The final round of AHL action has seen some thrilling matches take place, with the final positioning on the AHL ladder not confirmed until the day's final match between the OAMPS Queensland Blades and the MIA Tassie Tigers.
Results round 7:
Victorian Vikings - Southern Hotshots 4-0
NSW Waratahs - Northpharm NT Stingers 7-0
SmokeFree WA Thundersticks - Canberra Lakers 1-0
MIA Tassie Tigers - OAMPS Queensland Blades 5-4 (after extra time)
However in the end the SmokeFree WA Thundersticks and the MIA Tassie Tigers recorded crucial victories over the Canberra Lakers and the OAMPS Queensland Blades respectively to secure their places in the top four and a semi final berth.
The Southern Hotshots started the day off full of confidence after defeating the MIA Tassie Tigers the previous day and went into their match against the Victorian Vikings as real contenders to secure a spot in the top four.
However their momentum was short lived, with the Vikings dominating the match to head into the AHL finals campaign having only lost one match.
The first half started slowly for both teams, with Aaron Klieinschmidt's field goal for the Vikings in the fifth minute the only real highlight.
Limited field possession for the Vikings and good pressure by the Southern Hotshots ensured that the Vikings had to work for their possessions, limiting their scoring opportunities.
The Hotshots created numerous opportunities through the first half and looked well and truly in the game. However they failed to take advantage of the mounting pressure placed on the Victorian defense and went into the half time break scoreless.
It took only three minutes into the second half for the Vikings to step into gear as Travis Brooks received the ball on the left hand side of the Hotshots circle and hit across goals low and hard for the Vikings second goal to make it 2-0, stopping any momentum the Hotshots had from the first half.
The third goal for the Vikings came from the stick of Josh Pollard in the 55th minute when he sliced the sweep shot into the top of the net after some beautiful passing from goal scorer Kleinschmidt and Declan Geraghty.
Both teams shared possession during the final ten minutes as the ball went from end to end on what looked like promising attacking raids from both teams but the final passes and the final touches were inaccurate.
Victorian Daniel Mirecki then sealed the victory for the Vikings by scoring a final minute goal in the 70th minute to make the score 4-0 at full time and show some dominance on the scoreboard.
The Vikings head into the finals with a win under their belt but will be keen to regain some of that dominant form they produced early in the tournament.
The next match of the day saw the NSW Waratahs end their AHL campaign on a positive note, dominating the Northpharm NT Stingers to win their first game of the tournament.
The majority of the first half was an even affair, however three goals prior to half time ensured the Waratahs would go into the half time break well in front.
The Waratahs disciplined play during the first half caused problems for the Stingers from the first whistle. NSW had the vast majority of the ball and shut down any NT forward movement effectively.
The first goal For NSW at the four minute mark showed ominous signs for NT when debutant striker Ben Poulton deflected a low drag flick from Brent Livermore high into the goals off a penalty corner.
The next three goals all came in quick succession. First it was Ian Patterson with a brilliant piece of individual skill to work the ball past three defenders and find the back of the goals with a crisp back stick shot in the 25th minute.
Simon Orchard followed up two minutes later with a blistering shot from the top of the circle after a great pass from captain Matthew Naylor. Naylor scored his own goal only minutes later from a penalty corner conversion after beating NT goal keeper Thomas Scott.
Eli Matheson added to the goal scoring tally six minutes into the second quarter after capitalising on some good work by Robbie Campbell to make the score 5-0 in the 42nd minute.
Matthew Butturini scored his first goal of the match in the 44th minute before Simon Orchard scored his second goal of the match to continue the Waratahs dominance and secure their first win of the 2008 tournament.
The SmokeFree WA Thundersticks have booked a semi final berth at the AHL after defeating a determined Canberra Lakers outfit.
After controlling the majority of the ball for the first half the Thundersticks will be disappointed to have only scored one goal, however the Lakers defense must take some credit in restricting the Thundersticks scoring ability.
However eventually the Thundersticks made their way onto the scoreboard, with a short corner goal by Peter Blakeney in the 13th minute giving the Thundersticks the crucial lead.
The second half began in much the same way as the first ended when the Thundersticks immediately went on the attack and had the ball for the first ten minutes thanks to some lazy errors by the Lakers in the midfield.
Chris Jorgensen had the opportunity to equalize at the 55 minute mark for the Lakers when a ball came across goals right onto his stick. The ball travelled through a jam of players however it narrowly missed the goals.
Lakers captain Joshua Hawes was inspirational and was the catalyst for a late game comeback that saw the Lakers attack hard in the final minutes of the game. His tackling and runs through the midfield were inspirational. However unfortunately it was not enough as his team went down to last years runners up despite their best efforts.
The final match of the day saw the MIA Tassie Tigers confirm a semi final berth in brilliant fashion after ending the OAMPS Queensland Blades undefeated run at the AHL tournament.
Going into the match needing a win to secure their spot in the top four, the Tigers put in a determined performance and despite being a goal down at half time, managed to control the second half and push the game into extra time.
Both teams had so much to play for, and therefore raised the intensity.
The Blades, who were yet to drop a game at the tournament, were no doubt looking to maintain some much needed momentum going into their AHL finals campaign.
While for the Tigers, a win was needed to secure their place in the semi finals.
Eventually the Tigers would be the ones to pull of the upset, handing the Blades their first tournament loss and guaranteeing a spot in the semi finals via a David Guest penalty corner conversion in extra time.
The match started at a frenzied pace, with the Blades scoring the first two goals of the game within the first ten minutes to establish a dominant lead.
However the Tigers soon regained their composure, with Geoff Cock scoring the first of his three goals after beating Blades goal keeper Stephen Lambert.
The Blades hit back four minutes later through Tim Bates who was at the end of some brilliant work from Nathan Eglington who ran through the Tigers defense and drew out the keeper to pass to Bates who goaled easily past Nathan Fitzpatrick.
The Tigers weren't done with yet however, scoring in the 35th minute thanks to another Geoff Cock goal to keep the Tigers within reach going into the half time break.
Cock scored his third goal early in the second quarter to level the score however the Blades once again regained the lead after Tim Bates scored a clever goal at the 52nd minute.
With their tournament lives on the line the Tigers once again refused to be beaten, with forward Marcus Richardson scoring at the 59th minute to level the score and force the game into extra time.
Eventually the Tigers momentum paid dividends, scoring in the 79th minute from a penalty corner conversion to secure the win and fourth position on the AHL ladder.
While obviously disappointed with the loss, the Blades will be given the chance for revenge during their semi final on Friday 7th March where they will once again play the Tigers.
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