Pinoys break ice in hockey
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - For a country like the Philippines where there is no winter, playing ice hockey is unusual. But with the SM Group’s ice rinks at the Mall of Asia and Southmall, the sport is gaining in popularity among Filipinos and foreign residents. The estimate is anywhere between 160 to 210 kids and adults play ice hockey on a regular basis with leagues providing a platform for enthusiasts to hone their skills.

As ice hockey may be introduced at the 29th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Malaysia in 2017, steps are being taken to formalize a national sports association for recognition by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Finland-based International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). At the moment, the only Southeast Asian countries affiliated with the IIHF are Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It will take at least four countries to commit to play ice hockey before the sport is officially included in the 2017 SEA Games calendar.

Pet Tigaronita, secretary-general of the newly organized Federation of Ice Hockey Leagues, said POC recognition is a prerequisite for affiliation with the IIHF. “Our president Chris Sy has made representation with (POC president) Mr. (Jose) Cojuangco and (POC secretary-general) Mr. (Steve) Hontiveros,” said Tigaronita, head of St. Michael’s School in Las Piñas. “We’re a little pressed for time because we want to start preparing for the SEA Games as soon as possible. Our application with the POC is in progress and now under review. We formed our association last February and right now, we’ve got three leagues. One is a league for 16-and-under with five teams, the Manila Hawks, Rascals, Cougars, Kings and Snipers. Another is an adult league with four teams, the Ice Falcons, Omni Insurance, Cricket Lighters and Sharps. The adult league is now on its ninth season. A season is from September to February with games played on Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 to 10 p.m. at the MOA.”

Tigaronita said Manila will host an international tournament on Nov. 25-28 at the MOA with Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines participating in four divisions – adult, U16 or bantams, U13 or peewees and U10 or squirts. The event will be held at the temporary rink set up by SM near the MOA parking lot. SM will eventually relocate the rink on the third floor of the MOA where there will also be a soccer field.

Tigaronita said the MOA and Southmall rinks are open for ice hockey practices on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings for 1 1/2 hours each. “The players split the cost of the ice time which is P10,000,” he said. “SM supports us by providing coaches. We’re grateful to SM for giving us the chance to play the sport we love. We get international exposure by playing in invitationals in Hong Kong in May and Malaysia in September. We also receive invitations to play in Thailand and Taiwan but we don’t have the budget to go.  Parents and players spend on their own. We’re hoping that once we’re recognized by the POC and IIHF, we’ll be able to receive assistance from the Philippine Sports Commission particularly as we have the potential to win the gold medal at the SEA Games.”

Tigaronita said the Philippines U13 team recently captured the Gold Cup at the Malaysia Invitational Ice Hockey Tournament in Kuala Lumpur in a dramatic come-from-behind fashion. Four teams played in the peewees division – Malaysia, Badax Indonesia, the Singapore Ice Dragons and the Philippines. The games were played six-a-side, including the goalkeeper. In the first round, the Philippines lost all its games, 4-0 to Indonesia, 2-0 to Singapore and 5-4 to Malaysia to drop to fourth in the standings. That meant the Philippines had to play first seed Indonesia in the knockout semifinal.

Tigaronita’s son Gelo, 13, scored a hattrick with three goals and goalie Nathaniel Smith, a Canadian living in Hong Kong, blanked Indonesia to key the Philippines’ 3-0 upset victory in the semifinal. That brought the Philippines to the final against Singapore. Matthew Adams, a student at the International School, broke the ice for the Philippines with a shot at 1:50 of the first period. Singapore retaliated at 3:11 to knot the count.

Singapore took the lead, 2-1, as the Philippines failed to score in the second period. In the third and final 12-minute period, Tigaronita saved the day for the Philippines with a marker, time down to 40 seconds. Tigaronita’s shot tied the score, 2-2, and sent the match into a five-minute sudden death overtime. The extension was fiercely fought and John Gefrey Ng So Tiong put the puck in the net at the 4:06 mark to cap the Philippines’ Cinderella finish, 3-2.  Tigaronita was awarded the Best Forward trophy and Smith was named Best Goalie. It was the first championship won by the Philippines in the youth division in the country’s young ice hockey history.

The Philippine U13 team was coached by Carl Montano, a 31-year-old player in the adult league. Montano used to live in Canada and relocated to Manila four years ago. The winning squad was made up of Tigaronita, Adams, Tiong, Smith, Carlo Pastrana, Einzenn Ham, John Glenn Lagleva, Shaun Uy, Alexander Mercer Blackman, James Siycha, Christian Nunez, Francisco Avanceña and Kenwrick Sze.

Last May, the Philippine U13 team wound up second at the Hockey Fives in Hong Kong, losing by a point to Hong Kong’s Empire Skate in the final. Sze was named Best Forward in the Philippines’ first podium finish in international competition.


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