A 5-2 win over Iceland in Istanbul turned the medal race upside down, and Chinese Taipei emerged victorious in a three-way tie with the Icelanders and the Belgians. That means back-to-back tournament triumphs, with Chinese Taipei promoted to Division IIIA in 2019, the last time events at this level could be staged before the pandemic.
Iceland started Sunday’s decisive action in pole position: four straight wins had the other island team out in front and anything better than a regulation time loss would secure gold. Chinese Taipei was three points behind and needed a win inside 60 minutes to have a chance of progress. Meanwhile, Belgium was capable of making it a three-way tie on 12 points if it could beat Israel in its final game.
Disruption doesn’t deter TaipeiThe prospect of a three-way tie for top spot complicated the task for Chinese Taipei. After losing 4-2 to Belgium earlier in the competition, the Asian team would need a three-goal margin to insure itself against a Belgian success later in the day.
Things started well enough, with goals from defender Mo Peng and forward Yi-Kuan Lin opening a 2-0 lead by the middle of the second period. Then, though, there was drama. A gas leak in the arena forced the game to be suspended and ultimately the teams moved to another rink to complete the action. Chinese Taipei coped better with the disruption and scored three quick goals at the start of the third period to open a commanding 5-0 lead. Tzu-Chiao Lo grabbed the third on a breakaway 50 seconds into the final frame and 40 seconds later, Yo-Chen Lin placed a wrister over Helgi Ivarsson’s glove from between the hash marks. Then came a power-play goal when Mo Peng’s point shot saw Po-Jui Chen pot the rebound.
But the story was not quite over. Iceland knew it had a long road back to save the game, but could still maintain its gold medal push if it reduced the deficit. Chinese Taipei ran into penalty trouble, and Uni Blondal scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 11 minutes left. When Blondal got his second of the game on 52:44, there was time for his team to further reduce the arrears and keep its golden dream alive. However, Chinese Taipei regrouped and, despite being outshot 19-5 in that third period, held its three-goal lead until the end.
That meant Belgium could not do better than a silver medal, despite its 4-2 win over Israel later in the day. Iceland had to be content with bronze after stumbling at the final hurdle.
A sub-tropical island can play hockeyHead coach Ryan Lang, a Canadian expat whose responsibilities see him heavily involved with hockey at all levels on Chinese Taipei, told the Central News Agency that his team’s success proved that “anything is possible”. He saw his players arrive in Istanbul as the lowest-ranked team in the competition and leave as champions, earning the right to play Division II hockey for the first time in the history for Chinese Taipei.
And, despite playing far from home – it’s more than 5,000 miles from Taipei City to Istanbul – there was plenty of support for the team in Turkey. Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce travelled from Ankara to support the team, bringing traditional delicacies from home for the teenagers. Representatives from Ankara travelled to Istanbul for a chance to go to their first ever hockey game. Huang Zhiyang was converted by the experience, paying tribute to “these tireless teenagers” and asking who said a sub-tropical island can’t play ice hockey.
That sentiment could become more widespread. While the Chinese Taipei roster in Istanbul was drawn almost exclusively from the national championship, two members of the team had a chance to play in Canada this season. Defender Yung-Hsuan Wang and forward Yo-Chen Lin both featured in the CSSHL U17 competition. Wang had 29 games for the Prairie Hockey Academy, compiling 10 (3+7) points from the blue line; Lin had 17 (7+10) points in 33 games for the same team. Lin was among his team’s leading scorers in Turkey with 8 (3+5) points, the same as Yi-Kuan Lin (no relation). Team captain Pei-An Wen led the tournament in goals and points with 13 (7+6), and Mo Peng was the most prolific defenceman with 9 (5+4). Wen and Peng were selected as the best forward and defender in the tournament, respectively, while Belgium’s Stijn Raeymaekers was named best goalie.