It is a piece of silverware that has eluded Theebs four times ahead of play-off meeting at Dubai Ice Rink on Tuesday
Omar Ali Al Shamsi quietly confident Al Ain Theebs can win elusive EHL ice hockey title
Omar Ali Al Shamsi is determined for Al Ain Theebs to make up for past disappointments in their recent history to finally win the Emirates Hockey League (EHL) title on Tuesday.
It is a piece of silverware that has eluded Theebs four times, but they are confident this time given they topped the regular league this season. They are also 2-0 in head-to-head meetings with Dubai Mighty Camels, the three-time EHL champions whom they meet in the play-off at the Dubai Ice Rink.
“We have done well this year to top the regular league for the first time and are better prepared than before to have a shot at the EHL title,” Al Shamsi said.
But neither he nor his team are underestimating their opposition, who know what it takes to lift the trophy, having done it in 2012, 2013 and in 2016 in the tournament's nine-year history.
“Mighty Camels are traditionally a tough opponent with the best record in the EHL. They have been a very consistent team, too," Al Shamsi pointed out. “It’s going to be hard game for both teams."
Al Shamsi will miss three fellow Emirati players on the ice – goaltender Ahmed Al Dhaheri, defender Mohammed Al Asiri and forward Mohammed Al Dhaheri – who are away on national service. Still, the national team vice-captain fancied his side's chances, largely owing to the fact they are a settled side.
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“Ahmed is the one we will miss most because he has been outstanding for us in the last two seasons,” he said. “The other two have also played key roles to take us to the top of the EHL table this season.
“[But] one of the reasons behind our success this season is because the majority of our players have remained with us," he, however, added. "They have gelled well and are now combining well as a team."
Indeed, Theebs have run into good form in the league, overcoming spirited Abu Dhabi Storms 2-1 in the best-of-three semi-final play-off. Artur Zainutdinov fired in four goals and Artsiom Karkotski found the net twice as Theebs downed Storms 8-2 in the deciding third game.
But Mighty Camels also did well by getting the better of Abu Dhabi Scorpions with a similar result. Connor Mikinley and Ross MacMillan scored twice each and Billy Kamleh added the other for the Camels to emerge 5-1 winners over Scorpions.
With both sides going into the title-decider with much-needed momentum, it is difficult to predict the winners. Like Al Shamsi said, "we are starting fresh".
"The past results don’t matter in this best of three-game format.”