Theebs captain Al Shamsi described it as 'the toughest game for us so far' after a closely-fought battle between the EHL's two undefeated teams.
Al Ain Theebs grind out win over Dubai Mighty Camels to extend lead at top of Emirates Hockey League
Al Ain Theebs extended their lead at the top of the Emirates Hockey League (EHL) table on Friday after a hard fought 7-5 win over Dubai Mighty Camels in a clash between the two undefeated sides at the Al Ain Ice Rink.
The result stretched the Theebs’ winning run to six and opens up a six-point lead over the Dubai Vipers, Camels and Abu Dhabi Scorpions, who are all on six points each.
“The match against Camels was the toughest game for us so far. It was evenly-matched and exciting game for the fans to watch,” said Omar Ali Al Shamsi, the Theebs captain.
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“This game could have gone either way but thankfully it ended in our favour on the night. My players showed real character as we had to come back from a goal down in the first period.”
The visitors took the lead through Patrik Valcak off an assist from Connor Mikinley on 11 minutes before Artsiom Karkotski and Artur Zainutdinov struck twice in quick succession for Theebs to go into the break with a 2-1 lead.
Romain Gentilleau equalised for the Camels early in the second period before two goals from Zainutdinov and one for Karkotski regained the lead for the Theebs.
The Camels hit back in the last 90 seconds in the second period with goals from Roland Svanidze and Valcak to trail 5-4 and set-up an intriguing final period.
Vetali Savko extended the Theebs lead to 6-4 before Valcak pulled one back to set up a tense finale, but a fourth from Zainutdinov with 90 seconds left on the clock took the home side to victory.
“Contrary to what I said after the first game against the White Bears, I think the others have caught up with the two leading teams of last season,” Al Shamsi said.
“Now we have played against all five teams and we know what to expect from the others in the remainder of the season. It is still too early, though.
“The teams are going to experience players missing out because of injuries as the season progresses. We have a few at the moment and the list keeps growing with a couple more injuries after the Camels game.”
In the other games, the Scorpions handed the White Bears a second defeat in the league, defeating the champions 6-3, and the Vipers ran up a 12-2 score over the Abu Dhabi Storms.