The IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia (CCOA) was developed as a meaningful competition opportunity for Asian countries that either do not compete in the IIHF’s World Championship program, or compete in the program’s lower divisions.
This year’s competition is taking place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) from April 14 to 19, 2019. The full schedule for the top division can be found here. The full schedule for Division I can be found here.
The top division will feature Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand’s U18 team. The Division I competition will feature the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, India and Kuwait. Mongolia was also planning on competing in the Division I competition, but on March 26 it was announced that they had withdrawn from the event due to a lack of players.
How to follow
The IIHF social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) will provide updates on the event and the winners. Score updates for the top division can be found here, and for Division I can be found here. Live scores will also be posted on the IIHF Scores Twitter account. In the UAE, the Abu Dhabi Sports 1 and 2 channels are also reported to be showing some of the games.
Last season’s winner
Chinese Taipei won its third Women’s CCOA event last season, claiming the top division title after winning all three of its games. The country’s other gold medals came in 2016 and 2015. Malaysia won the Division I title, its first Women’s CCOA gold medal.
Who to watch for
Chinese Taipei is the team to beat in the top division. The country will be looking for a fourth gold medal at this event, which they use as a development opportunity for their newer and/or younger players. Chinese Taipei also competes in the IIHF Women’s World Championship Division IIB event, which the country won earlier this month. Its CCOA roster will include some players that competed in the World Championship.
Somewhat similarly to Chinese Taipei, New Zealand uses the CCOA as a competition opportunity for its U18 women’s development program team. New Zealand also competed in the IIHF Women’s World Championship Division IIB event this season, coming in second. Keep an eye out for Abbey Heale, the only player on the CCOA roster to have also competed in this season’s World Championship. She is returning after a year away from the team and is expected to be a significant offensive force.
While Thailand’s roster has not yet been released online, keep watch for national team mainstay Nuchanat Ponglerkdee, who has also served as the team’s captain for several seasons. In 2017, when the tournament featured one division instead of two, Ponglerkdee scored an astonishing 27 goals and 18 assists through six games. While her offensive contributions decreased significantly in the 2018 tournament (six goals and two assists through three games), she remained her team’s top scorer.
Malaysia will be competing in the top division as a result of winning Division I last season, and will likely be using this event to see how the team compares to some of the stronger Asian nations. The team’s 2018 points leader, Nur Illina Mohd Rothi, and goals leader, Nurul Aliya Versluis, are not on the 2019 roster. However, Tg Farhana Azuma Tg Abdillah and Wen Min Low are returning as the team’s goaltending duo.
Singapore struggled in the top division last season, losing its three games by scores of 14-3, 10-1 and 12-1. Nevertheless, Singapore is remaining in the top division, and the players are staying positive about making improvements at the 2019 event. Singapore has not publicly announced its roster, but a player to watch for is one of the team’s only players competing regularly outside of Singapore, Elizabeth Chia. This past season was her second with the Australian Women’s Ice Hockey League’s Sydney Sirens.
The United Arab Emirates is excited about hosting the CCOA, being the first Middle Eastern country to host a IIHF women’s event. Having a home crowd will likely give the team, which has gotten a fair amount of media attention over the last few years with their trips to North America for events with teams like the Washington Capitals, an extra boost.
This will be just the third time that the Philippines has competed in a IIHF women’s competition, and the country will be looking to improve upon their third (2018) and fifth (2017) place finishes. Bianca Cuevas, who plays in Canada and demonstrated her scoring prowess at the 2018 tournament, remains one of the biggest names on the roster. Young Filipino American goalie Rosalyn Lim will be playing on the team after moving from the US to the Philippines to meet import requirements.
Like with the UAE, India has received a fair amount of media attention over the last few years. This past fall, the team travelled to Canada to compete in Hayley Wickenheiser’s Calgary tournament and meet and learn from other Canadian hockey players and coaches. The team has struggled over the last few seasons, but it will be interesting to see how the players’ Canadian experience ends up impacting their play.
Kuwait will be making its IIHF women’s debut at the 2019 CCOA, and the team has some high expectations for how they will perform. While Kuwait has competed in other tournaments against the UAE, this will be the first big test for the program. Watch for Rawan Albahouh, the team’s captain and a key voice in the country’s women’s ice hockey movement.