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Host S. Korea blanks Japan at men’s hockey tournament

February 8, 2019

 South Korea shut out Japan 2-0 for its first win at a men’s hockey tournament on home ice Friday.

Defenseman Eric Regan scored midway through the second period, and forward Park Sang-jin netted a short-handed goal in the third for insurance in a well-deserved victory at the Legacy Cup.

Goalie Matt Dalton turned aside all 26 shots he faced, including 16 in the third period, for his third career shutout against Japan in four matches.

The four-nation tournament, which also featured Kazakhstan and Latvia, was held at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, in commemoration of the first anniversary of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

South Korean players celebrate their first goal against Japan, scored by defenseman Eric Regan, during the teams' final match at the Legacy Cup men's hockey tournament at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)
South Korean players celebrate their 2-0 victory over Japan at the Legacy Cup men's hockey tournament at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)
Kim Ki-sung of South Korea (C) fights for the loose puck against Japan during the teams' final match at the Legacy Cup men's hockey tournament at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)
Matt Dalton of South Korea (R) makes a save against Japan during the teams' final match at the Legacy Cup men's hockey tournament at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)

South Korean players celebrate their first goal against Japan, scored by defenseman Eric Regan, during the teams’ final match at the Legacy Cup men’s hockey tournament at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 8, 2019. (Yonhap)

This was South Korea’s first victory at Gangneung Hockey Centre, which was built for the Olympics, on its ninth try. The team lost both of its friendly matches against Russia in February 2017 and dropped all four games at PyeongChang 2018. Then it lost its first two games at the Legacy Cup, first to Latvia on Wednesday and then to Kazakhstan the following day, before ending the skid Friday.

South Korea has now won its past four meetings against Japan with a combined score of 12-1. Dalton has been in net for all four victories.

“It was a well-rounded, great team game today. Our penalty killing was fantastic,” said South Korea head coach Jim Paek. “We created a lot of opportunities. We had a game plan and the players followed the game plan for 60 minutes. That was a real positive.”

South Korea failed to capitalize on two power play opportunities in the scoreless opening period, though it did come close to scoring during the second power play.

Kim Sang-wook made a nifty cross-ice pass to Ahn Jin-hui inside the right circle, and after Ahn’s snap shot bounced off goalie Takuto Onoda, Kim Ki-sung fanned on the rebound at the top of the crease.

The two Kim brothers and Ahn, as the top South Korean line, kept buzzing around the Japanese net. They created another dangerous scoring chance near the 14-minute mark, when Ahn pounced on a rebound following Kim Ki-sung’s shot and forced Onoda to make a tough save.

South Korea continued to dominate the run of play in the second period. On an odd-man rush early in the frame, Kim Sang-wook made a drop pass for Kim Ki-sung, whose low shot was turned aside by Onoda. Later in the same shift, Ahn had his wraparound attempt foiled by the Japanese goalie.

Regan broke the scoreless deadlock at 12:19. His defense partner Choi Jin-woo won the battle in the corner and chipped the puck out toward the point to Regan, who snapped a shot through traffic and beat Onoda high on the stick side.

The goal seemed to lift South Korean players, who started skating with extra zest and assurance. The top-six forwards kept pushing the Japanese defenders around, while the bottom-six grinders put on a forechecking clinic and won the majority of 50-50 battles down low.

Japan started pushing back a little bit late in the second period, but Dalton was there to stop everything fired his way.

South Korea had to weather the storm a bit in the third period, as it committed three penalties over the first 11 minutes of the third.

And while killing off the third one, Park Sang-jin doubled South Korea’s lead with a great individual effort. As Yuri Terao tried to dance past Park from deep in his own zone, the Korean forward stripped him of the puck right in front of the net and shot it past Onoda for a 2-0 advantage.

With just under six minutes remaining, Japan had a goal called back on goalie interference. Suzuki Yuta beat Dalton with a shot from the right wing, but Ryuichi Kawai, who was charging down the middle toward the net, crashed into the goalie. After a brief video review, officials wiped out the scoring play.

Dalton, who was barely tested in the opening 40 minutes, was far busier in the final 20 minutes, as Japan outshot South Korea 16-5. Onoda was pulled for an extra attacker for the final two minutes, but Japan still couldn’t get past Dalton.

Kazakhstan won the Legacy Cup by defeating Latvia 3-2 in overtime earlier Friday for its third straight win. Latvia beat South Korea and Japan before dropping its final game.

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