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Gouk stands tall as Aces hand on and down Warriors 4-3

Gouk stands tall as Aces hand on and down Warriors 4-3

March 15th, 2024

Heading into the second semi-finals of the 2023/24 SCIHL playoffs, we had two teams that both had resurgent starts in the new calendar year. Led by runner-up in the league scoring race Whitney Olsen and arguably the best goaltender this season Craig Gouk, the Macau Aces secured second place in the SCIHL and came within just one point of being the regular season champions. Meanwhile, the Kowloon Warriors, possessing two of the best defensemen in Hong Kong in Dave Belluche and Ben MacAskill, began 2024 dead last but were able to climb out of the league basement to finish third in the league standings.

Macau jumped out to a quick start as lifelong Ace Whitney Olsen scored within the first minute of the game. The Aces would be back at it again a few minutes later, this time with Yosef Natour putting it past Warrior goaltender Ray Loo. Kowloon finally found their stride and managed to score their first goal of the match with veteran Kosuke Ikeda finding the back of the net with just 12 seconds remaining in the opening period.

In a low-scoring second period, standing at 2-1 for the Aces, the period's only goal came with less than three minutes remaining in the frame. Macau increased their lead by three, as Whitney Olsen scored his second of the game on a power play marker. Despite the goal, Warriors netminder Ray Loo turned away 11 shots in the period to keep his team in the game. On the other end, Aces goaltender Craig Gouk only faced a total of 14 shots by the end of the second frame.

Heading into the third period at 3-1 for the Aces, Macau increased their lead by three as Lucas Eshleman would get on the board near the halfway mark of the final period. Down 4-1, Kowloon finally stepped up their offense as they got their second goal of the game with a goal by Kevin O'Toole. With a two-goal deficit, the Warriors took an untimely penalty with less than five minutes remaining in the game. Despite that Kowloon kept attacking, resulting in a shorthanded goal by none other than former goaltender and current Warrior centreman Antoine Devolz. The former French league professional shoveled one in off of a rebound at the doorstep of Craig Gouk, to pull his team within a goal with just four minutes remaining in the game.

Having their lead reduced to just a single goal at this point, the Aces did all they could to fend of the Warriors' attack. The latter would finish the period having thrown 12 shots on the Aces' net but however, Craig Gouk stood tall, turning away 10 of those opportunities. Despite a late-game offensive drive by Kowloon, the Macau Aces would survive and hold on for a narrow victory of 4-3 over the Warriors.

Despite the early setback, the Kowloon Warriors showed great heart to make this game a one-goal affair. Kosuke Ikeda finished with two points on the evening and Ray Loo turned aside a respectable 24 shots. The Warriors are regulated to the third-place game against the regular season champions RBC Lions.

On the other end, Aces' leader Whitney Olsen showed why he's one of the league's best players racking up two goals and an assist. Meanwhile, big defenseman Tom Allen quietly contributed with three assists along with his stellar play on the back end. In addition, Craig Gouk had another solid night, finishing with a .885 save percentage to close out the night. The Macau Aces will go for the SCIHL Division 1 playoff championships against the Hong Kong Tycoons on Saturday, March 23rd in Discovery Bay.

UPCOMING GAMES - March 21st @ Discovery Bay Ice Rink

Game 1: Lions vs Warriors @ 8:15 pm

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