KUALA LUMPUR — The Philippine ice hockey team made history at Empire City Ice Arena on Thursday night by sweeping the competition in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games.
The sport was being contested for the first time in the SEA Games, and the Philippines completed a sweep of the five-team event with a heart-stopping 5-4 victory over Thailand.
The Philippines punched in three goals in the first period, one courtesy of Benjamin Imperial and two by Paul Sanchez. Francois Gautier added another goal early in the second, but Thailand then scored three goals the rest of the way to make a game out of it.
A fifth goal with some eight minutes left, courtesy of Javier Cadiz, gave the Philippines some breathing room, but Thailand pulled another back with just 3:29 to go to threaten for the last time.
Showing nerves of steel, the Philippines held on for a historic gold — the country's fourth of the day after triumphs in lawn bowls and boxing.
It was an especially impressive victory for the Philippine ice hockey team, as it played without team captain Steven Fuglister.
Fuglister was ejected in the Filipinos' 8-7 win over Malaysia on Wednesday and subsequently suspended for the final. The Philippines tried to appeal, leading to the delay in the start of the game, but to no avail.
Fuglister was emotional in the wake of the win.
"My heart was broken," he said when asked of his suspension. "I have so much love right now for everyone. I'm speechless."
Goalkeeper Paolo Stafford, however, said that Fuglister still played a major role in the Filipinos' run to the gold medal even though he did not play in their final contest.
"He made everyone better in practice," Stafford said. "He won this game as much as we did."
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