Capital's men's hockey team halted high- flying hosts Auckland with a 3-2 win last night to qualify top for tomorrow's national league semifinal against Southern.
Jason Hilton, Matt L'Huillier and Jacob Smith were the goal scorers for Capital, who needed at least a point to book their spot in the semifinals after Southern and Midlands both won their earlier games yesterday.
"That put a bit of pressure on us," relieved Capital coach Sean Dancer said.
"I always thought Auckland were the team to beat this week, so beating them gives us a lot of confidence.
"Both teams had about the same amount of chances but the goals that we scored were very good team goals.
"There was a lot of very good ball movement and guys working really hard to get into good areas."
Capital will be hungry for revenge against Southern tomorrow after conceding two late goals to lose 4-3 in their round-robin meeting in Dunedin.
In Auckland last night, Dwayne Rowsell opened the scoring in the first half for Auckland at Lloyd Elsmore Hockey Stadium but Capital replied twice before the break.
For Capital's first, a strong defensive press resulted in a scramble in front of the Auckland goal and Hilton was able to poke the ball past the goalkeeper. Some excellent buildup play then resulted in a penalty corner and L'Huillier's hot drag flicking form continued for a 2-1 scoreline at halftime.
Smith then landed the killer blow with a cracking goal from the top of the circle after Scott Barnett had turned the ball over to spark a breakaway.
Former Capital player Sam Miskimmin pinched a goal back for Auckland but the visitors and their goalkeeper Bart de Vries were able to hold on for four points.
North Harbour and Auckland will square off in tomorrow's other semifinal.
Meanwhile, Capital's women's team missed out on the semifinals and finished fifth in the round-robin after losing 4-0 to runaway leaders Canterbury.
Hannah Marshall scored twice for the impressive Cantabrians, who won all seven of their round-robin games.
It nonetheless marked an improvement on last year's Capital campaign when they finished seventh of the eight teams.
Capital will play last-placed Northland in a ranking game tomorrow.
Canterbury meet Harbour in one semifinal, with Auckland and Midlands contesting the other.
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- The Dominion Post
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