By Adam Clifford
Canberra Chill and the Perth Thundersticks have turned on two Saturday specials as Perth Women and Canberra Men ensured they will feature at the Finals Main Event in Bendigo on 19/20 November.
The Perth Thundersticks have secured a ticket to the Main Event in Bendigo with a tough 3-1 win away to the Canberra Chill in their final Sultana Bran Hockey One League fixture.
Three goals in the opening seven minutes completed a successful snatch-and-grab job for the visitors, whose attacking efforts were countered by an incredible performance from Chill goalkeeper Rene Hunter.
Hunter’s goal was under siege for the opening three terms as she literally became the ‘hunted’, while Perth’s Georgina Dowd claimed the Player of the Match honours with her strong performance.
“It was a good team effort coming out to Canberra. We were excited to play the game and we came out and played to our team plan, so it was good end result to get the win,” Dowd said post-game.
“It’s nice (to secure our semi-finals spot). It’s a tough one not having the bye in the middle of the Hockey One League roster games, but we pushed our way through and now we can have a bit of a rest coming into finals.”
Dowd could hardly have dreamed of a better start to the match, scoring with an initial touch in behind Hunter after just 49 seconds of action.
When the Thundersticks star converted the ensuring scoring opportunity to make it 2-0, the Chill appeared stunned.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure and a bad start became worse when Penny Squibb smashed home a cannon fore-stick strike off a penalty corner rebound to make it 3-0 after just seven minutes.
The Chill lifted in front of a strong home crowd, gaining momentum late in the second term and they were rewarded when Kalindi Commerford mirrored Squibb’s earlier strike with a well worked routine.
The former Hockeyroo picked up the left-sided slip and crashed home a thunderbolt to make it game on.
But from there, Perth’s five second half set pieces were all met by outstanding goalkeeping from Hunter, whose reputation continues to be enhanced with each Hockey One round.
The Chill’s best moment would fall as the three-quarter time hooter sounded, with Mikayla Evans sending a tomahawk strike inches wide from a penalty corner rebound, after impressive link up play from the Doar sisters, Madison and Katie.
Renee Rockliff and Annie Gibbs also turned in impressive performances for the Thundersticks as they managed the clock expertly in the final term to finish their regular season with a record of four wins and two losses.
The visitors will now return to Perth for a week’s recovery and finals preparation as they await confirmation of their semi-final opponent, whilst the Chill remain in fourth position but will likely need to defeat the NSW Pride on Saturday in Parkes to confirm their spot in the post-season.
Canberra Chill 1 (Commerford 24’)
Perth Thundersticks 3 (Dowd 1’/2’, Squibb 6’)
Saturday 5 November 2022
National Hockey Centre, ACT
Umpires: Kristy Robertson & Emily Carroll
Canberra Chill Women’s team: 1.Mikayla Evans, 4.Madison Doar, 6.Katie Doar, 7.Naomi Evans (c), 8.Laura Reid, 11.Sophie Gaughan, 14.Emily Robson, 16.Shihori Oikawa, 18.Olivia Martin, 21.Mikaela Patterson, 23.Kalindi Commerford, 24.Sarah White, 25.Lauren Yee, 28.Catriona Bailey-Price, 32.Rene Hunter (gk)
Perth Thundersticks Women’s team: 1.Kate Denning, 2.Kyra White (c), 3.Candyce Peacock, 5.Georgina Dowd, 7.Penny Squibb, 8.Georgia Wilson, 10.Sarah Byrnes, 11.Rachel Frusher, 12.Line Malan, 13.Neasa Flynn, 14.Elizabeth Duguid (gk), 16.Karri Somerville, 17.Annie Gibbs, 18.Renee Rockliff, 25.Jolie Sertorio
The Canberra Chill have booked their place in the Sultana Bran Hockey One League Main Event with a thrilling 4-2 victory against the Perth Thundersticks in front of a franchise record crowd.
In doing so, the Chill also ensured that Perth must face an agonising wait next weekend with their bye, as both the NSW Pride and the Tassie Tigers seek to leapfrog them on the ladder to decide the semi-final spots.
The Chill overcame a slow start to arguably outwork their opponents and banked an important win off the back of being clinical in front of goal.
Kookaburras goalkeeper Andrew Charter was brilliant in the Canberra goal, enhancing his prospects of being the first shot stopper to claim the league’s MVP award.
“This was massive for the Chill. I came here with a lot of young guys, and we didn’t know if we could do it, but to go to finals, it’s amazing,” Charter said post-match.
Flanked by a vocal home crowd, also recognising their 50th anniversary of the first ACT national championships side, the Chill weathered a late Thundersticks storm.
“The crowd has been growing each week with 1100 at game one, then 1500 and today 2000 here tonight and it’s amazing to see the town getting behind us.”
“But we need to look at how we played that last quarter. We got a bit frantic, a bit frazzled and we need to look at calming that down because NSW will come at us hard because they need a win as well.”
Earlier, Perth showed no early signs of jetlag with Matt Willis knocking into an empty net after great baseline skills from teammate Tim Geers to open the scoring in just the third minute.
After Charter stalked Willis until time expired, the Chill struck back with an exquisite low penalty corner flick in the 7th minute.
Merely seconds before quarter time, the Chill fans found their voice as Davis Atkin and Gary Backhus combined to feed Aidan Dooley, who duly smashed home a tomahawk goal with just five seconds left on the clock.
Both sides traded opportunities, with Charter and opposing number Ben Rennie both elite when called upon, notably ensuring neither side successfully converted a field goal all match.
Canberra extended their advantage to 3-1 when Jamie Hawke pounced on a loose ball to slap truly, but Perth found a route back into the match when Tom Wickham combined with Aran Zalewski before sliding a goal in at the near post.
Backhus was elite throughout the match, along with teammate Anand Gupte, and it was fitting that he reinstated the hosts two goal buffer by completing a neat back-to-the-injector set piece routine in the 37th minute.
The final quarter was best remembered for Perth’s luckless fortune, as they had a goal ruled off for an errant back of stick in the lead up, while Charter and Gupte came up big to repel everything the visitors could throw at them.
The final make-up of the top four will now go down to the wire, with Tassie needing to defeat HC Melbourne away on Thursday night from 6:30pm and NSW Pride needing to defeat the Chill in Parkes on Saturday afternoon to secure their finals spots.
Canberra Chill 4 (Day 7’, Dooley 15’, Hawke 24’, Backhus 36’)
Perth Thundersticks 2 (Willis 3’, Wickham 34’)
Saturday 5 November 2022
National Hockey Centre, ACT
Umpires: Stirling Sharpe & Steve Rogers
Canberra Chill Men’s team: 2.Ben Staines, 3.Anand Gupte, 4.James Day, 6.Connor Tuddenham, 7.Ben Craig (c), 8.Sean Baker, 9.Jamie Hawke, 10.Owen Chivers, 11.Garry Backhus, 12.Jake Staines, 15.Hayden Dillon, 16.Oscar Smart, 17.Aidan Dooley, 24.Davis Atkin, 30.Andrew Charter (gk)
Perth Thundersticks Men’s team: 1.Chris Bausor, 2.Will Battistessa, 3.Tim Geers, 4.Jake Harvie, 5.Bryn de Bes, 10.Tom Wickham, 11.Tom Harvie, 13.Cambell Geddes, 14.Liam Flynn, 17.Aran Zalewski (c), 19.Ben Rennie (gk), 21.Ross Hall, 22.Ben Taylor, 24.Matt Willis, 27.Marshall Roberts