Date: March 9, 2018

Malaysia Women’s team wins CCOA event

By Martiin Merk –

Malaysia won the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I on home ice in Kuala Lumpur.

After growing pain in its first two years the Malaysian women’s national team has improved to win its first tournament in its third year of existence. Having its first full-size ice arena since this season to practise and play the sport paid off for the women’s team from the Southeast Asian country.

Two years ago in Taipei City the team started with a 1-3 record and getting its only win against India, 6-3. Last year in Bangkok, the Malaysians were even last with a 1-5 record and getting the only win from a 5-4 opening-day win in overtime against the United Arab Emirates.

This year on home ice the Malaysians went all the way to first place on home ice at the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium. At this brand-new facility, the Malaysia Ice Hockey Federation currently hosts both divisions of the Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia and the Division I tournament ended on Friday to the liking of the home crowd.

The Malaysians started with a 3-1 victory in a neighbouring clash with the Philippines. The Philippines managed to tie a Malaysian lead from a late Nurul Aliya Versluis first-period goal when Bianca Yasmine Cuevas scored the equalizer at 5:33 of the middle frame. But seven minutes later Fatin Muhd Fadzli Amin scored on the power play and made it 3-1 with her second goal in the third period.

Five different scorers led Malaysia to a 5-0 blanking of India in the second game to set up a final against the United Arab Emirates. The Emirati started in similar fashion. Dana Al Hosani’s hat trick and a pair of goals from Fatima Al Mazrouei led the UAE to a 6-1 win over India and despite strong pressure from the Philippines, the Emirati won their second game 5-4 with Khulood Shugaa scoring the game-winner with her second marker 2:14 before the end of regulation time.

460 fans came to the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium located at the Empire City mall in the Kuala Lumpur region to witness the final where Shugaa continued her scoring streak with the 1-0 marker after 78 seconds of play but five minutes later Versluis tied it up for the hosts.

At 4:15 of the middle frame Al Mazrouei increased her scoring account by regaining the lead for the United Arab Emirates that stayed until the Malaysia scored two quick goals midway the period. Captain Nur Iman Sofiah Nur Aziz tied the game at two at 12:44. After the next face-off Al Mazrouei was sent to the penalty box for an illegal bodycheck and 15 seconds later Nur Illina Mohd Rothi scored on the power play to give Malaysia its first lead in the game.

The teams exchanged more goals in the third period but Malaysia kept its lead until the end and won 5-3 for its historic tournament win as the bottom-seeded team.

The Philippines ended the tournament in third place. The Indian women, who came from the Ladakh region at the foot of the Himalayas, had a promising start with goals from Kunzes Angmo and Rinchen Dolma but then came the second period with four unanswered goals from Bianca Yasmine Cuevas. After two more third-period goals the 6-2 win and third place were final for the Philippines and Cuevas was voted MVP with her eight goals in three games.

With the Division I competition in Kuala Lumpur over, the top division of the Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia continues in the Malaysian capital and includes the women’s senior teams from Singapore and Thailand as well as the U18 women’s teams from Chinese Taipei and New Zealand.

Ramping up China’s puck luck

By China Daily

Before the International Ice Hockey Federation considers offering China direct qualification to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics tournament, the country first has to show it deserves it, a top IIHF official said in Beijing on Wednesday.

After watching host South Korea vie with world powers amid sensational support at last month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, China’s hockey heavyweights are eager to see similar enthusiasm for the home team at the 2022 Beijing Games.

IIHF president Rene Fasel said in Pyeongchang the federation is exploring proposals to qualify both the Chinese men’s and women’s teams for the 2022 tournament as a way to popularize the sport in the world’s most populous country.

Thomas Wu, an IIHF vice-president, confirmed to China Daily that the proposal to qualify the Chinese teams will be officially decided either at the federation’s annual congress in May or at the semiannual congress in September.

A long-term commitment to transform the niche sport into a mainstream staple in the buildup to the 2022 Games and beyond is crucial to earn the nod from the world governing body, said Wu.

“The IIHF’s goal is to promote the sport globally and China has huge potential in the game,” Wu said on Wednesday.

“We’d love to see the Chinese teams at the 2022 tournament, but we also have to make sure the world-class quality of the Olympic competition won’t be compromised, which is always the priority.

“The gap between Team China and the world hockey powers is still quite big, so the most urgent need for China is to improve the competitiveness of its program as fast as possible,” said Wu, an entrepreneur and avid ice hockey promoter in Hong Kong.

“The South Korean team (although qualified as the host) proved itself by advancing to the world’s top grouping and we hope the Chinese team can rise dramatically as well by 2022,” he added.

Bolstered by one American and six Canadian players naturalized without Korean ancestry, South Korea placed second at last year’s IIHF Division 1 Group A world championships, the second-tier world title tournament.

South Korea’s dual citizenship policy opened the door to recruit foreign talent for the Pyeongchang Games, with the only stipulations being acquisition of a Korean passport and playing in the country two years before the Olympics.

The Chinese Ice Hockey Association has a more localized method of drafting players with Chinese ancestry through overseas tryouts.

Foreign-born players first have to be from families with Chinese roots and then must have at least two consecutive seasons representing a Chinese team after changing citizenship in order to be eligible to represent the country.

“From the IIHF’s point of view, this is better because the players have a bond with the country they represent,” said Wu.

“For China, we know we have a lot of work to do in a short time. But we also want to insist that our team is a Chinese team.

“It’s respectable. It’s something that will be supported by the international hockey family. We want to build hockey in China-not just do well in 2022, but as a longer-term project.”

Currently, Shanghai-based Kunlun Red Star plays in the professional Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League while its female affiliate plays in the seven-team Canadian Women’s Hockey League.

Other Chinese teams are playing in minor and junior leagues in Russia, and individual players are competing for college and university teams in Canada and the United States.

Organized by Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and Beijing Hockey Association, the capital’s current youth league has attracted a record 2,554 children on 162 teams.

“We’ve seen many positive signs that the game is growing in popularity and public recognition in recent years,” said CIHA president Cao Weidong.

“Hopefully to qualify for and perform decently at the Beijing Olympics in 2022 will galvanize the momentum for sustainable development.”