Korean national team forward Kisung Kim was named Most Valuable Player of the Asia League. The 29-year-old played his best season ever switching from winger to centre and became the first Korean-born player to win the award.
For Korean hockey it’s another piece of history. Over many decades of international ice hockey Japan has been the virtually unchallenged hockey power in the Far East. But Korea (23rd) has overtaken China (38th) as the number-two country from the Far East in the World Ranking in 2010 and is now also challenging Japan (21st) especially in the Asia League.
The nine-team league with the top clubs from Japan, Korea, China and as of this season form the Russian island of Sakhalin had been won by Japanese teams from 2004 to 2009 until Anyang Halla became the first Korean club to win the league. Anyang was also co-champion with the Tohoku Free Blades one year later – the final series between the two teams was cancelled due to the earthquake followed by a tsunami that hit the two teams in the Tohoku region.
Anyang Halla captain and Korean national team forward Kisung Kim is among the leaders on his team. He scored 28 goals and collected 70 points in the regular season to rank him eighth in scoring with the same number of points like Kim Staal, the long-time Danish national team player with an experience of 17 World Championships (11 in the top division).
Also Kisung Kim’s linemates, Korean-Canadian Brock Radunske and American forward Mike Testwuide are ranked high while Japanese Nikko Ice Bucks forward Hiroki Ueno was the scoring leader with 40 goals and 40 assists as well as the top goal scorer. Also for the 28-year-old Nagano-born player it has been by far the best season of his career. Korean-Canadian High1 Chuncheon forward Michael Swift also had 80 points but scored less goals (34).
It is only the second time in history of the 2004-founded Asia League that an Asian-born player won the scoring race. In 2011 it was another Japanese national team player, Go Tanaka, who collected most points.
Kim Kisung, who holds the point record for the Korean national team in IIHF competitions, is the third player from Anyang Halla to win the MVP title after Radunske (2009) and Patrik Martinec (2010).
After the regular season the Asia League continues with the playoffs to determine the successor of the Nippon Paper Cranes Kushiro, who didn’t qualify.
Although last in the standing, one award went to China. Qiqihar in the north of the country was named the Asia League’s best hockey city by the league. The China Dragons held part of their games there with 2,000 to 3,000 fans in attendance – a sharp contrast to the last few years when the team played most games in Shanghai in front of a few hundred fans. Other home games were played in Harbin and Shanghai.
The Asia League Special Award went to China Dragons coach Keisuke Araki for the Japanese’s effort to strengthen ice hockey in China. Araki also coached the Chinese national team in the last three seasons.
Asia League – Regular Season Ranking
1. Anyang Halla (KOR), 99
2. Morskie Lvy Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (RUS), 91
3. Tohoku Free Blades (JPN), 91
4. Oji Eagles Tomakomai (JPN), 83
5. High1 Chuncheon (KOR), 76
6. Nippon Paper Cranes Kushiro (JPN), 69
7. Daemyung Sangmu Seoul (KOR), 58
8. Nikko Ice Bucks (JPN), 58
9. China Dragon (CHN), 23
Asia League – Playoffs
Pre-Playoffs: Oji Eagles vs. High1 Chuncheon
Semi-Finals: Anyang Halla vs. Oji/High1, Sakhalin vs. Tohoku
Asia League – Individual Awards
Most Valuable Player: Kisung Kim (KOR), Anyang Halla
Goal Leader: Hiroki Ueno (JPN), Nikko Ice Bucks
Assist Leader: Brock Radunske (KOR), Anyang Halla
Scoring Leader: Hiroki Ueno (JPN), Nikko Ice Bucks
Best Save Percentage: Matt Dalton (CAN), Anyang Halla
Rookie of the Year: Junya Yamada (JPN), Tohoku Free Blades
Asia League – All-Star Team
GK: Matt Dalton (CAN), Anyang Halla
DE: Eric Regan (CAN), High1 Chuncheon
DE: Brad Farynuk (CAN), Tohoku Free Blades
FW: Brock Radunske (KOR), Anyang Halla
FW: Hiroki Ueno (JPN), Nikko Ice Bucks
FW: Ruslan Bernikov (RUS), Morskie Lvy Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk