Chinese Taipei – Malaysia 0 – 3 (0-1, 0-2, 0-0)
The first match of the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia semi-final qualification figured to be a one-sided clash between Malaysia, winners of Group B, and the lowest seeded team from Group A, Chinese Taipei. But a surprise effort from Taipei, particularly goaltender Nin-Ya Yang, kept the Malaysians at bay through the opening minutes of the game.
Unfortunately for Yang, his effort was matched at the other end by a 22-save shutout performance from Tengku Muhd Azlly Tengku Abdillah.
Taipei managed to beark down the Malaysian offence with smart checks and good positioning. The shots were the closest so far in the Tournament, 22 to 27 for Malaysia, and was also one of the more physical so far. Taipei played their best game yet, but just did not manage to end the puck in the net.
The two goalkeepers were chosen the most valuable players for the teams, and were recognized with applause and recognition from the fans at Dehradun arena after the game.
At the end, Malaysia did win, but not as easily as many expected. Goals from captain Khia Peng Tan, Seng Chee Khoo, and Edmond Ng Eng Kuan gave the team enough to advance. Malaysia is to meet United Arab Emirates in the semifinals tomorrow.
Kuwait – India 13 – 2 (4-1, 4-1, 5-0)
Going up against tournament heavyweights Kuwait, India saw their 2012 Challenge Cup of Asia campaign come to a rough end with a 13-2 loss.
Kuwait outshot the Indians 75-10, and scored at least four goals in each period to seal the rout. Defenceman Meshal Al Ajmi scored five goals, and forward Salem Al Ajmi had three more and earned Best Player honours. With the victory, Kuwait will face Thailand in the second semi-final on Saturday.
Although the team was unceremoniously bounced out from the tournament, India can look at their 2012 campaign as a sign of real progress in their hockey program. The national team won its first ever game in an international tournament, by scoring a team record five goals in front of local fans. While Kuwait joined the Tournament to fight for a high ranking and medal, India was playing for different reasons. The primary goal for the host was to raise ice hockey acknowledgement of the sport, and show that the game is played and available. This they managed very well, generating positive publicity and drawing a steady number of spectators to Dehradun arena for the games.
Consequently, there were no sad Indian faces on the ice after the game. The team knew that they had accomplished what they set initially to do, raise ice hockey awareness and spread the word of the game. They had brought the game to a new city in Dehradun, and showed India can compete at an international level.
TIMMO PEKKA FRONDELIUS
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