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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Arab Clubs Championships can help ice hockey in the Middle East 'grow bigger and better'

Matti Fagerstrom, the head coach of Abu Dhabi Storms, believes the new tournament will benefit the sport in the region

Matti Fagerstrom has been in the UAE long enough to be an authority on the development of ice hockey in the country and in the region as a whole.

The Finn arrived as a player coach for the UAE national team juniors seven years ago. He was promoted as head coach of the UAE senior national team for three years and now serves as head coach of Abu Dhabi Storms.

Fagerstrom believes the inaugural Arab Clubs Championship, which got underway on Tuesday and concludes on Saturday at the Abu Dhabi Ice Rink as another step forward on the UAE’s development role in the Middle East and North Africa.

“This is the first time we are playing against club teams in the region,” he said after his side kicked off their campaign in the championship with victory over the Pharaohs of Egypt 6-0 on Tuesday.

“Every team here are in unchartered waters and that makes it very interesting competition. It’s only the beginning but like all other championship at this level, it will grow bigger and better.

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“I’m hopeful more teams will join. There’s huge potential for it to grow with many expatriate players from established ice hockey playing nations employed in the region.”

The Storms were off a to flyer and led 5-0 after the first period but could only score once in the next two periods against the Pharaohs.

Artsiom Karkotski opened the scoring off an assist from Artur Zainutdinov in the fifth minute and Vitali Savko doubled it in the 13 minutes.

Mikhail Klimin was on target twice in quick succession and Zainutdinov added another before the end of the first period. He fired a second in the last period for Storms to clear the first hurdle comfortably.

“We had a good first period and with that lead we provided the Emirati players more playing opportunities,” said Fagerstrom.

“It’s one of our strategies aside from trying to win this inaugural title. We’ll try to strike a good balance between the two objectives.”

The Storms have merged with the Emirates Hockey League table toppers Al Ain Theebs to provide a larger base for the Emirati players in the competition.

Two matches are scheduled daily until Saturday in the five team championship played in a league format.

In the other game on the night, Team Lebanon were 16-3 winners over Alger Corsiares of Algeria.