Updated: February 23, 2015 6:54:44 am
On Saturday, soon after his side edged a 24-shot penalty shootout, Ranchi Rays coach Harinder Singh had jokingly chided his side for the nerve wracking win in the semifinals. “I’m not a heart patient, but I don’t think I could take another penalty shootout finish,” Singh had gasped.
Singh would not get his wish for the HIL final between the Rays and Punjab Warriors at the Dhyanchand Stadium once again went to penalties after the two sides were locked 2-2 after extra time. However, despite having his heart in his mouth on more than a few occasion, Singh had a big smile at the end of it all as his side won 3-2 in the shootout.
For the Rays who played as the Ranchi Rhinos until the last season of the HIL, and won the inaugural edition of the event as that team, it was the performance of ‘keeper Tyler Lovell under the bar that set up their win in the shootouts. Lovell first stopped SV Sunil’s attempt — when Warriors were looking to open up a 3-1 lead in the shootouts. Then with Warriors shooting to stay in the game, he dived to his right and got his stick to deflect Rob Hammond’s attempt.
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The match winning save wasn’t based on guesswork. According to Rays coach Harendra Singh, Lovell’s strategy had been to force strikers to take a shot from the goalkeepers right. “The goalkeeper holds his stick in that hand so it gives him a better chance of blocking the shot. Additionally it restricts the strikers options. If a right handed striker attacks from his strong side, he can hit the ball any way he wants. But if he is forced to shoot from his left side, he can only flick the ball or backhand it. In Punjab’s last attempt, that plan worked perfectly,” said Singh.
Two in two for punjab
For Punjab it was the second consecutive HIL final that they had lost on penalties and they would be left to rue the fact that they twice held the lead in regulation period before letting things slip. After a dry first half with both teams essentially feeling each other’s defences out, Warriors had taken the lead through Keiran Govers after an inexplicable error from Lovell. Fellow Australian Govers had taken a rather hopeful running attempt from the top of the circle but Lovell had failed to cover the near corner and the ball crept through that small gap. It however took Rays just three minutes to find the equaliser. Stanli Minz won a PC after being pushed in the Punjab circle by Sandeep Singh and even though Ashley Jackson’s drag flick was blocked, Minz was alert to put the rebound into the net.
Warriors once again found themselves just three minutes away from a maiden HIL win, when Christopher Ciriello scored off a penalty corner in the 57th minute. But in the very next play, Rays levelled through a brilliant bit of passing play between Mandeep Singh and Barry Middleton.
Warriors got one last attempt to seal the match when they won a PC in the final minute of play. However Sandeeps flick was fired straight at Lovell’s body. It was an easy save but Lovell would clear a stiffer and ultimately more crucial block only a few minutes later.
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