In the first game on December 15th — the last set of SHL matches in 2019 ¬— the Novotel Spitfires (6-4) took on AWARE (2-8).
Novotel was missing many regulars including star keeper Leo Liao, and found replacements in goalie Yves Gaboriault, Thai national team player Masato Kitiyama, Mangkorn Sukwiboon, Ichiro Hara and Nicky Sukpanichcharoen. It was Gaboriault’s first action of the 2019-20 season, and he stopped 26 of the 27 shots fired his way, earning the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game award.
Nothing seems to be breaking AWARE’s way this season as they outshot Novotel 27-22 but could only get one puck by Gaboriault, a shot by David Boere on an assist by Corry Day. Dream Ungkulpattanasuk, though he looked outstanding in play for the Thai national team at the SEA Games, has looked shaky in net all season for AWARE letting in many goals he normally would have just batted away. AWARE was missing captain Justin St. Denis for the second straight match as well as Mat Seigel, Tommi Hakkinen and Andrew Ross.
In this game, Bill Bredesen nailed a hat-trick and one assist for a four-point game that normally would have earned him PoG honours, if not for Gaboriault’s heroics. Substitute Ichiro Hara had a pair of goals for Novotel who jumped into a 4-0 lead first-period lead and 6-0 second-period lead before AWARE finally snapped Gaboriault’s shut-out bid. Both Ernesto Bauer and Kitiyama picked up a pair of assists for Novotel, who were able to convert their good goal-scoring opportunities more often than not.
The second game of the night saw Peak Biolabs take on Hertz and both teams had equal records heading into the contest at 6-4. Peak took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game Jesse Starosta and never relinquished it throughout the match. Tan Limpinphet scored for Hertz to make it 1-1 but it wasn’t until Peak struck up a 5-1 lead on another goal by Starosta and single goals by Eddie McConnell, captain Harrison Oztemel and Stephen Sproule that Hertz was able to counter with a couple of third-period goals by Darius Konotopetz. Masato Kitiyama, playing in his second game of the night, scored an empty-net to seal the deal for Peak with a 6-3 victory. Gabor Toth stopped 25 of the 28 shots he faced in the Peak net and Lance Parker turned aside 19 of the 25 pucks fired his way.
Peak was missing Thai national team stars Patrick Forstner and Hideki Nagayama as well as Mel Dhiranusornkit, Michel White, Punn Phasukkijwatana and Ryan Yaden and they subbed Masato, Pratch Siridhara and Mike Nightingale. Hertz was missing Roman Larin, Major Ingkharratphithakon, Phu Suwachirat and First Kulrat, picking up Mangkorn Sukwiboon, playing his second of the night, and Title Prachayanant.
Heading into 2020, Corry Day is the league’s scoring leader with 20 points followed by Jesse Starosta with 16. Ken Kindborn and Harrison Oztemel sit tied for third with 15 points each and teammates Bill Bredesen and Mike Freeson are tied in fourth place with 14 points. Day and Freeson share the goal-scoring lead with 11 apiece.
At the break, Novotel and Peak sit atop the leader board with identical records of 7-4, Hertz is in third-spot with a 6-5 record and AWARE sits in the cellar with a 2-9 record. SHL action resumes on Sunday January 12th.