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Host nation Kuwait won the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia Division I on Friday to earn promotion in the program dedicated for Asian countries that don’t participate in the upper levels of the World Championship system.

For Kuwait, which was relegated at the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the goal of making it a short stay at the Division I was perfectly fulfilled.

In an emotional opening game against Singapore Abdul Aziz Shetail scored a hat trick for the 5-3 victory. The Kuwaitis had less trouble against India, 10-2, and then beat Malaysia 1-0 thanks to Ahmad Al Ajmi’s game-winner at 11:31 of the third period. The low score mainly came about thanks to a strong Malaysian goalie Tengku Azlly Tengku Abdillah, who had 42 saves.

Kuwait continued with a 5-0 blanking of newcomer Oman and then beat last year’s runner-up Kyrgyzstan 9-3 on the final day.

Singapore showed an improved performance and earned the silver medals. They did not only deliver a tough game to Kuwait but also beat Kyrgyzstan 5-3 in a close match. Kyrgyzstan was involved in the battle for the tournament win until the last day but had to settle for the bronze medals.

The revelation of the tournament was Oman. The country only has an ice rink of smaller dimensions (45 on 25 metres) but its players showed from the beginning that they were able to contribute in a positive way to the tournament. In their first-ever official game they beat India 6-5 in shootout followed by another win after game-winning shots, 8-7 against Malaysia, before being ousted by the top-three teams in the other games.

Malaysia only finished in fifth place despite a good performance in three losses by the margin of one goal. Their forward Ban Kin Loke was the tournament’s scoring leader and top goal scorer with 12 goals and 16 points. Kuwait’s Meshal Al Ajmi came second and impressed with nine goals and 15 points as a defenceman.

ndia, which secured the finances for the trip late through a crowdfounding campaign battled hard but the men from the Himalayas, who can only play hockey during two months in winter on frozen lakes or practise in small shopping-mall rinks in the bigger cities, didn’t win any additional points after the tight opening-day loss to Oman.

“It was a perfectly organized tournament,” said IIHF Asian Project Manager Harald Springfeld. “The teams and the games have become more competitive in comparison to previous years and games were broadcast live on TV in Kuwait.”

During the event an Officiating Development Program was run led by Joy Johnston, who officiated the Olympic women’s ice hockey tournament’s gold medal game in Sochi 2014 and is now working for the United Arab Emirates Ice Hockey Association. She was the referee supervisor for the on-ice officials from six Asian countries.

Best Goalkeeper: Jasem Al Sarraf-Kuwait
Best Defenseman: Meshal Al Ajmi-Kuwait
Best Foward: Kin Bin Loke-Malaysia


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