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Asia's WJC Run


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St.Paul- When the S63 WJC was announced a couple weeks ago no one thought that Asia would be doing this well. With not a lot to choose from unlike the big nations Canada, the USA, and Europe, Team Asia had to make do with what they had, which was some VHLM free agents and a few first liners. But the biggest advantage they've had is in their goaltender. The VHL goaltender was an instant pick for Team Asia, and probably the best goalie in the WJC. Team Asia wasn't a favourite from a betting standpoint, but you can bet that fans wanted them to have success all over the globe. Last years silver medalists weren't able to replicate their 2nd place success in the round robin as top players like Maxim Kovalchuk, Ryuu Crimson, and top point scorer Sergei Kovalev all graduated from the tournament and were no longer eligible. Asia still had some success, and definitely ended up higher than predicted with a final rank of 3rd after the Round Robin. With Team World upsetting the Americans in the quarter final the semi final matches will be Asia vs Europe and Canada vs World. Asia hasn't won against team Europe with 2 close losses, but they have upset team Canada in one of the two games they played against them. Asia is hoping to advance to the gold, but any medal is better than the last place people were predicting them. Part of their amazing run were huge step ups by Kissan Shan and Dylan Nguyen. Shan and Nguyen have led the WJC in scoring, with Shan having 10 goals and 10 assists for a total of 20 points in only 8 games, and Nguyen having 2 goals and 16 point assists for 2nd place in the round robin scoring. Shan really stepped it up in a  4-2 win against Team Canada. He was able to net all 4 goals against goaltender Brick Wahl, leading Asia to an upset against Team Canada. But lets not look at just the scorers, in goal Alexander Pepper really performed and is one of the reasons why Asia is where they are in the standings. Posting a .915% and a 2.85 GAA on paper it may not look like he was the best, but if you watched the games you would know he came in clutch. Often facing >40 shots a night he was able to stop most, and made some big saves on opportunities that should've gone in. Pepper faced 41 shots in the 4-2 win against team Canada, saving 39 for a .951% against the lethal Canadian offense who scored 7 more goals than the next team. With not a top defense like some of the other goalies you could make a case that Pepper should be the MVP of the tournament, or other Asian players like Shan and Nguyen could also be MVP's. With the semi-final's happening today or tomorrow Asia is looking to continue their story that has set them up for success in this tournament, and put them on the radar as not just known as the worst team, but as a decent one with clutch players.


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