Taipei is ranked 45th in the world, the Mexicans nine places higher. But the outsider made a mockery of the rankings with a powerful display from start to finish. This was no scrappy win, secured largely by a goaltending miracle assisted by wayward finishing from the favourite. This was an underdog baring its teeth and biting – hard.
"Overall for us it was a fantastic tournament," said head coach Ryan Conrad Lang. "We came as the last seed we knew we were in tough but we havea great group of guys there, we played it defence first, played to a system and we ended up having a pretty successful tournament."
Even in the early stages, Chinese Taipei had the edge over the Mexicans and once Yi-Chang Peng opened the scoring midway through the first period there was little doubt about the final outcome. Peng produced a classy finish, flipping a backhand across the face of Gerardo Garcia de Valle after bursting down the right channel.
Team captain Hung-Ju Lin had an assist on the opener, and he scored the next two himself. Both goals came on the power play as Mexico’s discipline began to evaporate. First, he got the puck out on the boards, spun away from Santiago Sierra and beat Garcia de Valle from a tight angle. Then he made it 3-0 with a one-timer from the circle as his team celebrated a dream of a first period.
But it wasn't just about Sunday's game. As Lang pointed out, the team is getting more competitive against all-comers.
"Even those top teams, 5-6 years ago they were beating us 30-0. Now we’re playing a style of hockey that suits our team, the plyers are bought in and we’re seeing results. It’s a fantastic effort by everybody."
The second stanza followed a similar pattern. Mexico struggled to generate offence and Yu-Chang Liao was able to deal with the shots that came his way. At the other end, Taipei steadily extended its lead. The team’s increasing confidence was visible as it moved the puck around smartly on yet another power play before Po-Yun Hsiao applied the finishing touch at the back door. Then came a touch of class from Chang-Hsing Yang, deking past a defenceman on the way to number five. Hsiao got his second of the game soon afterwards, the bench started believing the team in blue could score every time it came forwards.
Mexico’s tournament has had few bright spots. But in Sierra it at least had a forward with an eye for goal. He scored the conlsation efforts in those heavy losses against Spain and the Netherlands and made it three from three midway through the third period. The goal was greeted with a defiant pounding of sticks from the Mexican bench.
Mexico captain Fernando Ugarte explained why the weekend was so tough for his team. "We brought a new team," he said. "We only had three players from the World Championship last year. We were here to learn and we knew we would have some tough games, especially against Spain and the Netherlands. We just had to try to do the best we could."
However, the last word went to Chinese Taipei and fittingly it was captain Li who wrapped up the scoring with a fine solo effort.
Next up, Lang and his players go to Luxembourg to test themselves in Division IIIA next year. "Our confidence is high now so hopefully we can come up with another medal," he added.