The success of the Philippine women’s ice hockey team in the recent 2019 IIHF Women’s Hockey Challenge in Abu Dhabi is expected to further boost the popularity of the sport in the country.
National team coach Carl Michael Montano and three of his top players --Eadrea Choi Ham, Georgie Ann Regencia and Jana Franchesca Nery -- believe Filipinos have the” skills and hockey sense to become among the best in the world.”
Montano, who appeared with his three players during the 19th “Usapang Sports” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports at the National Press Club in Intramuros last Thursday, now hopes that the success of the women’s team will be duplicated by the men’s team in the 30th Southeast Asian Games in Manila on Nov. 30 to Dec. 10.
“Hockey is really starting to grow here. And the more we develop and the more hockey becomes popular, the more players will be interested to play,” said Montano, a hockey player himself who grew up in Canada before moving back to the country in March 2011.
“Filipinos can be great in this sport. I know a lot of pure Flipinos born and raised in Manila who have excelled in hockey," he added.
Asked about the country’s chances in the SEA Games, Montano said he is confident of the country’s chances for the gold medal in the men’s division.
“I think the men’s team is really looking good right now. The team is focused and determined to repeat as champions in the SEA Games,” said Montano, a member of the Philippine team which bagged the gold medal in the 2017 edition of the SEAG in Malaysia.
Although the final composition of the national team will not be known until October, Montano hopes to play again for the country in the SEAG.
“We still have a long way to go with seven to eight months before the SEAG. We will still have tryouts and preparation will be a lot more intense,” explained Montano, who learned to play hockey at age nine.
“But I expect to see the same players who played in 2017. There are some players who have retired but we also have a lot of younger players coming up from junior to men’s team.”
There will be no women’s competition in the SEAG since only three member-countries have signified their interest to participate.
But Montano said the women’s team will not be idle.
“There are three more recreational tournaments for the women this year, including an invitational event in Hong Kong on May 6-11. They will also participate in the Philippine Ice Hockey tournament at the Mall of Asia Ice Skating Rink by late June and the Land of Smiles tournament in Thailand on October.”
He said the Philippines will also move up to the top division next year after topping the IIHF Women’s Hockey Challenge with a 2-1 victory over host United Arab Emirates in the final.
“Like we did for the team this year, we will again conduct tryouts and maintain a pool of 30-35 players before finalizing the members of the women’s national team.
“We need very skilled and intelligent players. It doesn’t matter how big or small as long as they can skate, handle stick and have good hockey sense.”
Ham, Regencia and Nery all expressed intention to come back and play for the national team again.
“Hard work and chemistry are the keys to our victory in Abu Dhabi,” said Ham, a graduate of College of St. Benilde with a course in Fashion Design and Merchandising.
A former ballet dancer and figure skater, Ham credited her brother for helping her learn to play hockey.
Regencia, a 22-year-old BS Computer Engineering student at Mapua, said the system developed by the coaching staff under Montano provides the players with the confidence to go up against foreign opponents.
Nery, a Multi Media Arts student of iAcademy Makati, said the experience of training and playing together helps the team to achieve its goals.
In Abu Dhabi, the Filipinas won over Kuwait, 10-0, and India, 5-0, to advance to the gold medal game against host UAE.
The Filipinas defeated UAE, 2-1, to win the title in only their third year together as a team.
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