The Philippine national ice hockey team. PHOTO BY ARIC JOHN SY CUA
Members of the Philippine ice hockey team admitted that the victory against Mongolia was difficult but sweet, given that the latter was the host of the recently concluded Ice Hockey World Championships Division 4 tournament which the Filipinos ruled last weekend.
At the team’s victory dinner to celebrate the championship on Wednesday, Philippine team captain Manvil Billones said that he and his team felt nervous but excited entering the Mongolia game.
“Playing against Mongolia was an exciting one,” Billones, the tournament’s top scorer with 5 goals and 7 assists, said.
“Playing in front of 3,000 people, with all the loud noises, the screaming, the heckling, that brought the energy up for us. I know it was pretty nervous at the start, but we calmed ourselves down. We know they are a fast, strong team. So we had to strategize, play our game, just keep calm, and that’s how we came up on top.”
Forward Kenwrick Sze added that Mongolia was a tough opponent but the Filipinos prevailed as a team.
“It was my first ever experience and I’m really glad that I experienced that, as well,” he said.
During Saturday’s game against a Mongolia team in front of 3,000 partisan fans at the Steppe Arena in the capital Ulaanbaatar, the Philippines blew two multi-goal leads and were penalized several times. The Filipinos, however, won the game 7-6 after a minute in overtime, thanks to the heroics of Eishner “EJ” Sibug and Steven Füglister.
“Mongolia is a very experienced team,” Füglister, the national team’s former captain, said.
“I think because we gave them a good fight, the pressure kind of went to their side… but I have so much respect for those guys; great people, great country, too. We were just lucky at that game.”
After the Mongolia game, the Filipinos went on to defeat Kuwait 14-0 on Sunday to clinch the Division 4 championship. The Philippines also demolished Indonesia 14-0 in the opening game.
Because of the victory, the Philippines will be promoted to Division 3B in the next International Ice Hockey Federation championship.
This tournament was also the first played by a Philippine team under newly hired head coach Juhani Ijäs, who led Thailand to the gold medal at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.