HONG KONG – After six games, 473 shots and 53 goals in the tournament, the Hong Kong players posed with the trophy of the first-ever IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I.
For most of the players at the tournament, which also included Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates, it was the first time they wore a national team jersey. The event was staged to give developing nations in women’s hockey from the Far and Middle East a chance to collect international experience and measure their level of development in the sport.
For Hong Kong it was also a good opportunity to prepare for their first-time participation in the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Program. Next March they will compete with Bulgaria, Mexico and South Africa in the Division II Group B Qualification in Mexico City.
"We are glad that our international debut started off on a positive note earning our first victory. We look forward to many more IIHF events like this so we can gain more experience and continue to build on our success,” said Adrienne May Li, Hong Kong’s team captain.
For all the teams the tournament was unknown territory since they hadn’t played each other before. The Hong Kongers started off well with a 7-1 win over Singapore. The team entered the tournament as the favourites since Hong Kong is the only of the four countries whose women’s ice hockey program meets the standards to participate in the World Championship program.
Thailand was expected to be its toughest rival. Indeed the Thai finished in second place but the Hong Kong women’s national team also solved this challenge easily with a 4-0 win after a scoreless first period. The team ended the tournament with a 9-0 blanking of the United Arab Emirates.
Captain and defenceman Adrienne May Li led her team in scoring with five goals and four assists. Only one player had more scoring points, Thailand forward Nuchanat Ponglerkdee (7+4). Her team finished in second place thanks to wins over the United Arab Emirates (12-0) and Singapore (6-1).
Singapore claimed third place in a tight battle with the Emirati, who lost that game 7-6 in overtime despite four goals from Dana Al Hosani and two from Latifa Al Sowaidi.
Seven different players scored for Singapore. Kimberly Mei Ling Leng and Jaslyn Pan Yu Lim succeeded in the first period for a 2-1 lead but then the Emirati seemed to turn the game with four unanswered goals in the second and third period. It was 5-2 for the UAE with less than seven minutes to play in regulation time.
Within 166 seconds Singapore tied the game at five thanks to goals from Sapphire Siah Hwee Ng, Charlotte Zi Qing Eng and Emily Wei Wei Kwek.
On a power play Singapore hoped to clinch the game-winning goal with two minutes left and even pulled the goalie but Al Sowaidi scored into the empty net with 63 seconds left in regulation time. Singapore pulled the goalie again and with 34 seconds remaining Yin Fong Quek tied the game at six and after 51 seconds in the extra period Jamie Yok May Ng scored the game winner.
The IIHF Asian Office also used this tournament as a chance to work with female game officials from Asia.
“At the end of the day we want to have more teams and game officials from Asia successfully participating in the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Program. That’s our big goal,” said IIHF Vice President Thomas Wu.
Also two students from the Harbin Sports University in Harbin, China, were present and worked with the IIHF Asian Office together to conduct the tournament.
“Their study in China is project-oriented. The students must work together with real-life institutions and the goal is to build up future administrators and coaches,” said IIHF Asian Project Manager Harald Springfeld.
While this has been the first official women’s hockey tournament for the lower-tier countries in Asia, the top countries will play in the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia in Harbin, 9-13 March. Beside host China, Korea, Australia and DPR Korea will participate in the event while Japan will compete in the Olympic Winter Games in February.
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