by Jason Cotsmire
The first game Thursday night was a thriller even before the game started. Scheduled to face off against Greater China at 7:30 pm, roughly 1/3 of the team was still on its way to the rink by 7:15. Just getting to the rink in time to get their gear on were "Rookie," "Damage," "Il Duce," and "Whitey." Phuket Farang Jeff LaMantia, also on this flight was left in limbo as Thai Airways left his luggage in Bangkok.
This sent management on a last minute search for equipment with a hodgepodge put together from Finn, Canadian and Malaysian players. After this ominous start, one had to figure that the FF were in for a tough night and one couldn't have been more right. Making the adjustment to big ice and a five on five format was too much for the team as they struggled to a 2-0 loss when faced with one of Asia's best goaltenders in Grant Phillips.
GM Gerald LaPortage was furious at the late arriving players, unable to comprehend why his players would schedule a flight that arrived only minutes before their first game of the tournament. He was overheard saying that he would trade players to teams like Flin Flon and Moose Jaw, where they never even heard of airplanes, but that those teams wouldn't take them. Adding insult to injury, 56-year-old Dave McKay, a final roster cut of the Farangs, managed to latch on with Greater China and played a crucial role in the upset.
As Dinah Washington once sang, "What a difference a day makes." Less than 24 hours after the Greater China Fiasco, the Flying Farangs took to the ice to face its friendly rivals, the KL Cobras on Friday morning. A hard fought game was played with the FF prevailing by a score of 3-2. The first game of a 3 game day saw the team get its legs back with a strong all around performance. GM LaPortage called it a character win as the team rallied from two deficits to pull it out.
Game three saw the Farangs face a strong Finnish team. Once again, the team started out slowly and trailed Leijonat IHC thanks to numerous early penalties. LaPortage called the offenses questionable, but had nothing but praise for the team who overcame them to rally for a tie with a team many considered a dark horse for the championship. Down 4-1 in the last period, a furious rally was started by the Middlesex County connection as the boys of Strathroy led the charge. A beautiful breakaway goal by Joe LaMantia brought the team back from the depths while Lee Damage's sweet backhand roofer completed the rally. John Casella almost helped pull of a miracle win with his around the net rush and pass to an open "Rookie," but the terrible ice caused the puck to jump over the rook's stick and the Farangs had to settle for the tie. Even with all the excitement of the rally, it was not the most newsworthy story to come out of the game. The Flying Farangs now have a new hooligan...Former bad boys Murray and Damage were replaced by the stick work of Kevin "Dr. Hook" Hall. In one game, Hall managed to eclipse the total tournament penalty record of the Flying Farangs with a major penalty for high sticking and a game ejection.
Game four saw the Farang
face off against last year's 2nd place team, the Seoul Geckos. Needing
only a tie to ensure advancement, the team rallied around an impassioned
plea from former Farang and current KL Cobra, Ron Dupuis, to kick some
ass therefore allowing KL to play in Saturday's elimination round of
games...which would be a first in it's Asian tournament history. Shaking
goaltending by Jason Cotsmire got the team off on the wrong foot, but
after settling down and
After a full day of games, the Flying Farangs saw themselves place 3rd in Pool A, which meant they would face Pool B's 2nd place Swiss team, EHC Affoltern...an early favorite of many observers to win it all. GM LaPortage wasn't too happy with the draw, but was philosophical when discussing the alternatives. "We had chance to place 2nd, maybe even first, but we played flat against China and ran into a hot goaltender. At least we're not playing Tokyo...they look like the team to beat. Affoltern can be beat, we just have to keep our heads in the game and off of that irritating style of hockey they play...They're a team full of Thomas Sandstroms. If we play their game we'll lose."
LaPortage's words would prove to be prophetic...After more late arrivals by team players sent captain Scott Murray into a hissy fit, he was forced to juggle a lineup already missing stalwart defenseman Jason White, out with injury. The team came out flat and the Swiss team took advantage as they took an early lead and never looked back. Murray told reporters that the team lacked a sense of urgency in the game...maybe not realizing that this was the elimination round. The Swiss team was using the big ice to their advantage as they created numerous odd man rushes on the Farang goal. A late rally wasn't enough as the Flying Farangs dropped out of their own tournament in the quarterfinal round by a score of 5-2.
EHC Affoltern went on to beat Greater China 6-0 in the semis before falling to Tokyo in the final 3-1. Tokyo beat KL in the quarterfinals and rallied to beat Leijonat IHC in overtime in the semis.
This year's Dave Brown Award
goes to the surprise of the tournament, Martin Hajek. Called out of
early retirement by Captain Murray, Martin joined the team in Chiang
Mai from the South Pacific. The former Slovakian League pro from St.
Catherines wowed the crowd with his calm and cool demeanor both on and
off the ice. He so impressed that it is a possibility that Mr. Hajek
may become the Thai national team coach as they make their inaugural
appearance in the Asian games.
For further info contact Father Joe or the HDC at:
3757/15 Sukhumvit Rd
Soi 40, Phra Khanong
Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Tel: (662) 392-7981, 381-1821 Fax: (662) 391-4968
or visit Scott Murray's web page at http://www.scottmurray.com for more information.