7TH ANNUAL MEKONG CUP

by Scott Murray

Bangkok Post, May 23, 2001

Thai Stix triumph again


The Thai Stix ball hockey squad captured their second straight Mekong Cup last weekend at the Amari Coral Beach Resort in Patong, Phuket. This event, the biggest of its kind in Asia, saw five teams from the region compete for the coveted prize.After the preliminary round robin round, the Thai Stix were seeded first, followed by the Singapore Chili Crabs, Saigon Chinooks, Bangkok Bullies and the Kuala Lumpur Sharks.

The biggest surprise of the tourney was the Bullies, who led by captain Kirk Paul, and the goaltending tandem of Michael Cohen and Thanit Changtao, edged out the Sharks, a pre-tourney favourite, for the last playoff spot. They then faced off against their rivals from Bangkok, in the first semi-final.The Bullies had almost pulled off the biggest upset of the tourney earlier in the day by nearly defeating the Thai Stix, but a late rally by the Stix had forced a 4-4 draw. "It was our wake-up call," said Thai Stix veteran defenceman, Keith Johnston, as his club went on the finish the tourney 5-0-1.In their rematch later in the afternoon, the experience and depth of the defending champions just proved too much for the Bullies as heat and fatigue began to take its toll and the Thai Stix rolled on to the championship with a 7-1 triumph.The other semi-final pitted the upstart Saigon squad against Singapore. The team from Vietnam was extremely skilled but undermanned, and as with the Bullies, as the game worn on lack of depth on the Vietnamese bench became evident as Singapore took control of the game, out muscling and outmaneuvering the Saigon squad to win 9-4.So Singapore and the Thai Stix met in the final. In a thrilling match, the Thai Stix took the lead three times, but each time Singapore fought back, eventually sending the game into overtime. In the early stages of extra time, Yves "Red Bull" Gaboriault, the Thai Stix goalie, made a number of sensational stops to keep his club in the game as the Singapore players swarmed his net.

But the Thai Stix regrouped as Kelly Cailes led a superb rush down court, and team captain John Casella, pouncing on a miscue by the Singapore goalie swooped up the ball in front of the Chili Crabs' net and put it in the top corner to seal the victory. Shane Gunther, Casella's linemate, and the Stix' premier forward, was named the tourney MVP for a number of clutch passes and goals.