The third round of Australian Hockey League (AHL) hits off this weekend, with matches being played in Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne and Perth.
Perth is the place to be this weekend, where some of the most exciting matches will be taking place. The third round of AHL sees the Queensland teams trek the distance to take on the Western Australians in what’s sure to be fiery clashes as the teams seek to avenge past results.
The Queensland Blades met the WA SmokeFree Thundersticks in the 2003 and 2004 finals, emerging the winners on both occasions. As the points table leader, and going unbeaten in all matches to date, the Blades are sure to be the favourites, however the Thundersticks will be aiming to live up to their reputation of being the most successful team in AHL, having picked up six titles in the history of the competition. It will be a tough call, given the Thundersticks have won only one game this season – by a penalty stroke competition.
The Queensland Scorchers have been just as successful this season, having also clinically won all their matches and conceding only one goal against the 24 they have scored. Fired up after thrashing the Wrest Point Casino Van Demons last weekend, the Scorchers will be looking to level scores after being narrowly beaten by the Diamonds in a penalty stroke shoot out during last year’s semi final. The Diamonds went on to win the 2004 championship title, and despite having not yet shown the winning flair this season, it’s sure to be a hard fought contest.
In Canberra, the Lakers and Strikers will host the NSW teams, with the women’s games being another re-match of last year’s semi finalists. As the eventual runners up in 2004, the Strikers will be looking to maintain their dominance over the Arrows, however having shown below-par performance last week when they were beaten by the Vipers in one game, the Strikers will have to work hard to gain maximum points.
The quiet achievers of 2005, the Waratahs, will be aiming to build on last week’s good results against the Thundersticks, which saw their goal-scoring prowess on fire. While they will plan to avoid the lapses of last week that allowed goals to be scored against them, the Waratahs have been showing the good form which won them the 2001 title, whereas the Lakers have had mixed results to date.
Meanwhile in the tropics, the Adelaide Hotshots will take on the Vodafone Territory Stingers in Darwin, with the hope of continuing their dream run which has seen them win all but one of their games which was lost in a penalty stroke shoot-out. The Suns will also be looking to maintain their surprise top four spot in the ladder, as they take on the Pearls who have yet to win a match and get a point on the table.
In other matches, the southerners will come together in Melbourne, as the Azuma Vikings host the MIA Tassie Tigers and the Azuma Vipers meet the Wrest Point Casino Van Demons. With the Tasmanian teams remaining winless over the past two rounds, both Victorian teams, having won two and lost two games, will be expected to win much needed maximum points if they are to have any hope of finding a semi finals berth.
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