SC-Titanium, which lead the SHL in points the majority of the season, has earned a spot in the inaugural SHL championship by defeating AWARE 2-1 in their best-of-three semi-final series.
Things did no look good for SC-Titanium at the beginning of the game as they learned close to puck-drop that both captain Mike Wilson and winger Joe Lamantia would be unable to play along with Pratch Siridhara, Araya “Ith” Vatanapanyakul and Arkadi Goncharev. Rob Taylor and Tarkira “Tar” Jirachai were called in as replacement players. AWARE, who was missing Darren Boodle and Stanislav Opelia, opted to not request any substitutes.
Midway through the first period, Panithi “Jeto” Nawasmittawong opened the scoring for SC-Titanium tapping in a pass from Rob Taylor while entwined in a goalmouth scramble in front of the AWARE net. AWARE then tied it up late in the period with Bill Bredesen put in Papan “Yean” Thanakroekkiat’s rebound after Yean had made a couple of nice moves driving towards the net. But that was all the scoring that AWARE would muster in this match.
It was fitting that SHL president and scoring leader John Schachnovsky scored SC-Titanium’s second and winning goal early in the second period, as he kissed the steel by ringing a shot off the goalpost, which bounced off keeper Yves Gaboriault’s back into the net.
SC’s third goal was scored on nice blast by Remo Nyffenegger, assisted by Jeto, late in the second period and then Schachnovsky sealed the victory with a short-handed empty-netter marker from Zak Garofolo as Tar sat in the penalty box for hooking.
SC-Titanium’s Gabor Toth was solid in between the pipes, stopping 25 of the 26 shots he faced, while Yves Gaboriault, stopped 20 of the 23 pucks fired his way, not including Schachnovsky’s empty-netter. Basked in sweat after the game, Gabor’s smile was almost as bright as his golden goalie mask.
AWARE will be left to ponder the “what ifs” during the off-season as many people pegged them as the most talented team in the SHL. A few weeks back, they looked like an out-of-control freight train thumping the Sukhumvit Spitfires 12-3. But alas, losing three key players to the Thai National team (Yean, Champ and Tor) and Yves Gaboriault’s mid-season injury prevented the team from gelling the way it might have. And captain, Patrik Lundback, who can single-handedly dominate a game when healthy played the deciding game under the weather.
Hats off to AWARE though for handling the loss with dignity, much the same Sukhumvit Spitfires did two weeks previously in their semi-final loss to Hooters.
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