Hirano Shining on International Stage
Yushiroh Hirano became the second Japanese player in Wheeling hockey history this season, and he delivered a memorable performance, finishing second on the team with 57 points in 67 games. With his first professional season in North America freshly in his rear view mirror, Hirano now turns his attention to the international stage, as he represents his home country in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
As with most rookies, there was an adjustment period for Hirano, as he was learning a new league, while playing in North America for just the second time in his career. His prior experience came during the 2015-16 season, when he played for the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms at age 20. Yushiroh notched his first point as a Nailer with an assist in his sixth game, then tallied his first goal by capping off a 4-1 win at South Carolina in his eighth game on November 17th. That was the Tomakomai, Japan native's lone marker in his first 15 games, but in mid-December, things began to click, as he went on to light the lamp five times in the next 11 contests. Hirano also recorded at least one point in 14 of 16 games from December 22nd through January 27th, highlighted by his first career two-goal game and a career-high four-point effort. Yushiroh's 57 total points placed him tenth among rookies in the ECHL.
After finishing his season in Wheeling on April 7th, Hirano was recalled by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and proceeded to dish out an assist in his AHL debut - a 5-2 victory over the Binghamton Devils on April 14th. Less than two weeks after that, Yushiroh made his way to Estonia for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Team Japan is competing in Division 1 - Group B, and has posted a 1-1 record in its first two games, defeating Ukraine, 3-2, before falling to Romania, 3-2. In the opening match, Hirano was selected as his team's best player, notching one goal and one assist. Japan has three games remaining in the tournament - Wednesday against Estonia, Thursday against Netherlands, and Saturday against Poland. There are no playoffs, so the team that finishes in first place will be the champion.
This is the fourth time that Hirano has played in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. In his previous three tournaments, he compiled four goals, six assists, and ten points in 15 games. He also competed for Japan four times in the World Junior Championship, and once each in the Asian Winter Games and in Olympic Games Qualification.
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Yushiroh Hirano with the Wheeling Nailers
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