Hong Kong World Ice Hockey 5’s
With Hong Kong’s brand new MegaIce arena online, Bangkok’s Flying Farangs rounded up a representative team to battle in the World Hockey 5’s in June 2007. Boasting a talented lineup including grinders, movers and shakers from Thailand, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Germany and (Manila?) -- the Farangs were clearly one of the favorites heading into the tourney.
But this would be no cakewalk. Some key elements were stacked against the lads from Bangkok: delayed flights, lost hockey sticks and the absence of Scotty “Hockey”¯ Murray, who missed his first Asia tournament in a remarkable 12 years.
Game 1: Farangs vs. Kuala Lumpur Cobras
In recent years Bangkok has often had the better of their long-time rivals, the KL Cobras, but heading into the tournament’s opening game, the Farangs faced a different looking team with a bite. This year it was clear that KL was much improved, not only with an assortment of new snipers but also dauntless Farang backstopper Jason Cotsmire, who was brought in to man the pipes. Against these odds it was no surprise that the Farangs came out flat and found themselves trailing 3-0 after just one period. Goaltender Savard seemed to be all on his own as the Farangs were playing like goldfish. What the heck was going on? Then within 2 minutes, in an amazing sequence, the game was tied 3-3 with Collette, Boomer and Doan all bulging the twine. KL shook it off however and jumped right back into the lead with a sneaky breakaway goal and another off a lucky back board bounce.[5-3 KL]. But the Farangs kept coming, proving they are not a team to throw in the towel, and Switzer drew them within one with a few minutes remaing. The Farangs looked as if they tied it up with Collette tucking one in from the crease, but a quick-whistled referee disallowed it. Cots - in vintage form - was the difference in this one. Final Score: Cobras 5 Farangs 4
Game 2: Farangs vs. Shanghai Old Gaurds
Shaken but not stirred by their opening loss, the Farangs came out much more focused for their next match versus the Shanghai Red Guard. From the drop of the puck this baby was all Bangkok. Speedster Doan made a bold statement on the game’s first shift when he zipped by the baffled Shanghai defense and deked the goalie right out of his jockstrap. [1-0, only 30 seconds in] Momentum was lost briefly when the Guards earned a shorthanded tally off a turnover [1-1], but it didn’t take long for the boys to come firing back. The lead was restored a mere 15 seconds later on the same power play as former Swedish elite leaguer Rauhala scored on his first (and basically only) shot of the tournament. [2-1]. The remainder of the game was nothing less than a Flying Farangs hockey clinic, with all the action down in the Shanghai zone. On the final score sheet Boomer, Marriott and Doan had all bagged two goals a piece, and the shots were a convincing 26 to 9 in the Farangs favor. The boys had clearly sent a tournament message that they had come to play.
Game 3: Farangs vs. Tokyo Canadians
The last match of the round robin for the boys was monumental in that it not only dictated the playoff seedings but it was against their long-time nemesis, the Tokyo Canadians. Revenge (best served cold) was on the minds of all Farangs players who just months ago had suffered a heartbreaking semifinal loss to the same team in Singapore. As expected the game was fast paced and filled with end-to-end action. Bodies and sticks were flying everywhere as both teams battled for ice supremacy. Savard came up huge in the early going, making several key saves, a few of the Patrick Roy-variety. Fortunes would go to the opponents first however, as a controversial (garbage) goal was awarded after a Canadians player submarined Savard into the back of the net. [1-0 Tokyo]. But the
Game 4: Farangs on the prowl in Hong Kong
Faced with a 36 hour layover until the next playoff game, the Farangs changed gears (and outfits) and decided to take on the city of Hong Kong: Friday Night Style. It is important to note here that although there was no hockey during this period, the Farangs definitely came out to play, with many putting up more numbers in this short time than in all other 5 games combined. It was an impressive showing of teamwork and camaraderie and the metropolis didn’t know what hit it. Details are still a bit sketchy, but there was forensic evidence of pint-heavy bowling, Kennedy’s “birthday” bash at TGI Fridays, a ?World Class” visit to Lan Kwai Fong, an extended tour of Wan Chai, exclusive VIP parties, MIA’s in closets, and, evidently, a dip into Manila.
Game 5: Farangs vs. Kuala Lumpur Cobras
Pumped from their Friday night off, the Farangs were energized for their quarter-final match-up, which, as it turned, was a rematch against the Cobras. This time the Farangs were ready to rumble. Cots was under pressure from the get go but proved to be up to the challenge, turning away shot after shot after shot. Savard faced less work in the Farangs net, although he was benefiting from some solid D work by Dittmer, Rauhala, Oracheski and Kennedy. The game finally broke open in the second thanks to some fancy speed and agility by Switzer. Aided by one timely release from the penalty box and another deft pass from Boomer, Todd the Bod went 2 for 2 on breakaways, giving the boys a commanding 2 goal lead. This would be all the Farangs would need to advance as the team’s sharp defensive play softened the Cobras bite. Kennedy fired home an absolute laser making it 3-0 early in the 3rd before Marriott sealed it with an empty netter. An impressive team effort and a well deserved shutout by Savard. Post game action included Coors Light, burgers-with-a-view and a photo shoot with the Manila Ice Vixens (Rauhala’s prot?g?s-to-be).
Game 6: Farangs vs. Hong Kong Tigers
Nonplussed by a baffling Sunday morning game (the only benefit of Lad Prao training), the Farangs laced ‘em up tight in the semifinals to play the home town ringers, the Hong Kong Tigers. Led by Gregory Smyth and backstopped by one time Farang hero Grant Philips, the undefeated Tigers were unquestionably a giant hurdle in Bangkok’s quest for gold. As predicted the game was fast and furious, with elbows and sticks flying everywhere. Savard was up to his usual antics, making glorious save after glorious save. But he wasn’t the only Farang who came to play. Bruising Bob Kennedy tamed several Tigers with crushing body checks at the blueline, and Rauhala and Heinonen kept the puck moving with their euro-precision passing. A scoreless game after 2 frames proved frustrating for the veteran Tigers team, who had a clear edge in shots. The Farangs also had their share of chances, with Doan, Collette and Tengsakul all just missing the target off of fast breaks. The Tigers finally took the lead off a transition 2-on-1 early in the third which seemed to take the wind out of the Farang sail. With time running down and Savard on the bench for an extra attacker, the action was relentless in the Tigers’ zone, but the Farangs just couldn’t get the puck past Philips. An empty netter with a minute to go sealed the deal for the home team. A tough loss in a great battle to the eventual tournament champions.
In all, it was another inspiring showing by Boys from Bangkok in a tournament that will no doubt go down in Flying Farangs folklore. All heads were held high from the 3rd place finish (the team would have destroyed Siberia in any consolation match) and all of Asia got the message that the Farangs are a team of the future. Liquid celebrations were rampant all afternoon, easing the hard earned bumps and bruises from a great tournament.
* Bangkok Goalie, Clement Savard, earned heavy praise from all opposing netminders for his work between the pipes. He was awarded with MVP Goalie for the tournament.