The Philippine men’s ice hockey team hopes to make a bigger impression in the international scene after bagging the gold medal in the 2023 International Hockey Federation World Championship Division IV in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
With the Philippines advancing to Division III with its 3-0 sweep of Division IV, plans are afoot to have the national squad join tougher matches in the near future.
Federation of Ice Hockey Philippines president Christopher Sy said this will be possible with Finnish coach Juhani Ijas calling the shots.
After spending the last three years in lockdown, Team Philippines was finally able to join the tournament for the first time.
A 14-0 rout of Indonesia, followed by a 7-6 overtime win over Mongolia and a 5-1 stopping of Kuwait proved that the Filipinos are ready to move up to a higher division.
“It was a new experience for us. A lot of us have not experienced this cold weather in Mongolia and the altitude,” said team skipper Manville Billiones, who came from Pennsylvania in the United States and joined the squad back in 2019.
Billones was the leading scorer in the tournament with 12 points.
With the squad now moving up to Division III B in 2024, Ijas said coaching the team was an amazing experience.
“The players were really good as a team after they last played in the 2019 SEA Games,” said Ijas.
Among the scoring leaders next to Billones were Kenwrick Ze (11), Steven Fuglister (11) , Carl Montano (10) and Jan Regencia (6).
Ijas, who coached in Thailand for five years, said they have two years to get ready for the inclusion of ice hockey in the 2025 SEA Games in Bangkok.