JUNIOR Hockey League (JHL) Division One double champions Tengku Mahkota Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) were slapped with a triple bogey even before they could start their title defence this season.
The JHL fixtures will not only see the champions play a day before the official start of the tournament, but also three matches in three consecutive days.
SSTMI start against SSTMI Juniors on Jan 10 to avoid fixing goals scored at a later stage, then against Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) the next day, followed by Malacca High School.
However, SSTMI coach Wan Roslan Wan Rahman is not one to complain, and is taking the challenge with an open mind.
“The plan is to defend both out titles and we have been training for a long time to make it into a reality. And even though the JHL Competitions Committee has slated us to play three matches in three days, I do not want to complain, as I believe my players are up to it,” said Wan Roslan.
Playing against their sister team SSTMI Juniors would be a breeze, but Wan Roslan expects BJSS and UniKL to give them a hard time.
“It is never easy playing against another sports school, so our opening weekend could make or break our quest. After that I also expect stiff competition form UniKL, who played bridesmaid to us on two occasions last season,” said Wan Roslan.
It was sheer frustration for UniKL Young Guns who lost the League title by one goal difference after being tied on 22 points with SSTMI.
And then, SSTMI beat UniKL 2-1 in the Overall title final.
“We have lost six players to age from the previous side, but still have JHL top scorer Shahril Saabah (18 goals last season) with us to execute the penalty corners.
“We also have three others who can combine with Shahril to do the damage during penalty corners and that would be our strength this season to defend out titles,” said Wan Roslan.
A record 28 teams have registered for the JHL since its inception in 1995, with eight playing in Division One and 20 in two groups in Division Two.
Six teams from Division One and the Group A as well as Group B champions of Division Two will play in the quarter-finals.