The tournament win came just two days after the women’s team had won Division II Group B gold.
Hockey at this level can throw up some unusual challenges: Chinese Taipei faced a trip of almost 8,000 miles to play at this tournament in Cape Town, South Africa. The team landed the day before its first game, had a brief skate then slept before taking on the host nation and the jet lag to land that 4-2 verdict.
Another problem can come from having a relatively small league where the country’s top players are accustomed to competing with one another and developing those competitive rivalries. Head coach Lang explained in an interview with YouTuber Teemu Hinkula: “Most of our guys represent four or five different clubs, they’re used to competing against each other as the best players on their teams so getting them together and playing for each other can be a bit of a struggle. But once they understand ‘hey, we’re one team, playing as one country’, it gets a lot better.”
An extra night’s sleep can help, too. After admitting that his team was “sluggish at times” against South Africa, Lang saw them wake up to demolish Luxembourg. That set up a showdown against Hong Kong – something of a local derby at barely 500 miles between the two – as the two undefeated teams went head to head for gold.
However, the indicators between these islanders favoured Chinese Taipei – Hong Kong had scored fewer and allowed more against the same opposition – and the game reflected that. Four goals in the first period, two of them for Hung-Li Chou, the tournament’s leading scorer, effectively decided the outcome. The game turned into something of a procession with Taipei piling on the goals. The only disappointment came after 53 minutes when Ryan Chu scored on Po-Yu Hsiao, denying him the chance to finish his tournament with a shut-out. Lang immediately threw on Sheng-Wei Chung for the closing minutes, maximizing the opportunities for his understudy goalie to sample World Championship action.
And maximizing opportunities for new players was a big part of the whole trip for Lang, a long-serving part of Chinese Taipei hockey who coaches the national teams at all age groups. “We came here to win,” he told Hinkula. “We’ve basically got 90 per cent of a new team. We’ve got bunch of younger guys who we can go back to for two, some of them three years playing in under-18 hockey. Hopefully we can start to build something here.”
Only seven of Lang’s roster returned from last season and their experience brought some handy scoring, especially from forwards Yi-Hsiang Hsu (2+4), Po-Hsiang Chung (2+2) and Ho-Yun Chuang (3+2). But it was new faces who caught the eye, from goalie Hsiao, who stopped 91.94 of the shots he faced, to forward Chou who topped the scoring race with 9 (5+4) points. Hong Kong’s Chu pipped Chou for the goalscoring prize with that late consolation effort against Taipei taking him to six for the tournament. Chu also collected the prize for top forward, which David Church of Luxembourg winning best defenceman and Hsiao getting the leading goalie nomination.
South Africa came third in the four-team group, edging Luxembourg in a shoot-out after an engrossing 5-5 tie to bring down the curtain on this year’s championship. Next season’s group could feature representatives of four different continents. New Zealand was relegated from Division IIIA and the Oceania nation is currently set to play Luxembourg (Europe), Hong Kong (Asia) and South Africa.