Hertz captures SHL regular-season title

In the first game of the night on February 23rd of the Sport Corner Siam Hockey League, Aware captain Justin St.-Denis scored from the slot with 5:12 remaining in the third period as his team downed the Novotel Spitfires 6-5 in a back-and-forth contest that saw the lead change hands four times.

The victory gives Aware a much-needed boost as the regular season heads toward its final matchups later in the week.

Just two minutes before St.-Denis’ goal, Mat Siegel of Aware knotted the game at 5-5. It had looked before that as though the Spitfires might walk away with a win after barraging Aware with three third-period goals.

Aware captain Justin St. Denis passes to a teammate with Novotel’s Mike Fresson in hot pursuit.

Spitfires substitute defenseman Robin Lehmann opened the scoring in the third period with a point shot that somehow bounced its way into the back of the net.

Then Mike Freeson notched his second goal of the night on a nifty second effort. Aware goalie Dream Ungkulpattanasuk had denied Freeson on a breakaway, but Novotel’s leading goalscorer got his own rebound and put it into the upper corner from a near-impossible angle along the goal line.

Novotel’s third goal in the third – giving them a temporary 5-4 lead – saw crafty young Thai star Winnie Luckanatinskorn beat “The Dream Machine” on a breakaway with all the time in the world.

Aware’s Devin Micheal leads the rush out of his zone as three Novotel players give chase.

The lead had bounced back and forth all night. Novotel took an early lead in the first period on a rocket shot by defenseman Brad Wilson, who was pinching down into the slot, but Aware quickly bounced back with two late first-period goals by substitutes Seb Verdy and Eric Eustache.

Freeson opened the second period with a goal for the Spitfires, tying the game 2-2, but Eustache scored his second goal of the night just minutes later, and Devin Michael hammered in another one with under two minutes to play in the period.

With the win, Aware climbed to 6-11 while Novotel slipped to 9-8, with just one game remaining in the regular season. St. Denis captured Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game honors.

In the second game of the night and penultimate game of the 2019-2020 season for Hertz and Peak, both teams knew what was on the line. The winning team would be in the driver’s seat going into the final games and have an opportunity to finish first and pick their first-round opponent for the SHL playoffs.

Peak continued to miss Captain Harrison Oztemel, and also were without Hideki Nagayama and Yean Tankokriat. Missing those players was evident from puck drop, as Peak found it hard to muster consistent pressure through the contest.

When Peak was able to get any offense going, goalie Lance Parker was equal to the task and played one of his best games of the season. A hot Lance Parker going into the playoffs is exactly what Hertz has come accustomed to the past few years.

Hertz’s Darius Konotopetz was a force all night.

On the other side of the ice, Hertz played a strong game defensively and took advantage of their opportunities.

In the first period, with a little more than 10 minutes to play, Jordan Ashton took the puck in the neutral zone, and took a few strides into the Peak zone, before he fired the puck through Peak goalie Gabor Toth, giving Hertz the 1-0 lead. Ashton’s power-play goal was assisted by Jaren Folden and Darius Konotopetz. The first period stayed even after Ashton’s goal, and the period ended with the same 1-0 score.

Early in the second period, Mike Wilson took a pass from Roman Larin and threw the puck on Toth, an unfortunate deflection off of the goalie stick popped the puck up in the air and over Toth to make the score 2-0. The second period ended 2-0.

The two Mikes (Wilson for Hertz and White for Peak) battled it out all night.

The third period was back and forth, however, Parker was at his best and earned the 2-0 shutout and the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game. Parker made 26 saves in the shootout and Toth made 22 in the losing effort.

With the win, and Novotel’s earlier loss, Hertz secured first place overall and will select their first-round opponent.