Thundersticks Men fall short in opening game

Perth Thunderstick’s men missed out on a dream start to the Sultana Bran Hockey One League when they lost 4-5 to Hockey Club Melbourne, at Perth Hockey Stadium on Sunday.

The Thundersticks made the perfect start to the match opening the scoring in the seventh minute. Good work down the left-hand side by Tim Geers saw his pass find Dane Gavranich inside the circle who deflected the ball towards goal where Tom Wickham was on hand to beat Johan Durst and give the hosts the lead.

As is the format in the Hockey One League, Wickham then had a one-on-one with Durst to score a bonus goal. Which he did, with a reverse stick shot to Durst’s left, meaning the Thundersticks led 2-0.

Hockey Club Melbourne immediately went in search of an equalizer and less than 30 seconds after the re-start the always-lively Nathan Ephraums obliged. Aaron Kleinschmidt played the ball into the circle and Ephraums was at the near post to deflect past Lovell. He then dragged Lovell to the right and changed direction swiftly to gain the bonus point goal and tie things up at 2-2.

The first quarter was played at a blistering pace and Melbourne appeared to be having the better of the play with a slick passing game. They deservedly took the lead in the 11th minute. Andrew Philpott picked out Ephraums who made a good run along the baseline which forced Lovell to step off his line, Ephraums lifted the ball over the ‘keeper’s head and Russell Ford was on hand to swat the ball into the empty goal at the back post.  Ford then cheekily pushed the ball through the legs of Lovell to once again pick up the bonus point goal and give Melbourne the lead 2-4.

Melbourne had the chance to stretch that lead before the end of the first quarter, winning their first penalty corner. The Thundersticks had failed to convert from their attempt moments earlier and were grateful to Lovell for making a sharp save.

The speed of the game slowed slightly in the second quarter and the Thundersticks build up play was more patient as they treasured possession. They were rewarded when a pass found Liam Flynn on the right, he surged into the circle, advanced along the baseline then picked out Trent Mitton at the penalty spot who shot high into the left hand corner to make it 3-4. Mitton also converted his bonus goal attempt to tie things up at 4-4 with a sharp spin that left Durst wondering where the ball had gone.

In the penultimate minute of the first half the Thundersticks could have taken the lead, a good pass by Coby Green picked out Trent Mitton, but this time his shot whistled the wrong side of the post.

The start of the second half almost saw the Thundersticks concede in a bizarre fashion. The team was slow to appear from the changing rooms, and only four players were on the pitch when the whistle sounded for the start. Goalkeeper Tyler Lovell had to sprint to his goal, and despite the home side not having 11 players on the pitch until 20 seconds after the restart, Melbourne could not capitalize.

That did not prove to a be a big deal when two minutes into the quarter Russell Ford received the ball at the top of the circle and fired a powerful upright reverse shot past Lovell to restore the lead to Hockey Club Melbourne. He was unable to claim the bonus point goal as Lovell this time read his movement well and swept the ball clear to safety.  Could this be the turning point in the match?

It was Melbourne who seemed to lift following this goal. Fraser Gerrard who had a solid game in defense for the Thundersticks made a save in front of Lovell to deny Arunasalam, and a minute later Tim Geers did the same to stop Kleinschmidt adding to their tally.

Melbourne continued to dominate in the final quarter and starved the Thundersticks of possession. Tyler Lovell made another good save to deny Kleinschmidt from the top of the circle. Then Arunasalam unlocked the Thundersticks defense and found Josh Pollard at the back post, but he pushed his shot wide.

In the final two minutes of the match as the Thundersticks pushed for an equalizer, and after they had pulled their goalkeeper, Pollard slipped at the edge of his defensive circle and had to be helped from the field of play with what looked like a serious shoulder injury.  The Thundersticks became more desperate but were patient with their build up as the clock counted down. However twice passes from Green failed to find a teammate and allowed Melbourne to clear the danger, and eventually hang on for victory.

It was a very tight affair and showed that the competition is likely to be a close one. At the end of the day Hockey Club Melbourne took their opportunities when they presented themselves, and managed to restrict the Thundersticks in terms of possession and clear-cut goal-scoring chances.  

The Thundersticks will look to bounce back in their next home match against the Canberra Chill on 12th October. Tickets available through Ticketek.

Men’s Match Details:

Perth Thundersticks 4 (Wickham 7’/7’, Mitton 20/20’)

HC Melbourne 5 (Ephraums 7’/8’, Ford 11’/12’/32’)

By Ashley Morrison