Bart de Vries was Capital's unlikely hero as the goalkeeper snuffed out all five North Harbour attempts in a freakish national hockey league shootout in Auckland yesterday.
With the scores locked 2-2 at the end of regulation time, Capital's Scott Barnett calmly slotted in his effort to provide a predictable start to the shootout proceedings.
De Vries then morphed into an impregnable force. While Harbour keeper Richard Joyce blocked the next four shots fired at him, the shootout ended 1-0 to Capital.
"Normally, you have one or two guys that miss, from being under a bit of pressure or some good actions from the keeper," Capital coach Sean Dancer said.
"But I haven't seen a shootout that's finished like that before, with nine players failing to score."
De Vries has been Capital's third-string keeper in recent years, behind Kyle Pontifex and Alex Schroder.
With Black Sticks stalwart Pontifex unavailable after the Olympic Games in London, de Vries is making the most of his rare opportunities.
"Bart's been behind those two but he did an excellent job in goal," Dancer said yesterday. "The keepers actually both did a very good job.
"Closing the attackers' space, putting pressure on, channelling guys wide, and then if the attacker has to shoot from a closed angle, he's always going to have a tough job. But on the flipside, I don't think the attacking guys did a good job and that includes us as well."
Previous leaders, Capital (16 points) are now second to Auckland (17), who last night demolished Canterbury 6-0 to pick up four points on home turf at Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium.
With one round to play, Harbour (14) are third, while Midlands and Southern (12) are within striking distance after picking up wins yesterday.
Capital and Auckland square off in the 6pm game today, meaning Dancer will know what result is required to qualify for Saturday's semifinals.
Capital had led 2-0 in the first half through Benedict van Woerkom and another penalty corner rocket from Matt L'Huillier yesterday. However, Harbour's Dave Kosoof and James Coughlan hit back to force the shootout.
Dancer said his young team paid the price for poor decision-making in front of goal.
"We could have been a little bit smarter with some of our options and that would have probably got us through that game. We dominated 80 per cent of the second half. Our pressing was very aggressive and we were good at turning them over in their attacking end.
"We just didn't get too many outcomes from our circle penetration."
Meanwhile, the Capital women were also in a semifinal position after yesterday's 3-2 win over last-placed Northland.
Katarina O'Callaghan, captain Aniwaka Roberts and Tara Hall got on the scoresheet for Capital (14 points), who leapfrogged Harbour (13) into fourth place.
Capital play top-of-the-table Canterbury at 2pm today and will be hoping the red-and-blacks ease off, given that they have already sewn up their semifinal berth with an impressive 6-0 record.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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