The venue was filled with cheers for local team Hong Kong Selects, but they still bowed down to the Singapore Ice Dragons at this year's Mega Ice Hockey 5's youth final. For the fifth year, Megabox in Kowloon Bay hosted the tournament.
The youth contest was held from April 30 to May 5. With more than 850 players and a record number of teams, the schedule was packed - most competition days started at 6am and ended after midnight.
The exciting final in the Bantams category (for players born in 1996, '97 and '98) was the last match of the tournament. It consisted of three 12-minute periods with 30-second breaks. In the first period, both teams tested their rivals' defence but it was the Dragons' Daniel Venema who scored first. Selects levelled the score 1-1 in the second period, but John Tolton put Singapore in the lead again.
Hong Kong had many close calls near the end and even sent their goalie forward in the final seconds. This gave Dragons' John Devins a chance to score with just one second left. The match ended at 12.25am with the score 3-1.
Singaporean players Kyland Sargeant, Devins and Venema received best goalie, best forward and most valuable player (MVP) awards, while Hong Kong's captain Justin Fan was named best defenceman.
Before the match, Dragons captain Justin Hunt was worried that the early morning start might affect his teammates. 'We beat Junior Canstar [from Canada] 11-0. That was easy but I was hoping for a more intense match as I knew tonight's [final] would be tough,' he said. Fortunately the team's performance cleared his doubts.
Sargeant showed his mettle on the rink, especially when a teammate was given a two-minute time-out less than two minutes and 20 seconds left. 'It was quite scary,' he said. 'The Hong Kong boys kept pressing and had many attempts during the period but I told myself to do all I could to keep the puck out. And I am glad I completed my duty.'
It was a perfect day for Venema. His elder brother Johan was also MVP two years ago.
'When Johan was given the MVP award, I was sitting in the spectator box and I wanted the award very badly,' he said. 'I can't believe my dream came true today.' He described the final as the 'happiest day' in his life so far.
Justin Fan, 14, said the Singaporeans were the better team on the day and deserved the victory. 'I take this as a learning opportunity,' said the Year 10 student from Sha Tin College. 'Today's defeat means we need to work even harder to be the winning side again in the future.'
The adult stage of the hockey tournament will be held from today until Saturday, with free admission.