The Queensland Blades (Men) and Scorchers (Women) stormed ahead to continue their lead of the points table after a clean sweep of the Northern Territory teams in the second round of the Australian Hockey League (AHL).

In the race for the Men’s 2005 title, the Blades remain undefeated, displaying excellent form without even conceding a goal in their 5-0 and 2-0 victories over the Vodafone Territory Stingers at the weekend. Although the Stingers put up a spirited attack, they were unable to put the ball behind Blades goalkeepers Stephen Lambert and Aaron McCarthy who shared the goalkeeping duties on both days. At the other end of the field, Scott Brennan was instrumental in field goals, while Blair Brown capitalised on penalty corner opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Adelaide Hotshots continued their march forward, gaining maximum points from their clash at home against the Tassie Tigers and retaining the 2nd spot on the points table. Despite having pressured the Blades last week, the Tigers were unable to match the Hotshots goal-scoring prowess, and although Saturday’s match was closer at 3-2, the 5-2 victory for the South Australian team on Sunday showed just how serious they are in seeking their first ever AHL title.

In Wollongong, the much anticipated East versus West clash was just as clear-cut with the Waratahs and Thundersticks producing a high scoring first game, with 11 goals on offer. NSW took the lead early, scoring 3 goals in quick succession within the first 10 minutes, however the team lost momentum allowing the Thundersticks two goals to take the half time score to 3-2. The Waratahs regained composure to take the lead 7-2 but as the ebbs and flows of the game continued, WA thrilled the crowd with two more late goals. The Waratahs won the second game more comfortably with a 3-1 scoreline, enabling them to jump to third place in the ladder.

The Azuma Vikings continued their swings and round-abouts results, scoring a 5-2 victory over the Canberra Labor Club Lakers on Sunday, but going down to the Lakers 3-2 on Saturday. This is the second week running the Vikings have failed to achieve maximum points, despite some outstanding goalkeeping performances by Australian representative Stephen Mowlam. Both teams continue to languish in the middle of the points table, making it more and more challenging to achieve that finals berth.

In the Women’s competition, the high scoring continued as the Queensland Scorchers took the Territory Pearls to the cleaners with a staggering 10-1 victory on Saturday. A 5-0 victory on Sunday completed the clean sweep to keep the number one spot on the ladder. The weekend also saw some of the youngsters take charge of the scoring, including Lisa Pamenter, Shannon Bain, Carly Lennon and Amy Korner, helping them to gain valuable experience for U21 and national squad selection.

The NSW Arrows pushed the excitement levels high in Wollongong, scoring two victories both from penalty stroke shoot-outs in a tight contest against last year’s title winners, the Smokefree WA Diamonds. Missing the lead of Hockeyroo Emily Halliday, the Diamonds were thwarted by excellent goalkeeping from Toni Cronk and solid defending by Jenny Gosper and AHL debutant Jacklyn Eddy. Extra time in both games failed to produce the winning golden goal, putting the pressure on individuals to score in the penalty stroke shoot-out. NSW remained calm and slotted in strokes with precision, while Cronk’s efforts saved the day as the Arrows won 5-4 on Saturday and 4-1 on Sunday.

In Adelaide, the Suns kept on par with the men, winning both their games over the Wrest Point Casino Van Demons. The solid defence led by Hockeyroo Katie Allen enabled the strikers to have a field day on Saturday with another high-scoring result of 6-1. The winning streak continued on Sunday as Jessica Shakes scored a hat-trick to give a 4-1 result, enabling the Suns to jump to 3rd place on the ladder and keep their sights on an AHL title, a feat not achieved since 1995.

Meanwhile, in Canberra, it was a narrow 2-1 victory for the Canberra Labor Club Strikers on Saturday over the Azuma Vipers, with Nicole Arrold and Sarah Taylor each scoring in a near perfect first half. The Victorian side remained competitive, preventing the Strikers from scoring any more goals, but they were only able to produce one goal from Carla Bond. The tables were turned in the second game of the round on Sunday, as the Vipers jumped to a 2-0 lead at halftime, and although Peta Gallagher scored a late goal for ACT, the Vipers held on for a tough 2-1 victory. The Strikers, last year’s runners-up, remain in 2nd place in the points table but will need to find a renewed energy if they are to be in contention for their first ever AHL title.

Round 3 of AHL continues this coming weekend with games taking place in Darwin, Canberra, Perth and Melbourne.

Results
Men Round 2
Saturday 5 March
Queensland Blades 5 defeated Vodafone Territory Stingers 0
Adelaide Hotshots 3 defeated MIA Tassie Tigers 2
NSW Waratahs 7 defeated Smokefree WA Thundersticks 4
Canberra Labor Club Lakers 4 defeated Azuma Vikings 3
Sunday 6 March
Queensland Blades 2 defeated Vodafone Territory Stingers 0
Adelaide Hotshots 5 defeated MIA Tassie Tigers 2
NSW Waratahs 3 defeated Smokefree WA Thundersticks 1
Azuma Vikings 5 defeated Canberra Labor Club Lakers 2

Women Round 2
Saturday 5 March
Queensland Scorchers 10 defeated Territory Pearls 1
Adelaide Suns 6 defeated Wrest Point Casino Van Demons 1
NSW Arrows 1 drew Smokefree WA Diamonds 1 (NSW won 5-4 on penalties)
Canberra Labor Club Strikers 2 defeated Azuma Vipers 1
Sunday 6 March
Queensland Scorchers 5 defeated Territory Pearls 0
Adelaide Suns 4 defeated Wrest Point Casino Van Demons 1
NSW Arrows 1 drew Smokefree WA Diamonds 1 (NSW won 4-1 on penalties)
Azuma Vipers 2 defeated Canberra Labor Club Strikers 1