KOREA'S ANYANG HALLA WINS 1ST ASIA LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP - ALIH
PLAYOFF MVP ANYANG HALLA FORWARD BROCK RADUNSKE - ALIH
ANYANG HALLA 2009-10 REGULAR SEASON CHAMPS - ALIH
GOAL/POINTS LEADER ALEX KIM, ASSISTS/POINTS LEADER TIM SMITH - ALIH
The celebrations were a little more vibrant after the 2009-10 season ended in March for Anyang Halla of the Asia Hockey League. For the first time in the 7-year history of the ALIH, a non-Japanese team took home the championship trophy. Anyang Halla came back from a 1-0 deficit in the best-of-5 first round against the fellow Korean High 1 side, then defeated the three time champion (03-04, 06-07, 08-09) Nippon Paper Cranes 3-2 in the ALIH Finals.
“I can’t really describe the feeling in one word. Everyone worked so hard. This means a lot to Korean hockey. It fulfills a commitment to compete at the top level in Asia,” Anyang Halla’s assistant GM and spokesman Sam Kim told NHL.com’s Bill Meltzer after winning the ALIH championship. Anyang was the first non-Japanese club to finish first in the regular season last year. “There are a few good Korean players who could play in North America. I really think that scouts should come to Korea and watch some of our Asia League’s game in the future. Just like in the mid-90s in Major League Baseball, scouts can find a hockey version of Chan-Ho Park or Hideo Nomo.”
Anyang Halla, a club once named after a local refrigerator company, took home several of the year-end 2009-10 ALIH awards (PDF file). Anyang Halla forward and former Stockton Thunder left wing Brock Radunske took home playoff MVP honors for the second straight season. Radunske lead the ALIH in playoff goals (6) and overall playoff scoring (13 points). The regular season MVP went to fellow Anyang foreign import Patrick Martinec, and Anyang coach Eui-Sik Shim was named Coach of the Year. Fullerton, California-born High 1 forward Alex Kim took home the regular season scoring title with 29 goals, and tied teammate Tim Smith with 75 total points. Smith, a former WHL/ECHL/AHL veteran, lead the ALIH with 48 assists.
China Sharks goalkeeper/coach Wade Flaherty took home best goalkeeper honors after the 2008-09 season. This year Oji Eagles netminder Masahito Haruna was named the top ALIH goaltender, and also picked up an award for the best save percentage (.915). Anyang Halla’s Min Ho Cho was rookie of the year, and Brad Farynuk (Tohoku) won best offensive defenseman, Aaron Keller won best defensive defenseman (Oji), and Takeshi Saito (Oji) won best defensive forward.
This was a transitional year for the ALIH, struggling with costs and an economic recession the playoffs were reduced from a best-of-7 to best-of-5 format, the number of playoff qualifying teams was reduced from 5 to 4, and the number of foreign born imports allowed was reduced from 5 to 4. The ALIH also had to adapt after losing the 2-time ALIH champion and 13-time Japan League champion Seibu Prince Rabbits. They were replaced by the expansion Tohoku Free Blades, located in the northeast section of Honshu island. With the loss of the San Jose affiliated China Sharks, a new Chinese Ice Hockey Association affiliated China Dragon squad was born. With Belarusan head coach Andrei Kovalev and a significantly toned down use of foreign imports, the Chinese squad struggled on a massive scale. They registered a 1-35 regular season record, and a 64-218 goals for/goals against differential. In a 36-game regular season, that is a 6.05 goals allowed mark per game. Mitsuaki Inoue (33GP, 5.99GAA) and Xue Liu (11GP, 5.96GAA) saw the bulk of duty between the pipes for China.
There are video highlights up from the first game of the Halla-Cranes final here and from Game 5 here. Video highlights from the Halla-High 1 opening round playoff series are also available, game 1 here, game 2 here.
[Update] From the Korea Times:
South Korea is currently ranked 33rd in the world by the International Ice Hockey Federation, out of 48 countries. It’s the second highest-ranked Asian country trailing Japan, which is 21st.
Earlier this year, the country celebrated its biggest achievement in the sport in the miraculous run by Anyang Halla. They became the first non-Japanese club champion of the Asian league since its foundation in 2003, in a nail-biting final series against defending champions Nippon Paper Cranes.
Current IIHF Men’s and Women’s world rankings are available here.
[Related] Interview with former China Sharks GM and former San Jose Sharks color commentator Chris Collins – Sharkspage 2009.