Novotel captures first SHL title

Novotel center Mike Freeson tallied five points, including two goals and three assists, as the Spitfires defeated PEAK Biolabs, 5-3, to capture the 2020 SHL Championship.

Team captains & sponsors gather at center ice for ceremonial puck drop.

After a shaky run down the stretch in the regular season, Novotel won three straight games in the playoffs thanks to an offensive barrage from Freeson and lockdown goaltending from Yu Cheng Liao. Late in the first period of the championship with the score knotted 0-0, Novotel winger Jason Bitter dug the puck out of the offensive corner and fed Freeson in the slot. The centerman dished linemate Bill Bredesen, who put the wobbly puck top shelf over a sprawling Gabor Toth in goal for PEAK.

Early in the second period, PEAK tied the game on a crafty goal by speedy defenseman Hideki Nagayama, with an assist from Eddie McConnell. But the Spitfires kept their foot on the gas, scoring two goals within a minute of each other late in the second period. First, Freeson picked the corner with a lethal wrist shot, and then Bredesen hammered home his second goal of the night following a laser pass from the far wing by Bitter. Freeson tallied a second assist on the goal.

Mike Freeson with his five points was the playoff MVP.

When the third period got underway, PEAK quickly went on the offensive. Stalwart defenseman Yean Thanakroekkiat let a snapshot rip from the right side that somehow found its way past Liao. A couple of minutes later, Punn Phasukkijwatana also found the twine, tying the contest at 3-3 with just 12 minutes left in the third. Novotel regained the lead on a pure-hustle goal by young Thai superstar Winnie Luckanatinskorn with 5:14 on the clock.

Freeson capped his MVP night with a length-of-the-ice empty-net goal with less than a minute to play. With two-time SHL scoring champion Harrison Oztemel on the ice following a late-season off-ice injury, PEAK had all its guns blazing. But Oztemel and perennial offensive threat Patrick Forstner were both kept off the score sheets.

The champion Novotel Spitfires.

Liao put in a strong performance in goal for the Spitfires, blocking 24 shots, and putting up a wall down the stretch in the third. Novotel captain Brad Wilson, who will be moving to Hong Kong in the offseason, notched one assist (on Freeson’s first goal) and will leave behind a legacy as one of the SHL’s most formidable and well-liked players.