With twenty-three players missing in total (six each from AWARE, Sukhumvit & Expedia; and five from Hertz) due to injury, other commitments or visits to Pyeongchang to watch the Winter Olympics, SHL management was sent scrambling in search of replacement players on February 15th. Patrick Forstner, Stephen Sproule, Top Rutthapong and Benoit Hardy-Chartrand all pulled double-duty on the night, subbing in both games and Alistair Boulton got his first taste of SHL action, subbing in the first game for AWARE, while Ichiro Hara also subbed for Expedia in game one. A big thank you goes out all these players for allowing each SHL team to meet their minimum player requirement thereby avoiding forfeit.
Heading into the games, there was some skepticism that the games wouldn’t be very competitive, but they were. Each side skated ten players in both games with Expedia and Aware getting three subs each in game one and Hertz and Sukhumvit getting two subs each for game two.
Then the drama began: AWARE, without their captain Patrik Lundback steering the ship, lost for the first time in eleven games, while Expedia’s losing streak ended at ten: final score Expedia 4 AWARE 2 with grinder Andrew Shusta winning the Rolling Stone Pizza player of the game award as he earned a goal and his assist. Andrew’s cheering section was up in force when he scored the first goal of his SHL career, “He Shusta, he scores!!”, they hollered.
Expedia never trailed in this one jumping into a 2-0 lead on goals by First Kulrat & Shusta before Darius Konotopetz scored with 32 seconds remaining in the period making it 2-1 Expedia going into the first intermission. Ichiro Hara and Patrick Forstner then scored for Expedia as it held a 4-1 in the middle of the third before AWARE’s Mangkorn Sukwiboon scored to make the final 4-2.
In game two, two goals in just over a minute by Harrison Oztemel early in the game staked the Sukhumvit Spitfires to an early 2-0 lead over Hertz. The first goal saw Harrison finish off a beautiful three-way passing play from Ernesto Bauer and Patrick Forstner with a nice tip-in past Hertz keeper Lance Parker. Forstner with his rocket-quick wrist shot upped the ante to 3-0 for Suhkumvit before Mike Triacca struck for Hertz, making the score 3-1 in Suhkumvit’s favour as period one ended. Brandon Vick on a nice set-up from Andy Brine brought Hertz to within one midway through the second period, but Forstner and Oztemel scored for Sukhumvit again late in the second period giving the Spitfires a 5-2 lead going into the third. Hertz captain Justin St. Denis scored early in the third and his team kept pressing with Sukhumvit keeper Dream Ungkulpattanasuk turning back wave after wave of Hertz attackers.
As the final minutes ticked down Michael White scored for Sukhumvit making it 6-3, Alasdair Fawcett quickly replied for Hertz making it 6-4 and then Ernesto Bauer fired the puck the length of the ice with one second on the clock making the final 7-4 for Sukhumvit.
Dream, for the third straight match, was the Rolling Stone Pizza player of the game (an SHL record) as he stopped 45 of the 49 shots he faced on the night and made a number of outstanding saves, throwing his hat into the ring for SHL MVP consideration. As St. Denis said, “he was the difference in the game”. Lance Parker stopped 20 of the 27 shots sent his way in the Hertz net.
The SHL standings see AWARE atop the leaderboard with its 14-3 record; the Sukhumvit Spitfires are in second spot at 10-6-1; while Hertz and Expedia sit in a tie for third spot with identical 5-12 records.
Hertz’s Andy Brine continues to sit atop the SHL stats race with seven goals and seventeen assists; Expedia’s Juhani Ijas is in second place with 20 points (eleven goals, nine assists) while AWARE’s Devin Michael sits in third place with eleven goals and 8 assists. Sukhumvit’s Harrison Oztemel, the league’s leading scorer sits in fourth spot with fourteen goals and three assists, and AWARE’s Yean Thanakroekkiat rounds out the top five with 10 goals and six assists.
The last set of games in the 2017-18 SHL regular season take place this Sunday February 18th with AWARE playing Hertz at 8:30pm and Expedia playing Sukhumvit at 9:30. Admission is free and the games take place at the Rink, 7th floor, Central Grand Rama IX.
Though AWARE and Sukhumvit have first and second place locked up, Hertz and Expedia are still battling to determine third and fourth place overall. The tie-breaking format follows the sequence below if the two teams have the same number of points when the regular season ends on Sunday:
• Most wins
• Head to Head record between teams tied in Points
• Formula = (GF) / (GF + GA)
• Lowest Goals Against
• Lowest PIMS
For more information on the SHL check out Dom Dumais great podcasts and interviews with SHL players.