The SmokeFree WA Thundersticks have gained some revenge from last years AHL championship defeat and caused an upset by defeating the OAMPS Queensland Blades in the AHL championship match.
SmokeFree WA Thundersticks: 4 (Dancer, Brett 22nd min FG; Charlesworth, Jonathon 54th min FG; Smith, Andrew 60th min FG; Hopkins, Aaron 64th min PC)
The two teams had very different journeys to the championship match.
Having only lost one game for the entire tournament, the Blades went into this evenings match undoubted favorites, having finished on top of the AHL ladder. They also defeated the MIA Tassie Tigers in convincing fashion in the semi final last night. Furthermore, the Blades were playing for AHL history as they strived to become the first men's team to win three AHL championships in a row.
However that mattered little to the SmokeFree WA Thundersticks who had a much harder path to the championship. Having finished third on the ladder prior to the semi finals, consistency had plagued the Thundersticks throughout the two week tournament, having lost three matches in extra time including one to the Blades in round 6.
However none of that mattered this evening as the Thundersticks proved they weren't intimidated by the Blades despite the reigning champions throwing every thing at them at the beginning of the match.
Neither team was able to gain the ascendency during the first half, with forwards from both teams finding themselves under immense pressure following every attacking movement.
The Thundersticks had the first opportunity of the game following two short corner attempts before Brett Dancer smashed the ball into the back of the goals from the right hand side of the circle. His shot blazed along the ground past the stick of
The Blades attacked with renewed vigor and launched numerous attacks at the Thundersticks defense. They had two short corner attempts before Troy Elder sent the ball sailing into the goal for the equalizer in the 32nd minute.
Fitting to the evenness of the match, the scores remained level for the remainder of the half.
After such an even first half the game was due to break sooner or later, with the Thundersticks lifting their intensity.
Jonathon Charlesworth opened the second half scoring with a great shot that deflected wildly off Troy Elder's stick to go into the top of the net and give Goal keeper Lambert no chance of saving the deflection in the 54th minute.
Andrew Smith joined the goal scoring list six minutes later when he finished off a crisp right hand side play by the Thundersticks to send his diving reverse stick shot low and hard to Lambert's right. Aaron Hopkins made the tally four with a beautifully hit penalty corner that hit the pads of Lambert and went straight into the top of the net in the 64th minute, breaking the spirit of the Blades as the result seemed obvious.
Nathan Eglington's last minute penalty corner goal regained some score board respectability but it was too little too late as the Thundersticks denied the Blades a chance at history to walk away 2008 AHL champions.
In other matches today, the Victorian Vikings claimed third spot at the championship by defeating the MIA Tassie Tigers, while the NSW Waratahs and the Canberra Lakers finished off their tournament positively after victories against the Southern Hotshots and the Northpharm NT Stingers respectively.
AHL Finals results:
Victorian Vikings – MIA Tassie Tigers 3-1 (1-1)
NSW Waratahs – Southern Hotshots 5-1 (2-1)
Canberra Lakers –
1. SmokeFree WA Thundersticks
3. Victorian Vikings
4. MIA Tassie Tigers
5. NSW Waratahs
6. Southern Hotshots
8. Northpharm NT Stingers
Source: Hockey Australia
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