Chinese Taipei are champions once again.
In what was easily the top contest in the entire event, Chinese Taipei pulled off the superb comeback in the third period to defeat the United Arab Emirates 5-4. The victory on Thursday capped off an in impressive four game unbeaten streak, which all started with a 30-0 victory over Macau earlier in the week.
The game started off on a negative note just 45 seconds into the contest for the eventual champions. Right off the bat, To Weng was ejected from the contest after hitting an opposing player in the head on the very first shift of the game. Despite leaving his team with a five minute penalty kill, UAE managed to keep the scoreless game in tact when it was all said and done, largely due to the play of Ahmed Al Dhaheri in net. The Challenge Cup of Asia’s top goaltender, Al Dhaheri made 20 saves in the first period alone, finishing the game with 58 stopped chances, the most he’s had to stop throughout the tournament.
Despite a solid effort in the first for Al Dhaheri, Taipei would still finish the period with a two goal advantage. That all changed in the first five minutes of the second period, as a quick barrage of chances, including two on the power-play, converted into goals for UAE to take the 3-2 lead. Taipei would get a PP goal of their own, when captain Yen-Chin Shen added to his goal from the first period by scoring one with the extra man in the second, proving that Taipei wasn’t about to just back down. The Emirates would once again take the lead, as Omar Al Shamisi gave his opponents a big scare by scoring a shorthanded 5-on-3 goal, giving his team the 4-3 advantage heading into the third period.
Chinese Taipei was desperate to fight back and excite the fans at the Annex Ice Rink in Taipei City. The team took more shots than in the first two periods, forcing Al Dhaheri to face 26 shots by the end of the frame. Taipei would eventually beat him for the tying goal with seven and a half minutes to go when tournament leading scorer Lifeng Lu scored on the power-play. Taipei knew that Lu would need to shine when it counted the most, and with an additional two assists earlier on, he surely wasn’t ready to disappoint. The game looked like it could all be decided in a sudden death situation, but a huge goal by Lu with seven minutes to go allowed the home team to take their third straight championship and fifth overall.
Chinese Taipei may be the most dominant team in the tournament, but a lack of funds has prevented the team from participating in anything stronger. According to the IIHF, there are only 70 registered men’s players, while the women’s team has 102 to choose from. The national junior team will be participating in the countries final IIHF event of the year soon, when the team will look to earn promotion from the Men U18’s at the upcoming Division IIIA championships next week.
For the United Arab Emirates, the story is slightly different. The team, who were champions at the 2014 Gulf Cup Championships last year, will participate at the Division III World Championships in early April. The team continues to grow in participation each year, and more medal performances such as the silver they earned this week will surely help promote the game in the developing hockey nation.
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