Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Advertisement
SportsLookSportsLook

Winter Sports

Shogo Nakajima Scores OT Winner as Red Eagles Edge Free Blades in Japan Cup Final Opener

The tightly contested opener featured superb goaltending on both sides.

Forward Shogo Nakajima scored late in overtime on Saturday, March 19 to give the Red Eagles Hokkaido a 1-0 win over the Tohoku Free Blades in the first game of the best-of-five Japan Cup ice hockey final.

After three scoreless periods at Flat Hachinohe Arena in Aomori Prefecture, Nakajima finally settled it with just 6 minutes, 49 seconds left in the 20-minute overtime.

Nakajima picked up a loose puck in the corner and fired a low angled shot that somehow found its way under the right pad of Tohoku goaltender Michio Hashimoto.

Each team had a power play opportunity in the extra frame but couldn’t take advantage.

The Free Blades outshot the Eagles 14-6 in overtime and 44-42 overall.

The best-of-five finals pits the winner of the first stage, Hokkaido, vs. second-stage winner, Tohoku.

After finishing fourth in the first half, the Free Blades went 8-4 in the second half to finish first and claim a spot in the Japan Cup final.

Tohoku defenseman Simon Denis was named league MVP and picked up his award before the start of Saturday’s game.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

The Canadian previously played in the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League before coming to Japan.

Game Two is on Sunday at the same venue before the series shifts to Tomakomai, Hokkaido Prefecture, for the final three games beginning on Thursday, March 24.

History is on the side of the Eagles.

The club was founded as the Oji Eagles in 1925. They have won the Japan League 13 times, the All-Japan Championship 37 times and the Asia League two times (2008, 2012).

Oji was a founding member of the Asia League Ice Hockey in 2003. 

In 2021, the team changed its name to Red Eagles Hokkaido.

But the Free Blades also have a history of success in the Asia League. Founded in 2008, they have won three Asia League titles in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

They beat the Nikko Ice Bucks by scores of 5-4 and 4-3 in their final two games of the regular season on March 5 and 6 to book a place in the Japan Cup final.

Normally, the Asia League Ice Hockey features seven teams; five Japanese teams plus one from South Korea, Anyang Halla, and Russia, Sakhalin.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

But because of travel restrictions due to COVID-19, the league has just been contested among the five Japanese teams over the past two seasons in the two-stage Japan Cup.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for more than 25 years. You can find his articles here.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

Baseball

The 42-year-old lefty continues to impress for the high-flying Swallows.

Rugby

Brave Blossoms coach Jamie Joseph used a combination of up-and-coming players and veterans in their first official match since November 2021.

Baseball

How did all of NPB’s teams perform during the recent interleague period? Here’s an analysis of what took place on the field.

Baseball

The 28-year-old veteran struck out nine batters and issued only one walk.

Baseball

Insights on Roki Sasaki’s rising fame, other young stars to keep an eye on, Yoshihisa Hirano’s brilliant career as a closer, and much more.