The Central Falcons have taken another step towards the Sentinel Homes Premier Hockey League final with a challenging 2-1 win over the Southern Alpiners. The Falcons are sitting on 14 points with one round remaining ahead of the finals day on Sunday.
The last time these sides met it was the Central Falcons who came away 4-1 winners. They entered the contest knowing that a win in the match would go a long way to booking their space in the final. Early in the game, it was one-way traffic as the Alpiners were struggling to clear their half while the Falcons were applying some significant pressure. Despite the weight of possession and territory the Alpiners defence was stoic and not giving the Falcons strike line any meaningful chances.
The second quarter started with the Alpiners continuing to frustrate the Falcons as they shut down wave after wave from the Falcons strike line. An excellent crash ball into the circle where Margot Willis got in front of her defender to deflect the ball into the top of the net would put the Alpiners in the lead early in the second quarter.
On the stroke of halftime behind a strong Kelsey Smith run the Falcons got themselves a fourth penalty corner. Once again, the Falcons runners shut down the corner before the shot could take place.
Towards the end of the third quarter, the Central Falcons would get the equalizing goal when great vision from Michaela Curtis found Hope Ralph in the attacking circle. Ralph managed to use her speed to eliminate the goalkeeper and push the ball in tying the match up.
The fourth quarter would see the Falcons put themselves in the lead for the first time in the game when the Alpiners were unable to control the loose ball in their defensive circle. Olivia Shannon would find herself with an easy tap in on the back post.
The Falcons would close out the contest controlling possession as they looked to consolidate their one-goal buffer.
The win takes the Central Falcons onto 14 points with one match remaining before the final on Sunday.
Southern Alpiners 1 (Margot Willis 23 min)
Central Falcons 2 (Hope Ralph 43 min, Olivia Shannon 47 min)
The Northern Tridents have seen off the challenge of the Hauraki Mavericks to take their contest 2-1 behind a brace to Stacey Michelsen. The win brings the Tridents level with the Falcons on 14 points with one round remaining.
Both sides entered the match on 10 points, and the contest showed just how tight the three teams are at the top of the ladder.
The Tridents came out firing and would apply significant pressure on the Mavericks defence. They went close on several occasions early on. However, they couldn’t break the Mavericks defensive line. Stacey Michelsen would bring out the reverse shot midway through the first quarter as she beat Grace O’Hanlon in goal to put the Tridents up 1-0.
Kirsten Pearce went close just before the quarter break when her diving deflection was sailing high into the goal only to be denied by the outstretched glove of O’Hanlon.
Just before the halftime break, it was the Hauraki Mavericks who would swing the tide when they managed to secure a penalty corner. Tori Robinson wound up with the ball on her stick and would flick it over the Tridents goalkeeper tying the match at 1-1 at the break.
The Tridents entered the second half playing some determined hockey as they went agonizingly close on several occasions, Grace O’Hanlon would step up to deny the Tridents once more.
Grace O’Hanlon would be called upon again late in the third quarter when she scrambled to make two clutch saves to deny the desperate Trident strikers who were swarming around the ball.
With time ticking down and the match was looking to head to a penalty shootout. The Tridents would earn a penalty corner. The straight shot would be hit towards Stacey Michelsen who would deflect the ball into the net for her second goal of the contest. Michelsen’s two goals would see her move to the top of the goalscoring chart with five goals during the Premier Hockey League so far.
Northern Tridents 2 (Stacey Michelsen 6, 57 min)
Hauraki Mavericks 1 (Tori Robinson 26 min)