Photography by Tadamasa Nagayama

The underdog Siam Mandalay squad stunned everyone to capture the 2022-23 Siam Hockey League title defeating KCG 5-2 in a one-game championship final recently at the Thailand International Ice Hockey Arena.

The way the SHL works is that the team that finishes first in the regular season, in this case the Lexicon Lumberjacks (14-3-1) earn the right to pick their semi-final opponent in a best-of-three series in Thailand’s elite four-team league. They chose Siam Mandalay, who finished last with a 3-14-1 record. That left second-place KCG (13-3-2) to play Aware (6-10-2) in the other best-of-three semi-final. Siam Mandalay and KCG both won their series in two games, setting up the championship final.

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KCG had been in first place for most of the regular season but were without their two superstars for the final game: Jan Isaksson, had to return to his native Sweden, and Nick Lampson was suspended for the championship game because he got in a fight with three minutes remaining in the second game of the KCG-Aware semi-final. Isaksson and Lampson were also tied for most points scored in the SHL during the regular season. Lampson’s loss was particularly difficult for KCG as it was his play and goal-scoring prowess that had led them to victory over Aware.

Siam Mandalay had a very difficult year but they did have two of the best players in the league, assistant captain Tom Stastny and captain Mike Freeson. Stastny is the son of former NHL star Anton Stastny and his uncle Peter Stastny was second only to Wayne Gretzky in points scored in the NHL during the 1980s.

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Both Siam Mandalay goalies had struggled during the regular season but they turned in remarkable performances during the playoffs. Slovakian Igor Sykora won both semi-final games against Lexicon while Thai national team goalie Pattarapol “Dream” Ungkulpattanasuk won the championship game. Captain Mike Freeson was selected the best performer in the playoffs.

Due to COVID disruptions, the 2021-22 SHL season was canceled and the last time the league tried to hold a complete season (2020-2021), they had to cut the season short unable to hold a championship game, again because of COVID. So, this was the first complete season since the 2018-19 season, won by the Novotel Spitfires.

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Scott Murray, Siam Mandalay’s other assistant captain, and a co-founder of the SHL, did not play due to a variety of injuries but helped coach the squad to victory.

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