Hong Kong China wins first-ever U18 men’s gold
by Liz MONTROY|08 MAR 2024
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Salama KHAN

Hong Kong China’s U18 men’s national team won a World Championship gold medal for the first time in the program’s history at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division III Group B tournament, with wins over Turkmenistan and South Africa helping them reach the top of the podium in Cape Town.

This is the first World Championship gold medal for any Hong Kong China men’s team, senior or U18. The team will now be promoted to Division III Group A, having competed in Group B since their debut in 2014. As in 2023, the tournament standings were close, with the tie-breaking system used to determine the medallists due to a three-way tie in points. While last season, this resulted in Hong Kong China finishing second, this year they came out on top.

Hong Kong China opened with a convincing 11-1 win over South Africa. While the host nation did score first, just over a minute into the game, Hong Kong China went on to score 11 unanswered goals, with eight different players putting the puck in the net.

All but three skaters on Hong Kong China’s roster went on to contribute at least one point during the tournament, with six skaters scoring multiple goals. The spread in scoring continued in their second match against Turkmenistan, which proved to be an immensely entertaining contest with seven different goal scorers for Hong Kong China.

While the game started slow, with Hong Kong China scoring first at 14:33, it erupted in the second period. Turkmenistan tied the game, but Hong Kong China answered with three goals within a span of six minutes. That wasn’t it for the second period however, with Turkmenistan’s Iskenderham Durdyyev scoring two shorthanded goals with Serdar Durdyyev in the box for kneeing. Despite only registering seven shots on net in the third period, Hong Kong China scored four more goals to win 8-3.

Hong Kong China’s penalty kill was the best in the tournament. Despite spending almost 30 minutes shorthanded through three games, they did not allow a single goal against while on the penalty kill. Instead, they had three different players score shorthanded goals. Hong Kong China was recognized for their defence as well, with Man Hin Tommy Kut named the tournament’s Best Defender and Michael Xy Kam Gan named Best Goaltender.

After a 3-1 loss to Thailand on the final day however, Hong Kong China had to play the waiting game to see where they would fall in the standings following the final match between Turkmenistan and South Africa.

Putting on an impressive performance in their first ever IIHF U18 World Championship, Turkmenistan took the silver medal. The country’s senior men’s team made its first World Championship appearance in 2018, and last season came second in the Division III Group A tournament.

Iskenderham Durdyyev and Serdar Durdyyev led their team in goals with four each, with all of Serdar’s goals coming in Turkmenistan’s 7-2 win over Thailand. Similarly to Hong Kong China, Turkmenistan accumulated nearly 30 minutes of time on the penalty kill throughout the tournament, with opposing teams struggling to make use of the player advantage. Thailand outshot Turkmenistan 49 to 34, and despite Turkmenistan taking five minors in the third period, Thailand wasn’t able to get more pucks past Turkmenistan goalie Armen Movsesyan.

South Africa kept Turkmenistan on their toes in the final game of the tournament. Ending the first period down 1-0, South Africa tied the game just 44 seconds into the second period. Turkmenistan took back the lead moments later, but South Africa kept pushing, and tied the game once more. Turkmenistan went into the third period with a 3-2 lead thanks to a power play goal however, and they confirmed their 6-2 win with three goals in the third.

This tournament marked just the second U18 men’s World Championship appearance for Thailand, and for the second year in a row, they took the bronze medal with wins over Hong Kong China and South Africa. Coached by Canadian Rory Rawlyk, Thailand bounced back from their tournament-opening loss to Turkmenistan with a strong 12-2 win over South Africa, outshooting the hosts 72 to 9. Thananutch Kulthanthorn, who scored Thailand’s two goals against Turkmenistan and would go on to lead the tournament in scoring and be named Best Forward, had four goals and two assists. Chinnapat Intajak also got in on six of Thailand’s goals against South Africa, with a hat trick and three assists.

Kulthanthorn and Intajak were key in Thailand’s 3-1 win over Hong Kong as well, with Kulthanthorn opening scoring two minutes into the game and Intajak sealing the deal, scoring an empty net goal with eight seconds remaining. This match-up was the closest of the tournament, with the score remaining at 2-1 for Thailand for nearly the entire second half of the game, as Hong Kong China pushed to try to tie the score.

Hosts South Africa finished in last place for the third year in a row. Fifteen-year-old Duvan van der Merwe, who also represented South Africa at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship Division III Group B tournament, stood out, scoring three of his team’s five goals.