The SCIHL finals took place at Elements shopping mall in West Kowloon in front of expectant fans as defending champions Sapporo took on the heavily experienced Sam Wai Raptors. Both teams had reached the finals with 2-0 series sweeps despite mediocre regular season form seeing them finish 3rd and 4th place in the standings, stepping up and playing some of their best hockey in the playoffs.
The finals ceremony was attended by Jeff Nankivell (Consul General of Canada for Hong Kong and Macao), Lowie Edjan (Group General Manager of Telford International, Sapporo Distributor), Gregory Smyth (Co-Founder and Chairman of China Hockey Group) and SCIHL Commissioner Art Tam.
The opening period of the game saw Sapporo start with intensity but Sam Wai goalie Loron Orris made some key saves early on that set the tone for his teammates. The period was closely fought but superstar and first overall pick Mike Yoshino then spurred into action, rushing down the ice and rounding Sapporo goaltender Kevin Rushton to put a pass in the crease where veteran Bruce Hicks tucked in the first goal of the game with just 4 seconds remaining in the period. 1-0 Sam Wai.
The second period was all Sam Wai, where Michael Dick and Yoshino made the score 3-0 within 37 seconds of each other, cashing in using their lethal powerplay for the team’s second goal and creating traffic in front for the team’s third. Sapporo were dealt a blow losing leading scorer Dan Paterson for the majority of the game, and it showed as Sam Wai took control of the period. Sapporo’s Jason Yee scored a good individual effort on the powerplay to make the score 3-1 midway through the second, but Yoshino added has 8th and 9th goal of the playoffs to complete his hat trick before the period was over. Clearly a fan favourite, hats scattered on to the ice as fans had clearly anticipated the league’s leading scorer having a dominant performance this evening. The second period ended 5-1 to Sam Wai, one hand on the cup and what appeared to be no way back for Sapporo.
However, the third period saw a shift of momentum as Sapporo came out with a point to prove as they desperately tried to claw their way back into the game. Sapporo’s oft-absent, but proven playoff performer Ryan Grimes gave the team some hope, blowing a slapshot through Orris’ 5-hole to bring the score to 5-2. Sam Wai looked to be holding on until the last minute of the game, where Sapporo pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and captain Paul Chai deflected a David Rhee shot into the net with 37 seconds left to go to make it 5-3. Still with the goalie pulled, Sapporo continued to push forward and Chai added his second of the game with just 16 seconds left after a scramble in front of Sam Wai’s net, adding late late drama to the championship game and making the score 5-4. With a faceoff in the Sam Wai zone, and with Sapporo looking to tie the game with their third goal using the extra-attacker, Sapporo’s Josh Steinhaus won the faceoff to Rhee, who had his point shot heroically blocked by Sam Wai’s Michael Dick to preserve the win. A 5-4 final score and massive joy and relief for the Sam Wai team as they clinch their first SCIHL championship. Yoshino showed how valuable he was to the team, collecting 5 points on all 5 Sam Wai goals to finish the playoff leading scorer with 14 points in 3 games, ahead of Ryan Grimes who collected 11 points in 3 games. Keith Fong did the honours as he collected the trophy in front of jubilant teammates and fans, the last play of a hard fought 2018-19 SCIHL season.
We would like to thank all the sponsors and support for another exciting and successful SCIHL season. Also thanks to all the players, fans, refs and staff. We look forward to continuing to grow the league and the sport of hockey in Hong Kong and Asia, and without everyone this would not be possible.
Playoff Champions: Sam Wai Raptors
Playoff Runner Up: Sapporo
Consolation Winner (First Option at 2019 Draft): Bravo
Regular Season Champions: Lucky Dawgs
Scoring Leader: Michael Yoshino (Sam Wai)
Goal Leaders: Francis Lam (Bravo) & Jason Klotz (Hong Win)
For full stats and standings on the SCIHL, please visit www.SCIHL.com