Underdogs reign in SHL play

Going into January’s 19th’s set of games, Buriram oddsmakers had Hertz and AWARE at a distinct disadvantage, but when the final whistles were blown they both emerged victorious with Hertz earning a 4-1 victory over top-ranked Novotel and AWARE defeating Peak 4-2.

Novotel was missing captain Brad Wilson and Bill Bredesen, the SHL’s third-leading scorer, and subbed former Thai national team star Beer Thamwongsin. Hertz was missing a slew of players including keeper Lance Parker and Thai national team star Phu Suwachirat. Igor Sykora bused in from Pattaya to replace Parker and Hertz also picked up Seb Verdy, Tom Price, and Rob Taylor as replacements.

Jordan Ashton and First Kulrat, the latter on a top-corner seeing-eye goal, scored second-period markers to stake Hertz to a 2-0 lead. Beer Thamwongsin cut the lead in half by scoring on an assist from Mike Freeson with nine minutes left in the game but Hertz rallied when Seb Verdy found the back of the twine with three minutes left in game and Darius Konotpetz added an empty-net goal to make it a 4-1 final.

Sykora stopped 26 of the 27 shots he faced putting in a strong performance substituting for Lance Parker while Novotel’s Yu Cheng (Leo) Liao stopped 27 of the 31 shots he faced, losing a rare goaltending duel.

In the second game, both teams were missing key players as Peak was missing Thai national team captain Hideki Nagayama and AWARE was missing its captain Justin St. Denis. Peak took the first lead of the game early in the second period when substitute Mangkorn Sukwiboon scored on a pass from SHL President John Schachnovsky. Brandon Vick tied it halfway through the period when he scored the first of his two goals with assists going to Corry Day and Devin Michael.

David Boere and Vick, with his second goal of the night, scored within two minutes of each other to give AWARE a 3-1 lead in the middle of the third period. With six minutes left in the game, Thai national team star Patrick Forstner scored an unassisted goal to bring Peak within a goal but Mat Sigel with an assist going to Arian Meyers nipped the comeback in the bud with four minutes left to go and AWARE prevailed 4-2.

Dream Ungkulpattanasuk was brilliant in the AWARE net stopping all but two of the 28 shots sent his way, earning the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game. Peak’s Gabor Toth, while raging at his defense, stopped 24 of the 28 shots he had to deal with.

Players traveled from far and abroad to play in these games as Seb Verdy and Igor Sykora came in from Pattaya while Tom Price flew in from Japan and Rob Taylor flew in from Taiwan.