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Philippines gets historic ice hockey gold after edging Thailand in pulsating tiff

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Federation of Ice Hockey League
By Kevin Estrada

MANILA--The Philippines' 14th gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games could have come sweeter for the national ice hockey side as they get its first major honor in a thrilling fashion.

That is after ekeing out Thailand by the slimmest of margins in the battle of the undefeated sides in the virtual gold medal game in Kuala Lumpur's Empire City Mall ice.

The Pinoy Ducks almost blew a four-goal lead before their scrappy defence hold firm for a 5-4 win over the more fancied side who already scored 39 goals in their first three fixtures in the sport's debut in the biennial meet.

Coming off from a tight shootout win against the host nation Malaysia on Wednesday night, the Philippines jumped ahead just two minutes in thru a power play goal by BJ Imperial from an Francois Gautier assist after Tewin Chartsuwan was whistled for kneeing.

Then Paul Sanchez fired a five-minute brace to put the Ducks ahead 3-0 after the first period, with one unassisted goal and another coming from Nico Cadiz's assist when the Ducks enjoyed a 5v3 power play.

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The Philippines' Paul Sanchez celebrates one of his pair of goals en route to gold medal number 14. (Malaysian Ice Hockey Federation)
Gautier and Imperial then switched roles in the second period to put the Filipinos 4-0 up, with the latter assisting on the former.

However, Thailand got their act together with their attacking display that made them the Winter Asian Games Division 1 champions, as Chanicheo Supadilokluk scored one and Papan Thanakroekkriat fired a power play brace to reduce the Filipino lead to 4-3 after two periods.

Rough play then continued and the Ducks' defence held firm late in the game, especially the shot stopping of GP Iseppi kept the Thais at bay.

With 8:01 left, Cadiz made sure of the tropical country's first ever major honor in the winter sport on a breakaway goal which was assisted by Lenard Lancero.

Thailand pulled one back with 3:29 to go on a Masato Kitayama power play, but they could not find another goal despite pulling out their goaltender to force sudden-death overtime, and the Filipino Ducks mobbed each other at the final horn to write a brand-new chapter in the country's glorious sporting history.

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada