Hockey Central

Manulife Aces are SCIHL Division 1 Champions - 2023-2024

Manulife Aces are SCIHL Division 1 Champions - 2023-2024

March 24th, 2024

If someone asked a month ago whether the Hong Kong Tycoons would make it to the 2023/24 SCIHL Championship Finals, they would probably hear a resounding no. Yet there they were, with just a single victory to their name in 2024. That one victory came at the right time, as they beat the regular season champions RBC Lions in the semi-finals.

Tycoons goaltender Evan Thorpe played his best game of the season in the team's last contest, however the veteran goaltender was not available for the finals. Enter Ken Lam, who picked up two victories in the CIHL last season, to tend the Tycoon net in the biggest game of the season.

Their opponents, the Macau Aces, were much more successful in the regular season, having narrowly missed out on first place in the league standings by just a single point. Boasting some of the best hockey players in Hong Kong with the likes of Whitney Olsen, Jesse Lussier, Lucas Eshleman and arguably the league's best netminder Craig Gouk, the Aces were the clear favourites to take home the SCIHL crown.

Macau jumped out to an early lead with less than two minutes into the opening period. A point shot by big defenseman Tom Allen was redirected onto the stick of Matt Nuttal, with the forward then shovelling the puck into the Tycoons' net. It turned out to be the only goal in the first period as Tycoons goaltender Ken Lam turned away seven shots while Hong Kong only managed three shots on the Aces' net.

Going into the second frame up by one, the Aces picked up another early-period goal courtesy of Yosef Natour, his second of the playoffs. Macau would follow that up with another marker by Lucas Eshleman, with around three minutes left in the frame, to close out the period with a 3-0 Aces lead. 

In dire straits, the Tycoons finally broke Craig Gouk's shutout early into the third period as Connor Quinn was able to tuck it in behind the Aces' netminder. Meanwhile, Ken Lam stood on his head during the third period as the tendy did his best to keep the Tycoons within two goals. Moving onto the final five minutes of the game, Connor Quinn would find the back of the net again to the jubilation of his Tycoon teammates, narrowing the deficit down to 3-2.

In a shift of momentum, Hong Kong kept the puck in the Aces' zone as the underdogs sought the equalizer. However Macau was able to tighten things up defensively and eventually got the puck out. With the Tycoons' goaltender pulled in favour of an extra attacker, Yosef Natour would convert on a Lucas Eshleman feed and put it into Hong Kong's barren cage with 23 seconds remaining on the clock. With that, the Macau Aces secured the 2023/24 SCIHL Championships with a 4-2 victory, ending the Hong Kong Tycoons' Cinderella playoff run.

Despite finishing as the bottom team in the league, the Tycoons surprisingly ended up in the championship game, salvaging a difficult season for the squad. The team was injury riddled, starting the season off without the services of star Connor Quinn and ended the season off finishing without the heart and soul of the club, Jonny Szychta. This squad is a testament to the adage that it's not where you start, but where you finish. And though they couldn't bring home the championship, nevertheless the Tycoons fought like champions to the bitter end.

But at the end of the day, the Macau Aces proved that they were the better team. On a squad ladened with offensive talent, responsible defenders and a lights out goaltender, it's clear that Aces star and General Manager Whitney Olsen put together an excellent collection of players.

Congratulations to the Macau Aces on winning the 2023/24 SCIHL Division 1 Championships!