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(LEAD) S. Korean club sets sights on defending Asian hockey title

All News 15:14 September 08, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- South Korean hockey club Anyang Halla will settle for nothing less than their second straight Asian league title, their coach and captain said Thursday.

Anyang Halla won the 2015-2016 championship in the nine-team Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH), after beating Sakhalin in the championship final. At the league media day event in Seoul, Anyang head coach Patrick Martinek said Sakhalin will likely be his team's biggest foe once again.

"We won the championship last year, but this is a new season," he said. "We will make every effort to win the championship again this year. There will be very good competition, and I think eight teams have a very good chance of becoming the champion."

Martinek, a Czech, won the 2010 ALIH championship with Anyang as a forward, and then served as the team's assistant coach when they won the next two titles. He went back to his native Czech Republic to coach there, before getting a homecoming of sorts with the South Korean club.

The 2016-2017 season actually got under way on Aug. 27, but some teams have yet to see action. Anyang have opened their title defense with six straight victories, scoring 35 goals and giving up just eight.

The season will kick into new gear this weekend, with Anyang Halla hosting Sakhalin in the rematch of last season's final, and two South Korean clubs, Daemyung and High 1, facing each other.

Captains of three South Korean clubs in the Asia League Ice Hockey pose for photos at the media day event in Seoul on Sept. 8, 2016. From left: Kim Bum-jin of Daemyung Killer Whales, Kim Won-jung of Anyang Halla and Suh Sin-il of High 1. (Yonhap)

Anyang captain Kim Won-jung said with most members of last year's championship team returning, his club are still the favorites.

"I know a lot of teams will want to beat us, and we have to work extra hard," the forward said. "If we can entertain the crowd, I think the results will naturally follow."

Going the other way are the Daemyung Killer Whales, who have lost their first six games. They've scored eight but given up 42 goals, while facing Anyang and Sakhalin.

Daemyung captain Kim Bum-jin said the tough start of the season has been a good learning experience for the young club.

"I think we're just having some growing pains," he said. "We'll learn how to overcome adversity. Hopefully, we can turn things around quickly."

High 1 will open their season against Daemyung on the road. Their first-year coach Bae Young-ho, who'd been on the Daemyung bench the last two seasons, said he's looking forward to "a fresh start" with the new club.


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