The United Arab Emirates began the 2016 Challenge Cup of Asia with a big 6-1 win over Thailand, impressing the 133 hometown fans in attendance.

The Emirates were led by one of the best players to ever skate for the country, Juma Al Dhaheri. Al Dhaheri, who has been named the top player of the team at two World Championships and one CCOA performance, scored a hat-trick for his the eventual victors, including the first and last. He was the only player to finish with more than a single point in the game, finishing the game with four points.

Masato Kitayama scored the only goal for Thailand, which actually proved to be the only goal for either team in the first period. Kitayama, who is also Japanese, has only scored one other goal for Thailand, dating all the way back to the 2014 CCOA tournament.

Ahmed Al Dhaheri had a strong performance in net for the Emirates, stopping 16 of the 17 shots sent his way. The 30-year-old goaltender looked very good at last year’s tournament, winning the Best Goaltender award after helping his team to silver medal.

The Emirates are coming off of a win at the Gulf Cup last month, a tournament they dominated from start to finish with a very similar lineup to what they have in this year’s CCOA.

UAE will look to continue their strong run with a meeting against Singapore on Sunday, a team who dropped an 11-0 decision earlier on Saturday. Thailand will have another tough match on Sunday, facing off against the reigning champions from the Chinese Taipei before taking a break on Monday.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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