UAE – Thailand 3 – 0 (0-0, 2-0, 1-0)
With a shutout performance from their goaltender, the United Arab Emirates defeated Thailand 3-0 in the 2012 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia final. The victory gives the UAE its second gold medal in the tournament.
With playoff hockey, the philosophy is the same whether you play in Toronto, Moscow, or at a rink in Dubai. If you’re goaltender is hot, the road to the title becomes that much smoother. This was proven once again in Dehradun, India, where the UAE’s Khaled Al Suwaidi backstopped his team to victory with a 26-save effort. The shutout also gave Al Suwaidi a perfect 0.00 goals-against record for the tournament.
“Taking the Cup back home, where it belongs,” said Al Suwaidi when asked what the initial goal was for him at the 2012 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. “We came here to get the Cup back and nothing else mattered, that was the only outcome we would be satisfied with.”
Al Suwaidi’s performance throughout the tournament earned him team MVP honours.
“I think the team held together very good,” he said. “Yesterday after the semifinals each one of us made a loud commitment towards each other, that today in the finals we would give our best, everything we got. I think we kept our promise and that is how we managed to win”.
The UAE defence, led by their goaltender, proved instrumental in the win against the Thais. After Al Suwaidi managed to hold the fort against Thailand through the opening frame, defenceman Mohamed Al Zaabi broke the deadlock just over a minute into the second period, scoring a goal with assists from Mubarak Al Mazrouei and Turki Al Shamsi.
The Emirati defenders struck again at 9:20 in the second thanks to a score from Zaabi’s lineate Ebraheem Budebs. With the insurance goal, the UAE held off the Thai forwards through the rest of the game, and sealed their second gold medal with a third goal in the final period from forward Obaid Al Muharrami.
The UAE’s head coach, Belarussian Yuri Faikov was full of praise for his MVP goaltender following the game.
“If I needed to point out a single strength of our team, it would have to be our goalkeeper,” said Faikov, who coached the team from 2001 to 2008 when he left back to Belarus to play a season in Minsk. “Al Suwaidi did a tremendous job by backing up our team and placing the holes our defense sometimes made. It makes our job much easier when we have someone like him to rely on.”
To secure a win, UAE team did everything possible, including hiring a proven head coach from Belarus with an assistant from the same background, along with two assistant coaches from Finland, and an experienced equipment manager from Canada.
The result? No losses, 42 goals scored and only three goals against. Not bad for a team from the desert.
NOTES: With a bronze medal to contend for, Malaysia defeated Kuwait in the placement game 5-3 in a hard fought and physical match. Kuwait was only down 3-2 to the Malays going into the final period, but penalty trouble allowed Malaysia to score an early power play goal in the third period, which proved to be the game winner.
TIMMO PEKKA FRONDELIUS
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