Siam Hockey League back with a bang

Photography by Tadamasa Nagayama

The wait is over, and ice hockey seasons have started all over the world. The Land of Smiles is no exception, as the Siam Hockey League held their opening ceremonies and first games of the 2019-2020 season on October 10th. For the fourth season of SHL hockey, fans turned out as never before to support the four teams this season: Peak, Aware, Hertz and Novotel Spitfires.

The season officially opened with SHL President John Schachnovsky introducing a group of VIP guests and thanking the players, fans, and league committee for their hard work and support. The fun-filled ceremony included am accuracy shooting contest that sponsors and other VIPs took part in, with CanCham Thailand President John Stevens winning the coveted prize for the second year in a row. All VIPs took part in the season-opening ceremonial puck drop, and many photos were taken to commemorate this great evening.

CanCham Thailand President John Stevens (centre) was on hand to drop the puck at SHL’s opening night.

It was a great start to the season, and culminated with the opening faceoff of the first game of the season, with defending champions Hertz taking on Novotel Spitfires.

For those who missed the SHL draft party, one exciting storyline for the upcoming season is the growing number of speedy, talented Thai players entering the league, and the first goal of the season was an example of this influx. Talented Thai forward Winnie Luckanatinskorn put Novotel on the board only a few minutes into the game after passes from Peam and Ith Vattanapanyakul. Novotel didn’t look back after that with goals from Marcel Bouwens, Homme Thaiyanont, and Novotel captain Brad Wilson, who closed out the scoring with an empty-net shorthanded goal. Winnie ended the night with two goals after scoring for the second time in the third period. Hertz goals were scored by Arnold Vattanapanyakul with two, and Thai National team standout defenseman Ken Kindborn with one as well. Novotel gained the victory against the run of play, as rookie goalie sensation Yu Cheng (Leo) Liao made 39 saves to get the win and the Rolling Stone Pizza Player of the Game award, Lance Parker made 21 saves in a losing effort. The final score was Novotel 5 and Hertz 3.

Thai national team player Ken Kindborn (yellow) had a whale of a game subbing for Hertz in game one.

The second game of the night saw the newest franchise in the league, Peak Biolabs take on Aware. For the second year in a row, Aware fans turned out in full force. The sound of the Aware drummer in the crowd could be heard from before puck drop and lasted for almost the entire game. Unfortunately for the fans, Aware’s opponent took the early lead. Less than a minute into the game Thai standout Hideki Nagayama scored off of a great pass from Peak captain Harrison Oztemel. A few minutes before the end of the first period, crafty veteran Scott Murray opened his scoring account for the season with a nifty “seeing-eye” wrist shot the found its way past netminder Jason Cotsmire.

The second period began with season three leading goal scorer Harrison Oztemel reminding everyone why he has been the most lethal shooter in the SHL for the past two years. In less than one minute he scored twice to put Peak up 3-1. Oztemel’s second goal was off of a beautiful cross-ice pass from Mike White.

Aware’s Corry Day and Peak’s Patrick Forstner prepare to do battle at the face-off.

After the two goals by Oztemel, the second period was all Peak, as they went up 5-1 with goals from Jesse Staraosta and Ed McConnell.

The third period saw Aware regroup and make a game of it. Jari Eerikainen made the score 5-2 early in the third. The third-period rally was cut short by the continued theme of the night for Aware…penalties. The third period saw Aware players make four trips to the sin bin. Oztemel finished his hat trick, and solidified his well-deserved Rolling Stone Pizza Player of the game award, in the third with his second power-play goal of the night. Aware made it close with goals from captain Justin St Denis and Corry Day. The game ended 6-4. The “stat of the night” being Peak going 3-7 on the power play, and Peak playing a disciplined style of hockey with zero penalties on the night. Peak goalie Cotsmire ended the night with 22 saves while Aware goalie Dream made 23 saves in a losing effort.

It was a great opening night for the SHL and sets the table for what looks to be a very competitive season (www.siamhockeyleague.com).

Former CanCham Thailand board member and Peak forward Michael White (in dark) heads up ice.