Hong Kong takes the gold at 2011 Challenge Cup of Asia

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – Hong Kong’s men’s national ice hockey team won the gold medal at the 2011 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia, held during the past week in Kuwait City, Kuwait.

The United Arab Emirates took the silver and Thailand was awarded the bronze medal while Kuwait was ranked fourth in the largest international sporting event to be held in the Arab nation.

In addition to the gold medal, Hong Kong goalie King Chi King Ho was selected as Best Goalkeeper and forward Shin Ming Jasper Tang was honored as the competition’s Most Valuable Player.

Hong Kong set the stage for their success with a 5-4 win over the top-seeded UAE squad this past Monday. The UAE had a strong start and took the 1-0 lead at the 2:53 mark with a goal from Juma Al Dhaheri. Hong Kong rallied in the second frame and tallied four unanswered goals, including two by Yin Man Chan.

The UAE made a comeback in the final period, led by two goals by Suhail Al Mehairi and another from Al Dhaheri, but with a second goal from Yannick Wong, Hong Kong was able to protect its lead and take the three points.

On Tuesday, Hong Kong further established their presence, defeating the second-seeded Thailand, 7-5 . Thailand took a 3-0 lead during the first 20 minutes of play with goals from Chanchieo Supadilokluk, Tewin Chartsuwan and Teerasak Rattanachot. In the middle frame, Hong Kong started chipping away at Thailand’s lead, starting with a goal from Arthur Tam at the 23:01 mark. Defenseman Likit Neimwan added another tally for Thailand, followed by Donald Tse for Hong Kong, making it 4-2 heading into the second intermission.

Hong Kong gained the momentum to turn the game around in the final frame with a second score for Tse at the 41:07 mark and the equalizer by Jasper Tang at 50:10. Two additional goals from Yin Man Chan and another from Bernard Fung sealed the 7-5 win.

A 15-0 win against India on Wednesday and a 13-0 finish against Macau on Friday cemented Hong Kong’s contention for the gold.

On Saturday, Hong Kong defeated Kuwait 6-1, thereby sweeping the competition with five wins. Hong Kong hosted the inaugural Challenge Cup of Asia in 2008 and came away with the Bronze medal after winning three of five games played, placing third out of six participating nations. The team placed fourth out of eight participants in 2009 and fifth out of nine participants in 2010.

The event accounts for the bulk of Hong Kong’s experience in international competition. The Challenge Cup of Asia, now in its fourth year, provides Asian countries not in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championship program, or that play in the lowest division, an opportunity to compete. It also aids in the development of ice hockey in Asia and helps rank the Asian teams in advance of the Asian Winter Games.

Neither India or Macau were expected to do much more than gain valuable experience for their players, which is what they did.

The host country, Kuwait, won their first two matches, against Macau (8-3) and India (39-2), but fell to the UAE (2-0), Thailand (6-3), and Hong Kong (6-1). Kuwait ranked seventh out of nine participating nations in last year’s Challenge Cup of Asia, their first appearance in the event. They placed second, behind the UAE in 2008’s Arab Cup of Ice Hockey and second, again behind the UAE in last year’s Gulf Ice Hockey Championship. The UAE takes home their second consecutive silver medal. The finished second, behind Chinese Taipei in last year’s competition.

The UAE hosted the event and won the gold in 2009. Thailand takes home their second consecutive bronze medal and won the silver in 2009.

Final Ranking: 1. Hong Kong  2. United Arab Emirates  3. Thailand  4. Kuwait  5. Macau  6. India

Individual Awards: Best Goalkeeper: King Chi Ho, Hong Kong Best Defenseman: Likit Neimwan, Thailand Best Forward: Juma Al Dhaheri, United Arab Emirates Most Valuable Player: Jasper Tang, Hong Kong Best Coach: Dong Yan, Macau

Contact the writer at robert.keith@prohockeynews.com

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