This month, the SCIHL playoffs came to a conclusion after three exciting hard fought series and an incredible championship game saw Sapporo walk away as SCIHL champions.
Starting at the semi-finals, the intense nature of the playoffs was apparent to all as both series were pushed to the 3 game max. Eventual finalists InetAsia and Sapporo needed to come from behind as they both initially trailed their series. After both tied their series at 1-1, two exciting deciding games were played and both teams had to come back from losing positions to seal their place in the finals.
In the meantime, even the consolation series played out for next years draft positions between JOG Sports and Sam Wai went the full 3 game distance, with the theme of the elimination rounds being comeback hockey. Sam Wai trailed their series 1-0, before fighting back to win the consolation series after a dominant game 3 performance.
In the one off Championship game, an altered schedule saw a packed Elements rink on a Saturday night with the Finals ceremony featuring special guests Greg Smyth and Gary Lawrence (Representing China Hockey Group), Jeff Nankivell (Consul General of Canada for Hong Kong and Macao) and Art Tam (SCIHL Commissioner). With so many fans in attendance the two finalists put on a championship game to remember.
The biggest game of the season saw InetAsia hit early while looking comfortable as by the end of the first period they held a 2-0 lead with plenty of confidence going into the second. Their confidence only built from there, as by midway through the second period their “Big Four” of Francois Esterhuizen, Keith Hong, Mike Lam and Leon Mo had combined for 8 points and a commanding 5-0 lead. Ray Loo in net for InetAsia looked comfortable despite taking a flurry of shots, and the game looked to be a formality from that point on, with the question being more of when, and by how many.
Sapporo though, had other ideas. Known as the team to mount a comeback all the way through the regular season and playoffs, they began to look for a way back on the scoreboard. 5 goals however, seemed insurmountable. They got hope when a couple of penalties by InetAsia put them on a 4 on 2 powerplay midway through the second period. Donald Chow capitalised making the score 5-1, sparking the team into life. Early into the third, Sapporo hit again on the powerplay, before semi-final hero Hugo Fan scored 2 goals in rapid succession to put Sapporo within 1 goal of a tie score with just under 10 minutes left to play. They wouldn’t need all 10 minutes however, as Donald Chow struck again to tie the score at 5-5 shortly after. For the next 5 minutes, both goalies shut the door in what was poised to be a dramatic finish whichever way the game would go. Jonas Gullstrand of Sapporo made sure it went the black and gold way though, as he stuffed home a puck with 4 minutes left to complete the miraculous comeback and put Sapporo 6-5 up
Goalie Loron Orris of Sapporo had not been beaten by a puck since midway through the second period, and made some huge saves to preserve the lead the rest of the way before playoff MVP Donald Chow completed his hat trick and 6 point night with an empty net goal to seal the win. In what has to surely go down as one of the most exciting games in SCIHL history, Sapporo captain Paul Chai and assistant captain Justin Kuok finally got to lift the cup together after a long and hard fought season.
We would like to give a big thank you to all the sponsors, the fans, the referees and all the staff involved in putting on such a great season amidst the pandemic. We truly appreciate your support and thank you for another successful season. We hope to see you again next season (see below for details on the new SCIHL format coming).
For all information SCIHL related including stats and scores, please visit www.SCIHL.com for details.