Daisuke Obara leads Seibu to All-Japan Championship hockey title

KUSHIRO, Japan – Daisuke Obara scored a power-play goal late in the third period Sunday as the Seibu Prince Rabbits defeated the Nippon Paper Cranes 5-3 to win the 75th All-Japan Ice Hockey Championship.

Obara took a pass from Yosuke Kon and beat former Calgary Flames goaltender Jamie McClennan low on the glove side with just 46 seconds left in regulation.

Seibu, which beat Oji Paper 5-4 in overtime on Saturday, added an empty-net goal by Kon before the end of the period to complete the scoring.

“Yesterday’s game reminded us you have to fight to the end,” said Obara, who had two goals and was named MVP of the tournament. “Kon made a great pass and it’s a thrill to contribute to a championship.”

It was Seibu’s first championship in four years and their 10th overall.

“We knew it was going to be a close game,” said Seibu coach Chris Wakabayashi. “We didn’t win the title last year and that was a huge disappointment so it’s very satisfying to win it this season. The players did an outstanding job today.”

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Three times the Rabbits led and three times the Cranes equalized, before the Rabbits surged at the end.

Cranes forward Ryan Kuwabara tied the game 1-1 late in the first period when he picked up his own rebound and lifted the puck into the top corner.

Obara scored his first goal of the game to make it 2-1 Seibu in the second period when his team had a 5-on-3 power play.

A Cranes’ 5-on-3 powerplay midway through the second saw Darcy Mitani’s wrister make it 2-2.

Seibu’s Go Tanaka gave his team a 3-2 lead with just over four minutes left in the second with a shot from the faceoff circle that beat McClennan high on the glove side.

Cranes defenseman Joel Dyck scored on a power play with less than two minutes remaining in the second period to tie the game 3-3.

Dyck rifled a low shot from the point that beat the Seibu goaltender on the stick side.

The Cranes trounced the Nikko Ice Bucks 7-1 to advance to Sunday’s final.