Originally, Hong Kong was scheduled to host the event. However, political unrest there forced a change of plan and the TUS Ice and Snowpark in Sanya was nominated as a substitute venue. The loss of home advantage hampered Hong Kong, and the group’s second seed finished in third after a surprise loss to Thailand. But Chinese Taipei had no troubles acclimatising to the sub-tropical heat and will advance to play in Group L in Barcelona after winning all three games. In December, Taipei will take on host Spain, Mexico and the Netherlands in a bid to go even further.
Chinese Taipei began the tournament with a hard-fought 5-3 win over Thailand. The teams were locked at 1-1 after 40 minutes before Taipei jumped to a 3-1 lead early in third. Thailand rallied to level the scores on power-play goals for Papan Thanakroekkiat and Patrick Forstner but lost out to two goals in the last two minutes from Shao-Yang Yu and Sung-Yin Yu. The next outing was a comfortable 8-0 victory over Kuwait, with two goals from Po-Yun Hsiao leading the way.
That had the team almost certain of qualification, but there was still a showdown against Hong Kong to come on Sunday. A heavy loss in regulation could see Taipei miss out in a three-way tie, and Hong Kong did everything it could to keep its slim hopes alive. A short-handed goal after 91 seconds saw Chi Lok Chau give Hong Kong the lead, but Hung-Ju Lin responded with two for Taipei to secure a 2-1 lead at the first intermission. The teams traded four goals in the middle frame as the lead grew to 4-1 before Justin Cheng and Chi Lok Chau reduced the arrears.
A wild third period saw Hong Kong move 6-5 up before penalty trouble halted the advance. Two power play goals in barely two minutes put Taipei back on top and an empty-net goal sealed a 7-5 win and secured a 100% record.
Hong Kong’s campaign was a frustrating one. The team began strongly, with a 12-0 thrashing of Kuwait in its opening game. But the second fixture brought an unexpected 2-7 loss against Thailand, clearing the way for Chinese Taipei to hit the front. The Thai bounced back from an opening loss against Chinese Taipei and stunned Hong Kong with three unanswered goals in the first period, despite twice facing a 3-on-5 penalty kill.
Thailand outperformed its seeding to take second place, wrapping its campaign with an 11-1 thrashing of Kuwait. The Kingdom was lifted by some strong individual performances. Two Thai defencemen were among the top-three scorers at the event. Ken Kindborn, a 24-year-old dual national from Sweden, captained the Thai, served as assistant coach and led by example with 10 (3+7) points from three games. Fellow blue liner Hideki Nagayama, Bangkok-born and boasting experience of lower league hockey in Canada, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, had 8 (1+7). They were separated at the top of the scoring chart by Hong Kong’s Justin Cheng. The 21-year-old, currently playing in Canada’s Greater Metro Hockey League with the London Lakers, potted 9 (7+2) to finish as the tournament’s leading goal scorer. Cheng is also prolific in the GMHL, with 23 (8+15) points from 10 games so far this season.