Heading into the final set of regular season games in the 2017-18 season, AWARE had first place sewn up and the Sukhumvit Spitfires had clinched second spot but Hertz and Expedia were still battling to determine third and fourth place overall.
The first game saw SHL history made as two woman players competed against each other: Carly Hill a regular defenseman for Hertz and Caley Steinert, a defenseman, substituting for AWARE – both played university hockey in Canada.
Hertz started the game like a house on fire jumping into a 4-0 lead in the first period on goals by Mike Triacca, Champ Supadilokluk, Carly Hill and Kim Lidberg. AWARE regrouped, storming back in the second narrowing the lead to 4-3 on two goals by Jouni “Finnish mitts” Heinonen and one by Beer Thamwongsin.
In the third, it was Hertz time to regroup, and determined to clinch third overall they pumped in two more goals by Brandon Vick and a short-handed effort by Andy Brine to clinch the win and third spot with a 6-3 victory. Carly earned Rolling Stone Pizza player of the game honours for the second time this season for her stellar offensive and defensive play. Lance Parker stopped 34 of the 37 pucks fired his way for Hertz while Patrick Leduc stopped 28 of the 34 shots sent his way for AWARE.
AWARE lost for the second straight game and it proves how much their offense depends on Corry Day and how much their defense depends on captain Patrick Lundback, who both missed the last two games of the season as did defensive stalwart Christian Oloffson.
In game two, missing five regular players including captain Brad Wilson, the Spitfires added Scott Whitcomb, Tim Suphankomut and Top Rutthapong as substitutes. Expedia was missing star defenseman Juhani Ijas. Alas, the match was over six minutes after it started as the Spitfires jumped into a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jason Bitter. The Spitfires held this lead going into the first period but Scott Murray, Scott Whitcomb and Michael White increased that lead to 4-0 by the end of the second period.
Tim Suphankomut scored 3 points subbing for Sukhumvit on the night.The onslaught continued in the third with Sukhumvit scoring five more unanswered goals with Whitcomb and White each collecting their second goals of the night and Suphankomut, Harrison Oztemel and Ernesto Bauer adding singles. Both Whitcomb and Suphankomut had three-point nights, turning in solid games at both ends of the ice.
Sukhumvit veteran Jason Bitter took the Rolling Stone Pizza Player of the Game as he earned a goal and assist but Sukhumvit keeper Dream Ungkulpattanasuk did put in a claim for a fourth straight PoG honour, earning a shut-out as he turned away all 31 shots he faced. Expedia goalie Yves Gaboriault had a rough night letting in 24 of the 32 shots that came his way.
So, the final regular season SHL standings see AWARE atop the leaderboard with a 14-4 record; Sukhumvit in second spot with an 11-6-1; Hertz in third at 6-12 and Expedia in fourth spot with a 5-13 record.
Hertz’s Andy Brine is on top of the SHL stats race with eight goals and eighteen assists; Expedia’s Juhani Ijas is in second place with 20 points (eleven goals, nine assists) while AWARE’s Devin Michael and Sukhumvit’s Harrison Oztemel and Michael White are in a tie for third spot with 19 points, though Harrison is the league’s leading sniper with 15 goals.
The best-of-three SHL semi-final playoffs starts this Thursday February 22nd with AWARE playing Expedia at 8:30pm and Hertz playing Sukhumvit at 9:30pm. Admission is free and the games take place at the Rink, 7th floor, Central Grand Rama IX.
For more information on the SHL check out Dom Dumais great podcasts and interviews with SHL players.