Photography by Pongsaya Hongswadhi
Down 3-0 late in the second period of the 2018-2019 SHL final, Thai national team star Yean Thanakroekkiat started Hertz’s comeback with a blast over TRUE goalkeeper’s Lance Parker left shoulder and finished it off by scoring in the overtime shootout capping off a spectacular 4-3 rally to earn Hertz its second straight SHL title.
TRUE jumped out to an early 3-0 lead on goals by Tan Limpinphet, substitute Hideki Nagayama and Kim Lidberg, who played for Hertz last season. Hertz replied with Yean’s blast, then came within one late in the second period on a very strange goal when the puck bounced off the top of the TRUE net behind Parker, and then bounced off Parker’s back into the net (the goal was credited to Andy Brine). The momentum shifted Hertz’s way at that point and they scored the tying goal when Champ Supadilokluk blasted one past Parker midway through the third period.
The teams then played four minutes of 3-on-3 overtime but the score remained knotted at three. Yean then scored on his shootout chance, leaving Patrick Forstner with a chance to tie it again and send it to another shootout round. But Hertz keeper Dream Ungkulpattanasuk stopped Forstner as he attempted a deke to the right side of the net, ensuring Hertz’s come-from-behind victory.
Dream, also a Thai national team player, was the playoff MVP, stealing the thunder from opposing keeper Lance Parker, who last year won MVP honors leading Hertz to its upset victory over AWARE. This year, Dream played in pivotal role in Hertz’s semi-final upset over number-one seeded AWARE, who had finished the regular season with a 15-3-0 mark compared to Hertz’s 6-12 record.
TRUE themselves put on quite a turnaround as early in the year the team was 0-9 but after picking up Forstner at mid-season their fortunes began to change and they ended up finishing in third place with a 7-10-1 record upsetting the second-seeded Novotel Spitfires (8-6-4) in the other semi-final.
It was the third straight finals appearance for captain Justin St Denis and Hertz, who in their first SHL season were sponsored by Hooters Nana.
Three-time AWARE captain Patrik Lundback had his jersey retired and was inducted into the SHL Hall of Fame before the game. Lundback is returning to his native Sweden and will be sorely missed as he was a terrific captain and the SHL’s best defenseman the past three years. He also spent a stint as the Thai national team coach.