It was a great day of ball hockey in Phuket and a Mekong Cup Final for the ages! The Bangkok-based Thai Stix ball hockey team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to tie the Hong Kong Islanders 3-3 in the dying seconds of the Mekong Cup championship game only to see Hong Kong lead a last-second rush, score and snatch victory while the Thai Stix were still celebrating their tying goal.

In ball hockey jargon, after you score, players from the scoring team regain their half of the court and then “turn and face” their opponents, but if the scoring team doesn’t do this quickly enough the team that was just been scored upon can turn it to their advantage, which is exactly what Hong Kong did to the Thai Stix, not once, but twice, during the final game. On both occasions, after Thai Stix goals, the Islanders quickly steeled themselves, refused to grouse and rushed back without missing a beat, scoring both times and turning the Thai Stix short-lived euphoria into abject misery.

action from final game-ed

 

Many of the Hong Kong ball hockey players are also members of that community’s top ice hockey team, which has a history of not panicking and winning closing games in the dying minutes.

This year’s tournament saw six teams compete for Southeast Asia’s most coveted ball hockey trophy; three came from Thailand, the Bangkok Thai Stix, the Bangkok Thundering Chang and the Chiang Mai Highlanders; two from Singapore, the Chili Crabs and the veteran Crusty Crabs; and one from Hong Kong, the eventual champions, the Islanders.

After round-robin play in the morning, the only two teams that remained without a victory were the Singapore Crusty Crabs and the second Bangkok team, the Thundering Chang (previously called the Bangkok Bullies). These teams were eliminated from semi-final action in the afternoon.

battle behind the neta

 

The first semi-final saw the top-seeded Thai Stix shut-out the fourth-seeded Chiang Mai Highlanders 3-0; this was a physical affair, which saw the Highlanders constantly complaining about the officiating. It didn’t help that the officials missed an accidental high stick, which cut one of the Chiang Mai players in the mouth. There is little love lost between the two squads, and Chiang Mai is still looking for its first win against the Bangkok squad.

The second semi-final saw second-seeded Hong Kong face off against third-seeded Singapore Chili Crabs. This match was played after a 45-minute rain delay. In this game, Hong Kong came out flying and dominated Singapore, winning easily 6-0.

The Thai Stix last won the Mekong Cup in 2004 and captain John Stevens and goalie Yves Gaboriault are the only surviving members from that team on the Stix today though Thundering Chang members Keith Johnston and Scott Murray as well as tourney organizer John Casella were also part of that dynasty, which won four titles over five years.

heated actiona

 

This was a record fifth championship for the Islanders, though they did share a title with a Slovakian team, the HKL-MJM Petrzalka in 2009. The last time the Islanders won was in 2011.

At the awards dinner and banquet it was announced that Geoff “Woody” Boyd had become the second player inaugurated into the Southeast Asian Ball Hockey Hall of Fame, the first being Mekong Cup Tournament Director and former Thai Stix Captain, John Casella. Woody, a long-time valuable member of the Singapore Chili Crabs, has played a huge role in administering the Vivian Slot scholarship fund ( http://www.unizg.hr/vivianscholarship/ ) and this year played a big part in bringing Chili Crab alumni from all over the world back to Phuket to play for the Crusty Crabs in this milestone 20th annual Mekong Cup tournament. More than half of their 15 players flew in from Canada, the US, England and South Africa to take part in this tournament.

The event was staged at the Centara Karon Resort Phuket at Karon Beach for the third straight year; the resort did a great job as host, and put on a lavish and sumptuous buffet for the awards dinner.

thai stix playing chiang maia

At the end of the banquet, whose charity auction raised Baht 46,000 for the Vivian Slot Scholarship Foundation, John Casella announced that this was the last Mekong Cup he would organize. John put together the past fifteen Mekong Cups and though he will remain as an advisor, someone else will serve as Chairman next year. Also, though the Mekong Cup has been always held in Phuket (the Amari Coral Beach resort staged the first 17 events) it may switch to Bangkok next year.
It is a custom during the awards dinner for the individual team captains to honour their players by giving each a medal for participation. This year, the Chiang Mai Highlanders, who were participating in the event for the first time auctioned off items to support Nicolas Brown, a Canadian from Vancouver, and one of their players who was paralyzed in a drive-by shooting last year in Chiang Mai: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUxs0sQMLOc&feature=youtu.be

List of Mekong Winners

1995 – Bangkok/Kuala Lumpur (co-champions)
1996 – Singapore Chili Crabs
1997 – Kuala Lumpur Cobras
1998 – Kuala Lumpur Cobras
1999 – Singapore Chili Crabs
2000 – Bangkok Thai Stix
2001 – Bangkok Thai Stix
2002 – Bangkok Thai Stix
2003 – Singapore Chili Crabs
2004 – Bangkok Thai Stix
2005 – Hong Kong Islanders
2006 – Hong Kong Nordiques
2007 – Hong Kong Islanders
2008 – Hong Kong Islanders
2009 – Hong Kong Islanders / HKL-MJM Petrzalka
2010 – HKL-MJM Petrzalka
2011 – Hong Kong Islanders
2012 – Singapore Chili Crabs
2013 – Montreal Coupe Burrows Cup
2014 – Hong Kong Islanders

 tourney organizer john casella handing mekong cup to hong kong captaina

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