KUALA LUMPUR: Like David slaying Goliath.
This was how national men’s ice hockey team manager Petronilo Tigaronita described the Filipinos’ stunning 5-4 upset of Thailand Thursday night to bag the 29th Southeast Asian Games ice hockey gold medal at the Empire City Arena in Damsara Perdana.
“You can’t underestimate our players and anybody else in ice hockey in the region, Thailand could not be beaten. But we did it!” exclaimed Tigaronita of the historic golden triumph of the country in the sport making its SEA Games debut.
“They were supposed to be the better team,” added the team manager, whose voice was hoarse from all the shouting the previous night, on Friday before the Nationals headed back to the Philippines.
Both unbeaten in three games entering last night’s match, the Philippines and Thailand engaged in a battle royale for three periods, he recalled.
“We were up 5-3 in the last five minutes but they scored one more goal,” Tigaronita noted. “The team and coach (Daniel Brodan) really played it smart by playing the clock and dumping the puck. More on the defensive kami.”
He cited the forward Nico Cadiz, who scored the winning goal, and the defensive brilliance of Fil-Swiss goalkeeper Gianpeitro Iseppi “who was really good” in warding off the Thais’ dangerous shot. “He must have saved 40 shots during the course of the game.”
“GP (Iseppi’s nickname) was our keystone in defense. He was amazing inside,” Brodan pointed out of his goalie’s outstanding net-minding.
Tigaronita said that the epic triumph would be back a huge sport for ice hockey back home “and even now we’ve been receiving a lot of calls both locally and abroad in expressing their interest in joining our hockey squad.”
The Filipinos completed a four-game sweep of the five-nation single-round tournament, whipping Indonesia, 12-0, in the opener last Monday followed by a 7-2 rout of Singapore the next day.
On Wednesday, the Philippine ice hockey bets fashioned a thrilling 2-1 win in a shootout with host Malaysia after the score ended 7-all in regulation before completing their golden journey with a flourish in upsetting the fancied Thais, 5-4, on Thursday.