Photos by Tadamasa Nagayama

Sport Corner-Titanium rallied from a 3-2 deficit in the third period to beat Hooters Nana 4-3 to win two straight games in their best-of-three championship series to capture the inaugural Siam Hockey League (SHL) title.

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Hooters Nana held leads of 1-0, 2-1 and were ahead 3-2 going in the third period but lost control of the game and their momentum halfway through the third when Jouni Heinonen, scored the second of his three goals before scoring the winning goal with seven minutes to play. It was a remarkable comeback for Heinonen, who only two months ago couldn’t even skate because he was in so much pain due to a groin injury. Captain Mike Wilson scored the other goal for SC-Titanium on the night.
You could have called this the Jouni Heinonen-Michael White show because not only did they trade hat-tricks but Mike White accidentally poked the puck to Jouni allowing him to score the winning goal. White had the goal of the night, when stepping out of the penalty box, he took a pass from Janthapong “Moo” Tengsakul on the blue line, streaked in on goalkeeper Gabor Toth dazzled him with a brilliant head fake and tucked in behind the Russo-Hungarian netkeeper.

Toth stopped 23 of the 26 shots directed his way, while his counterpart Thai national team goalie Pattarapol “Dream” Ungkulpattanasuk turned aside 18 of the 22 shots fired at him. Gabor had the best goalie rating during the playoffs with a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 2.44, and made the big saves when needed.

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Goal-scoring in the playoffs was dominated by SC-Titanium. Zak Garofolo finished atop the scorer’s table with two goals and eight assists, followed by sharpshooter Heinonen, the playoff MVP, with seven goals and two assists. Regular season leading scorer John Schachnovsky finished third with three goals and five assists. Hooter’s Mike White was the only non-SC-Titanium player to sneak into the top five scoring four goals and two assists to finish fourth. Panithi “Jeto” Nawasmittawong was fifth with two goals and four assists and earned the “Best Thai player of the playoffs” award.

Hooters Nana dug deep in this game, outshot SC-Titanium and with a couple of lucky bounces could have pushed the series to three games. In fact, Hooters had a number of players that won multiple championships in the SHL’s predecessor, the Thai World Hockey League (TWHL), and it was thought their playoff experience might give Hooters an edge. But SC-Titanium, who lead the league in points for most of the regular season, just played so well together as a team and never seemed to panic under pressure.

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In a nice touch, Steve Lavender, a partner in Sport Corner, was on hand with some of his staff, to hand out the championship trophy to captain Mike Wilson of Sport Corner Titanium.

The score in the final game was a fitting end to the SHL’s inaugural season; organizers worked hard to achieve parity in the league and the majority of SHL matches were closely-decided contests. Game one of the final series was a 10-1 blow-out in SC-Titanium’s favour, so there had been some fear that the substitute players Hooters Nana received in their 2-0 semi-final series defeat of the Sukhumvit Spitfires had played a key role in their advancing to the final series. SC-Titanium had defeated their semi-final counterpart AWARE two games to one in a much more closely fought series. The MVP of the SHL’s regular season was Donny Kerfoot, who lead Sukhumvit to a first-place finish, but the Spitfires could not unfortunately parlay their regular-season success into playoff success (www.siamhockeyleague.com).

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