By Martiin Merk – IIHF.com
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.