By Martin Merk – IIHF.com
One year ago the New Zealand U18 women’s team joined the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia and won it. This year they had a new competitor with the Chinese Taipei U18 women’s national team that finished the event with gold.
The tournament also included the senior teams from Singapore and Thailand while four more teams played in the Division I competition. Both tournaments were held at the new Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
The team from Chinese Taipei started with a 5-3 win over last year’s silver medallist Thailand before playing the New Zealanders in a game that eventually determined the gold medallist. A hat trick from Thai captain Nuchanat Ponglerkdee wasn’t enough against the strong Taiwanese offence.
Also against New Zealand the Chinese Taipei U18 team tried to dictate the game from the beginning. Two late goals in the first period paved the win against the junior Kiwis. With a penalty against New Zealand just expired, Yun-Chu Huang gave Chinese Taipei the lead with 92 seconds left and with three seconds left before the first intermission Ting-Yu Hsu made it 2-0. Two third-period goals from Hsuan Wang – the 14-year-old was the youngest player of the tournament her after one month younger linemate Ya-Ching Jan – sealed the 4-1 victory and gold.
On the last day Chinese Taipei beat Singapore 12-1 to finish the tournament with a clean record. The New Zealand U18 women’s team beat Thailand 1-0 with Beth Scott scoring the only goal and Lilly Forbes earning a shutout with 25 saves to earn silver. The Thai had their only win against Singapore, 10-1.
Wang was named Best Forward of the tournament while the other awards went to Thailand. Wasunun Angkulpattanasuk, who had the best save percentage of all starting goalies with 94.12%, was named best goaltender while Sirikarn Jittresin was the best defender. Nuchanat Ponglerkdee, who led the tournament in points (8) and goals (6), was named Most Valuable Player. She scored six of her team’s goals and was on the ice for all 13 goals.
For six of the Chinese Taipei juniors the international season will continue soon as Chinese Taipei is the promoted team in the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B that will be played in Valdemoro close to the Spanish capital of Madrid.