The Thai Stix ball hockey team has done it again, winning their third straight Mekong Cup this past weekend at the Amari Coral Beach resort in Patong, Phuket, beating their crosstown rivals, the Bangkok Bullies, 1-0 in a thrilling final match.
The two teams had tied 1-1 in earlier round robin play and the Bullies were determined to wrestle the championship away from the Stix. The championship, however, ended up being a goaltender’s duel with the Thai Stix Yves Gaboriault and the Bullies’ Jason Shipman thwarting one scoring opportunity after another.
The Bullies, a younger and quicker team, co-captained by Ken Wright and Kirk Nell, were tired of being regarded as the second best team in Bangkok. They stormed out of the gate early and swarmed around the Thai Stix net. But Gaboriault kept them at bay, and as the game worn on the experience and poise of the veteran Stix line-up began to show through.
Eventually half way through the second frame winger Germain Bergeron took a perfect fed from defenseman Joe Lamantia and blasted the tourney winner past a screened Shipman. Bergeron, by the way, had an outstanding tourney, leading all competitors with six goals, and combined with veteran linemate Scott Murray on a number of dazzling give-and-go plays.
The Bullies, however, refused to say die and led by hard driving forward Michael Leonard and defenseman Ian Walsh they kept generating scoring chances but once again keeper Gaboriault was brilliant playing kitty bar the door and turning aside all of their scoring attempts, while his team, with some fine defensive play by Keith Johnston and Richard Meiklejohn, was able to eventually run out the clock.
The offensive duo of skilled playmaker Shane Gunther and captain John Casella, were really the key to the Stix’ victory. Casella scored five goals, and time and time again showed an amazing propensity for scoring clutch goals just when his team needed them most.
Commenting after the final game veteran Stix defender, Kelly Cailes said, “You have to give the Bullies credit, they played very well, but I think we wanted it just a little bit more. Once you get that taste of victory in your mouth, it’s hard to forget.”
The Stix reached the final by going 3-0-1 in the round robin and then defeating the Kuala Lumpur Cobras 8-5 in one semi-final. The Bullies got there by going 1-1-2 in their round robin segment then upsetting the very physical Singapore Chili Crabs 6-3 in their semi to win the right to face off for the championship trophy. The only other team competing, the Saigon Chinooks, despite the presence of a number of good players, were unable to make it out of the round robin tourney going 0-4-0.
The tourney, the 8th annual, is the most prestigious ball hockey
tourney in the region.