In game one on Thursday March 5th, Aware looked to close out their SHL semifinal series with Peak Biolabs. Aware was missing superstar Finnish defenseman Jari Eerikainen along with a few other key players, and looked to brush off these absences by playing the same playoff style, grinding hockey game that got them the win in the first game of the series.
The plan seemed to work from the start as the game began with a slower pace as both teams wanted to avoid going down 1-0. Peak was missing Thai National Team standout Patrick Forstner and sniper Harrison Oztemel, with the captain on the bench fully engaged by handling bench boss duties for the second straight playoff game. It t was quickly evident as the speed up front was lacking for the first few minutes of the contest.
Aware picked up where they left off in game one, as veteran Scott Murray picked up his second goal in as many games in these playoffs with a goal that was eerily similar to his goal in game one. A pass from Corry Day that found Murray camped out in front and Murray again made no mistake, firing the puck past Peak goalie Gabor Toth.
The second period saw Peak get an early power-play opportunity, and they quickly capitalized as Thai hulking defenseman Yean Thanakroekkiat took one of his patented wrist shots from the point and the puck found its way through a crowd and past Aware goalie Dream Ungkulpattanasuk. The power play assist went to Punn Phasukkijwatana.
With a little more than five minutes gone in the second period, Swedish defenseman Christian Olofsson took the puck in the Peak zone, absorbed a hit from Adrian Myers, and on the delayed penalty, Peak forwards Ed McConnell and John Schachnovsky teamed up for a great two on one play with McConnell, slipping the puck past the Aware defense and hitting a streaking Schachnovsky who, with one hand, deflected the puck over Dream’s shoulder, giving Peak the lead 2-1.
The third period was only three minutes old when Aware pivot Brandon Vick won an offensive zone draw clean back to D-man Adrian Myers. Myers placed a perfect point shot passed Toth to tie the game at 2.
The rest of the period was a back and forth affair, exactly the playoff-style hockey these two teams played in game one. And like in game one, we went into the final two minutes tied. This time, it was Peak that provided the late-game heroics.
With Day in the penalty box for holding, Yean teamed up with McConnell and Mike White, as the power play was able to find the game-breaking D-man and Yean, the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the-game, did the rest, taking the puck deep into the Aware zone and firing a shot over Dream’s shoulder for the late lead.
White provided a late empty-net tally as Aware tried to get the equalizer with Dream on the bench in favor of a sixth attacker.
With the Peak victory, a deciding game three will now be played, with the winner playing Novotel for the SHL Championship.
Game three is set for Sunday, March 8 at 9:30pm.
In game two on Thursday Novotel forward Mike Freeson and goaltender Yu Cheng Liao put in outstanding performances as the Spitfires trounced Hertz 5-0 to win the best-of-three series and punch their ticket to the SHL championship.
Freeson notched a pure hat trick with two goals in the first period—both finding the twine over Hertz netminder Lance Parker’s glove—and another score on a laser wrist shot in the opening minutes of the second.
Liao, the Rolling Stone Pizza payer-of-the-game, meanwhile, stopped all 32 shots he faced, including a few breakaways and other prime scoring opportunities for Hertz. The Rental Cars were notably without stars Roman Larin and Phu Suwachirat.
Novotel captain Brad Wilson scored his team’s fourth goal late in the second period, and Marcel Bouwens added another insurance goal, also in the second period, as the Spitfires cruised to the easy win.
Winnie Luckanatinskorn tallied three assists on the night for Novotel, and Wilson and Homme Thaiyanont both had two assists.
It was a stinging loss for top-seeded Hertz, which had elected to play Novotel in the first-round matchup. They obviously hadn’t counted on Liao turning into an absolute brick wall between the pipes.
The Spitfires will face the winner of Sunday night’s game-three matchup between Aware and Peak Biolabs. The SHL championship will be held on Saturday, March 14, with the puck dropping at 7:30pm.