and is the most potent in the league, its defense and inability to contain Anyang’s offense was a big part of Chuncheon’s loss.
The Nippon Paper Cranes defeated the Oji Eagles 3-0 in game four on Wednesday to win their series three games to one. The best-of-five finals starts on Sunday at the Anyang Sports Complex Arena.
By Jason Kim [email@example.com]