Defending champions Taiwan skate past UAE

Taiwan coach lauds his ‘better organised’ side after they rally from one goal down in Abu Dhabi and are now in a strong position for their fourth straight IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia title, writes Amith Passela.

Taiwan‘s Kai-Hsiang Chang celebrates scoring against UAE goaltender Khaled Al Suwaidi on Thursday night in Abu Dhabi. Christopher Pike / The National
Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Taiwan stayed on course for a fourth IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia after a 5-2 triumph over the UAE in a top-of-the-table clash on Thursday night at the Abu Dhabi Ice Rink.

The defending champions face Hong Kong in the final match while the UAE have another battle at hand when they take on Mongolia in a tussle for the silver medal, both on Saturday.

The UAE led 1-0 in the first period but Taiwan took hold of the game from the second period with their superior fitness, speed and skill to win their fourth game on the trot.

“The players were a bit nervous in the first period but once they got settled they played as the better organised side as we know,” said Kristof Kovago, Taiwan’s Hungarian coach.

“We expected this game to be the toughest, being the home team as well as a more physically stronger side. Our team comprises of university students with an average age of 23.

“But the advantage they hold is that a majority of these players have been together for the last eight years.

“We still have a game in hand and hopefully take this championship away from our first visit to Abu Dhabi.”

Suhail Al Mehairi gave the host team the perfect start when he scored off a rebound after Aref El Jachi’s effort was blocked by Ting Pang Keng, the Taiwan goaltender.

The host team did well to hold on to that lead with some plucky defending, particularly Khaled Al Suwaidi, their net minder who had a busy first period keeping the marauding Taiwan forwards at bay.

He made several good saves, including a one on one against Weng To, who is the leading scorer in the competition with 10 goals in four games.

Taiwan broke the UAE’s defence after an attacking barrage in the second period while Al Mehairi was serving a two-minute period in the sin bin for rough play.

Shen Yen Chin struck the equaliser in the second minute and Shih Kuan Yu fired a second 11 minutes later for a 2-1 lead.

Taiwan extended their lead to two goals when Chao Yu Tung scored off a rising shot from eight yards in the fifth minute of the third and final 20-minute period.

Saeed Al Nuaimi pulled one back to close the gap five minutes later but Taiwan hit back through Weng and Lu Lifeng for their fourth win on the trot.

El Jachi, the UAE defender, acknowledged they were exhausted playing with two regular defenders because of injuries to Ibrahim Budebs and Mohammed Rehan in the previous game.

“We also conceded too many penalties and that made us tired as we had a player less for most of the time,” he said.

“Taiwan are a good team and we expected a very tough game against them. They came into this game after winning their matches impressively. The better team won on the night.”

Taiwan had won against Mongolia 10-3 and thrashed Kuwait 16-1 and Thailand 15-1 before their meeting with the UAE.

Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE