SHL starts 5th season at Samrong

Photography by Tadamasa Nagayama

The Siam Hockey League has switched venues, as its games for the 2020-2021 season will be played at the Imperial Samrong arena on Olympic-size ice. The opening night of the season on October 11 saw the defending champion Novotel Spitfires take on Aware in the first match while Mandalay played KCG in game two.

Novotel’s Seb Verdy and Aware’s Jaren Folden fight for the puck.

Novotel with only two players returning from their champion squad (captain Mike Freeson and Jason Bitter) came out of the gate on fire and jumped into an early 3-0 first-period lead. Aware stormed back, however, and at the end of two stanzas of play the score stood 4-3 in Novotel’s favour. In the third period, Novotel dug in and emerged with a 7-4 victory as Novotel’s Ken Kindborn, the captain of the Thai national team, led the way earning the Rolling Stone Pizzza player-of-the-game award with two goals and two assists. Captain Mike Freeson chipped in with a goal and two helpers, and Tomas Stastny, the son of long-time NHL star Anton Stastny, made his SHL debut for Novotel and scored on a nice goal living up to his early billing.

Captain Justin St Denis led the way for Aware scoring a hat-trick and an assist in a losing cause and Thai rookie Roger Promthong chipped in with a goal and two assists in his first SHL contest (Roger won the prestigious Johnny Oduya scholarship to play in the SHL this season). Thai-American rookie Ben Kleineschay won his first SHL start in net for Novotel facing 27 shots while Russian keeper Gabor “Rasputin” Toth took the loss for AWARE facing 27 shots.

Mandalay’s Non Aekasemnarong heads up ice as KCG’s Winnie Luckanatinakorn givdes chase.

Game two saw national team stars Hideki Nagayama and Patrick Forstner substitute for Mandalay and KCG, respectively. But this game was never really in doubt as KCG jumped out to a 3-0 lead on two goals by Jesse Starosta and one by substitute Michael White before Mandalay’s Mitch Morrison finally scored and then KCG tallied once again with Winnie Luckanatinakorn to make it a 4-1 final in KCG’s favour. The game was marred by a fight between Thai stars Patrick Forstner and Yean Thannakrokiet, two players more known for their offensive prowess than their fisticuffs. Starosta with four points on the night (2G, 2A) was the Rolling Stone Pizza player-of-the game. KCG fired 25 shots on substitute Mandalay goalie Igor Sykora, while Mandalay shot 30 pucks at KCG keeper Leo Liao, who held Novotel to the SHL championship last year (SHL games are every Sunday night at 9 & 10pm at the Imperial Samrong arena).