The OAMPS Queensland Blades sent a resounding message to the other teams competing in the 2008 men's AHL tournament today after a convincing victory over the Victorian Vikings leaves them as the only undefeated team at the competition.
Although the Blades entered the match undefeated, they had been less than convincing in previous matches, while the Vikings had been the form team of the competition.
However the Blades now look like genuine contenders to win a record third championship in a row after disposing of the Vikings.
Results round 4 & 5
SmokeFree WA Thundersticks - MIA Tassie Tigers 4-2 (3-1)
Canberra Lakers - NSW Waratahs 4-3 after extra time (1-3)
OAMPS Queensland Blades - Victorian Vikings 5-2 (2-2)
Southern Hotshots - Northpharm NT Stingers 3-2 (2-1)
OAMPS Queensland Blades - Canberra Labor Club Lakers 3-2 (1-0)
Victorian Vikings -
MIA Tassie Tigers - Northpharm NT Stingers 4-1 (3-1)
Southern Hotshots - NSW Waratahs 3-1 (1-0)
In other matches the Southern Hotshots had a close call against the winless Northpharm NT Stingers, the SmokeFree WA Thundersticks remained towards the top of the ladder with a solid win over the MIA Tassie Tigers while the home team Canberra Labor Club Lakers produced an amazing come from behind victory over the NSW Waratahs.
However the story of the day is the great form shown by the OAMPS Queensland Blades in their victory over the Victorian Viking.
The Blades appeared to be more in control during the first half however two first half goals from Vikings midfielder Josh Pollard kept the Victorians in the game with the scores level at half time.
His two field goals were well executed team goals which were set up thanks to the brilliant lead up work by his fellow Victorian team mates.
However the Blades were also active in the first half, with Nathan Eglington's individual effort to bring the ball into the circle through traffic and shoot for goal a true indication of his skill level.
Overall the Blades had the best of the first half, with the Vikings slow start nearly cost them dearly after
The Victorians continued with uncharacteristic mistakes from their backline in the first half, creating unnecessary pressure on their team. However they were able regain their composure prior to half time and go into the break with the game drawn.
The second half started slowly again for the Victorians as they failed to capitalize on their opportunities to score off their normally reliable short corners. The inability to convert hurt them as
The clinical precision of the Blades game style would be of a major concern for the remaining teams of the AHL competition as they look set to claim their third championship. On the other hand, while the Vikings were well beaten, they will no doubt use the remainder of the AHL rounds to perfect their game plan with the hope of facing the Blades again in the AHL finals.
The SmokeFree WA Thundersticks remained in contention for a top two finish after disposing of the MIA Tassie Tigers.
Thundersticks strikers Chris Bausor was an active contributor with two goals, with the WA side making the most of their opportunities, registering three first half goals.
However the Tigers refused to go down without a fight, scoring the first goal of the second half when young gun Eddie Ockenden scored yet another goal for the Tigers to continue his good form at the tournament.
The Tigers began to create options during the second half but couldn't convert their momentum into goals, with the Thundersticks eventually scoring another goal late in the game to secure to victory and keep them in touch with the OAMPS Queensland Blades and the Victorian Vikings for top spot on the AHL ladder.
The Canberra Lakers gave their home crowd something to cheer about with an amazing come from behind victory to inflict yet another heart breaking loss to the NSW Waratahs.
The match played out as a battle of two halves with the Waratahs dominating the early proceedings, scoring three first half goals thanks to Troy Sutherland, Ian Patterson and Brent Livermore. All three goals came from set pieces with the first two of penalty corner deflections expertly executed. The third goal,
Their back half was also solid, only allowing one first half goal to the Lakers at the 12 minute mark via a penalty corner conversion after speedster Glenn Turner received the ball on a short corner and hit low and hard into the goals.
However the home crowd rallied behind their Lakers team, with their noise and passion paying off during the second half. A spurt of energy saw the Lakers put on two quick goals in two minutes and have the Waratahs on the back foot as the scores were leveled at the 48 minute mark.
After controlling much of the second half to level the scores, the Lakers forced the game into extra time and were first to attack via a Garry Backhus shot on goal, however the shot was inaccurate.
The Waratahs were also full of attack and looked like scoring during extra time until Lakers captain Joshua Hawes pulled off a miraculous stop against a Livermore Dragflick on the line to deny NSW the game in the 76th minute.
In a dramatic finish the Lakers Garry Backhus claimed the ball from team mate Glenn Turner who hit a reverse stick shot high and out of reach of goal keeper Daniel McPherson's outstretched left arm in the 78th minute to seal the victory and deny the Waratahs their first victory of the tournament.
The final match of the round saw the Southern Hotshots pushed by a Northpharm NT Stingers outfit keen to secure their first win.
Both teams started the game tentatively, with neither team willing to take a chance to break through the lines. This tone stretched throughout the first half where both teams lost too much ball in the middle of the field with sloppy passing and ball carrying.
The Hotshots were the first to draw blood however after Alistair Park brilliantly dispossessed an NT defender and ran the ball into the circle. His pass found the stick of Grant Schubert with the ball travelling to the back of net for the first score of the match.
Young Hotshots striker Scott Hughes made the second dent in the NT score card after he received the ball, turned on the spot and drove the ball past the keeper for a goal. His goal took the Hotshots to a 2-0 lead and it looked like NT were in for another long night.
But to their credit the Stingers rallied hard and found their own goal when striker Ian McGregor put one past the Hotshots goalkeeper after some clean crisp passing and a final touch from Kookaburra regular Desmond Abbott.
Despite things looking up for the Stingers the Hotshots soon regained control of the match, scoring in the 55th minute courtesy of a penalty corner goal by Eugene Magee on the right post.
In the 69th minute Desmond Abbott scored a tap in goal set up brilliantly by team mate Liam Brown who ran through three Hotshots players to get a flick over the goalkeeper and onto Abbott's stick, bringing the Stingers back into the game.
However it wasn't enough for the Stingers, with the Hotshots holding on for a much needed victory which will only bring more confidence to their young line up which boasts six debutants and six other players with four years or less experience at the AHL.
Round 4 AHL Round-up
The Victorian Vikings and the OAMPS Queensland Blades are set to do battle first place on the AHL ladder with the only two undefeated teams going head to head tomorrow in Round 5 of the AHL.
Both teams recorded their fourth straight victories during today's Round 4 action, with the Blades holding on against a determined Canberra Lakers outfit.
The Vikings also had a close call today, barely defeating the SmokeFree WA Thundersticks in a penalty shoot out after neither team was able to score during regular or extra time.
While the Blades are undefeated they have been pressed on a number of occasions so far this tournament, and will need to be at their absolute best when facing the Vikings.
The match looms as the biggest match of the tournament to date, with top spot on the AHL ladder up for grabs for the winner.
With the Blades looking to record a history making third straight championship win, this match could provide the spark needed to carry them throughout the remainder of the tournament.
While the Blades and Vikings are still undefeated, the same can not be said for the NSW Waratahs and the Northpharm NT Stingers, who are still waiting to record their first victories of the tournament after going down to the Southern Hotshots and the MIA Tassie Tigers.
The first game of today's round started off with a highly entertaining match between the OAMPS Queensland Blades and the Canberra Lakers.
With the Lakers no doubt buoyed by their home crowd they well and truly took it up to the defending champions.
However the class and maturity of
The Lakers side, who have been inconsistent during the early stages of their tournament campaign, produced one of their finest performances to date, but it wasn't enough to record the win.
The Lakers created many scoring opportunities through their excellent passing and field play as they leveled the score twice in the second half as they always appeared to be well in the contest.
But the experience of the Blades back half lead by Mark Knowles repelled the ACT attacks and kept the scores locked at 3-2.
The next match of the day proved to be just as exciting, with the match going down to the very last stroke.
Both teams defended extremely well as the score line suggests and it was hard for either team to breach the defensive lines.
After neither team was able to score in regular time, the game went to the extra time period. As the game was played at such a fast pace the extra time took its toll on both teams as they strived to capitalize on breaks down field but neither team were able to do so.
The Vikings had the best chances in extra time after controlling the ball for the majority of the second period, but thanks to the hard work of the Thundersticks they were unable to capitalize on some free flowing hockey.
The Thundersticks also had their chances to break the deadlock, but the Vikings back end was also more than up to the task.
The crowd remained on the edge of their seats towards the end of the match, with both coaches desperately trying to find a way to gain an edge on their opponent. WA coach Paul Gaudoin was very animated as his team made mistakes at the wrong end of the field and let the Victorian defense off the hook on more than one occasion.
Eventually after neither team had scored in extra time the match went to a penalty shoot out, with the Thundersticks falling at the final hurdle to miss their last penalty shot and hand the game to the still undefeated Victorian Vikings 5-4 after the penalty shoot out.
The MIA Tassie Tigers didn't have the same kind of trouble with the Northpharm NT Stingers, recording a comfortable 4-1 victory.
The MIA Tassie Tigers are still well in contention for a top four position on the AHL ladder after a solid victory over the Northpharm NT Stingers.
The win was set up in the first half thanks to three goals from Kookaburra regulars David Guest and Eddie Ockenden.
Although the Tigers dominated the majority of play in the first half the Stingers also had several genuine attacks, with Gary Robertson scoring their first goal of the tournament at the 16 minute mark.
However the first half honors went to the Tigers and David Guest, with his tackling, passing and vision outstanding throughout the match.
The Stingers started to find some more room to move in the second half as the Tigers began to tire, with some genuine chances in the Tasmanian defensive circle with some breaks down their left hand side and short corners coming more freely than the first half.
However poor ball control let them down in what could have been more scoring opportunities, allowing the Tigers to secure a relatively comfortable victory.
The final match of Round 4 action saw the Southern Hotshots continue their good early form from the tournament by recording a convincing with against the NSW Waratahs.
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