IT WAS heartbreak for the WA Thundersticks last week as they fell at the final hurdle, losing the 2016 Australian Hockey League (AHL) Men’s gold medal match 5-3 to the Victorian Vikings.
Both teams went into the game full of confidence after knocking out the tournament’s two only previously undefeated teams in their respective semi-final matches.
And rather than being the cagey match many had anticipated, it exploded into life in the first quarter.
Vikings danger man Chris Ciriello – who finished as the tournament’s top goal scorer with 10 goals -had WA chasing the game after just six minutes when he flicked in his team’s first penalty corner.
Seconds later and much to the delight of the crowd, a diving Tim Geers levelled for the Thundersticks before captain Chris Bausor’s penalty corner put them ahead in the 13th minute.
But the Vikings had the final say of the quarter as Ciriello bagged his second of the game.
In the second quarter Bausor forced a good save from Vikings goalkeeper Johan Durst before James Knee put the Vikings back in the driving seat with a clinical counterattacking field goal.
After the break the Vikings came out looking sharp and were rewarded for their efforts in the 34th minute as Kiran Arunsalem extended his team’s lead. Despite the Thundersticks having a flurry of penalty corner chances in the final moments, they were unable to get past the Vikings goalkeeper.
In the final quarter Bausor gave the home side hope after converting from a penalty stroke but it was short-lived, as Andrew Philpott restored his team’s two- goal lead and the Vikings held on for their first AHL gold medal in 18 years.
Speaking after the match, WA Thundersticks coach Jason Butcher said his team found it tough after conceding early.
“5-3 is a score line we didn’t envisage being involved in, so that’s disappointing,” he said.
“We started pretty well but they got a couple of goals. We let the corners in and never got back on track. The boys never stopped trying but we never got our mojo, couldn’t get everything together, couldn’t settle. We never managed to settle for any length of time.”