“I thought we would get our butts kicked” — that is how starting goaltender Tiffany Hsu described her team’s expectations going into the Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia, held in Taipei on Thursday and Friday last week.
That expectation was widely shared, as the Taiwan team faced two considerably more experienced opponents in Thailand and Hong Kong. Thailand’s women’s ice hockey team have competed internationally since 2011, while Hong Kong, who have had a women’s ice hockey development program since 1993, dominated Division I of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s tournament this year by large margins.
By contrast, the 21 players on the fledgling Taiwan side were drawn from an assortment of clubs — including seven from inline hockey sides who had never played competitively on ice before — and only had a handful of shared practices to prepare for the tournament.
However, it was clear from the first game that what Taiwan lacked in experience they more than made up for in youth, energy and raw skill. They roared out of the gate with a 7-0 victory over Hong Kong in the first game and never looked back, defeating Thailand 3-1 and 7-1 before closing the tournament with another 7-0 rout of this year’s gold medalists.
In recording 24 goals and 109 shots on net in only four games, Taiwan so thoroughly outclassed the opposition that Hsu found herself with little to do most periods.
Captain Linda Liu turned in an extraordinary performance, including several spectacular end-to-end rushes in the style of Bobby Orr, while Yeh Hui-chen, the team’s youngest player, led the tournament in scoring with five goals and three assists.
Given the high cost of hockey equipment, scarcity of ice time and lack of a national program dedicated to women’s hockey, it is uncertain if the team will be able to build on their success, but the players remain hopeful that this triumph will be rewarded with increased support for their participation in future tournaments.
Yet whatever might be in store for them next, they have brought Taiwan a singular, and wholly unexpected, honor.
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