BANGKOK – Chinese Taipei won the 2013 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in Bangkok, the first IIHF tournament ever to be held in Thailand.
After improving in the U18 World Championship program where the country hosted the Division III Group A tournament recently, fourth-seeded Chinese Taipei managed to get back to the top amongst the nations that participate in the Challenge Cup of Asia.
The team, coached by a Hungarian duo, Kristof Kovago and Zoltan Kozma, finished the tournament with a clean 7-0 record and shone both offensively with To Weng as the tournament’s top goal scorer with 11 markers, and in the defensive department where both goalkeepers, Pang-Keng Ting and Yu-Cheng Liao, had save percentages of over 93%.
Chinese Taipei defeated Kuwait (13-1), the United Arab Emirates (2-1 OT), host Thailand (7-2) and Malaysia (9-1) in the Preliminary Round. In the quarter-finals they blanked Macau 11-0 and steamrolled Kuwait 21-0 before facing Hong Kong in the final.
Hong Kong had to start in the lower-tiered Group B after missing last year’s tournament. After putting up high scores over Singapore, India, Macau and Mongolia, the Hong Kongers eliminated defending champion United Arab Emirates in a 6-3 quarter-final win. Alvin Sham and Jasper Tang scored an early 2-0 lead after just two minutes of play from which the Emirati didn’t fully recover. In another tight contest, Hong Kong defeated Mongolia 4-3 in the semi-finals thanks to Tang’s game-winning goal with eight minutes left in regulation time.
In another evenly-matched contest, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong faced each other for gold on Sunday night before 545 spectators at the full-size ice rink on the seventh floor of a shopping mall.
Chinese Taipei had the better start and Hung-Ju Lin opened the scoring at 13:24 of the first period, but John Fu tied it up for Hong Kong 90 seconds after the start of the middle frame.
The Taiwanese stroke back shortly after when Chang-Hsing Yang and Yen-Chin Shen capitalized on two power plays midway through the game.
Jordan Sun Yin Ho cut the deficit to just one goal when Hong Kong had a man advantage early in the third period, but Kai-Hsiang Chang’s 4-2 goal sealed the win for Chinese Taipei.
Mongolia claimed third place in the tournament after defeating Kuwait 11-0 in the placement game. The Mongolians had a fairy-tale finish. With the season over and no indoor ice rink available in the country, the Mongolians had a difficult start but improved throughout the tournament. They only lost two games – both against Hong Kong – but surprised with a 5-4 victory over host Thailand in the quarter-finals to reach the semi-finals and the bronze medal game.
Thailand had played a strong tournament and outshot Mongolia 45-18 in the quarter-final encounter, but 24-year-old forward Neguun Ganbat scored two early goals for Mongolia en route to the win. Thailand only had the lead during three minutes in the last period when Anon Rattanachot scored the 4-3 goal for the Thai, but Mongolia reacted with a shorthanded marker from Bayarsalkhan Jargalsaikhan and at 12:02 it was Munkhzaya Enkhtur, who netted the game-winning goal.
Kuwait had to settle for fourth place after losing the third-place to Mongolia followed by Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, Macau, Singapore and India.
Singapore returned after a two-year hiatus and managed to win its only game against India, 13-4.
India suffered a setback after its first-ever international win last year when they defeated Macau 5-1 on home ice in Dehradun. This year it was more difficult for the players from the foot of the Himalayas. With the season over and the only indoor ice rink disused, the Indians had trouble keeping up with their opponents and Macau gained revenge in a 9-1 victory as India finished the tournament with a 0-4 record.
The event included ten teams that played 28 games in nine days. The top-notch teams at the tournament became stronger and might be able to reach the level to challenge Division III nations from other continents in the not too distant future.
“We were able to witness that the teams made a step forward compared to last year,” said IIHF Asian Sport Development Manager Harry Springfeld. “The players played with heart and soul. We saw competitive games and had good discussions about our development programs where we hope to take another step forward since Asia is where the growth is.”
The tournament was also used to improve the level of officiating in Asian countries. For the second straight year, only Asian referees and linesmen were called to the tournament.
Among the guests that paid a visit to the tournament was the Japanese organizing committee for the 2017 Asian Winter Games and IIHF President René Fasel.
“Asian hockey has a future and we try hard with our members to create a good environment for them,” Fasel said.
Having ten teams at the event was a record for the tournament that doesn’t include the established national teams that participate in the World Championship program such as Kazakhstan, Japan, Korea, China and DPR Korea.
“It was not an easy task to organize and event with that many teams, but we managed to do it altogether. My thank goes to all the participants and especially to the Ice Hockey Association of Thailand, which organized this event with us,” said IIHF Vice President Thomas Wu.
“Now we need to evaluate this tournament to decide about the next step at the next Asian Strategic Planning Group meetings in May.”
Click here for scores and stats.
1. Chinese Taipei
2. Hong Kong
5-8 United Arab Emirates
Individual Awards as selected by the Tournament Directorate
Best Goalkeepers: Khaled Al Suwaidi, United Arab Emirates
Best Defenceman: Likit Neimwann, Thailand
Best Forward: Ban Kin Loke, Malaysia