The return of Black Stick Nick Wilson had the new-look Central Mavericks showing glimpses of last year's title-winning side in the opening rounds of the National Hockey League.
Central lost to Capital 4-2 on Saturday but bounced back to comfortably beat Canterbury 3-0 in Levin yesterday.
Wilson had only returned from the London Olympics during the week and was one of the few Black Sticks who fronted up for their association, much to the enjoyment of Mavericks coach Greg Clark.
"He's a world-class player and everyone lifts around him," Clark said.
"We've got another guy in Ben Collier; two international-class players.
"They were outstanding to a tee. They played very, very well. At halftime I came off and just said ‘keep doing what you're doing because it's working'."
Wilson scored a goal in both games and captained the side.
After the opening loss, Clark was pleased they came back fighting against Canterbury.
"We dominated," he said. "Our game plan worked a treat. We pressed well, outlined well, counter attacked well. Three-nil is a favour to Canterbury to tell you the truth."
This was the third year in a row the Mavericks have beaten Canterbury but the weekend was not all good after the opening loss.
"Not always happy with a win and a loss. Happy with the win but the loss, we had our chances," Clark said.
If the Mavericks can repeat their performance against Canterbury, then they should be able to retain the title they shared with Auckland last year.
Wilson stood out in the two games as did Collier, Marcus Emery and Sam Greaney in goal.
Clark was happy the team managed to gel with so many new players, and they had not been able to have everyone together at training.
Central made a good start against Canterbury with Robin Smith scoring early, then in the second half, Ryan Cosgrove scored from a penalty corner and Wilson from a reverse shot. They had a few more opportunities and played controlled hockey against the Cantabrians.
Against Capital there was a call that changed the game when Central were down 3-2 - in the midst of scoring with the ball crossing the goal line, the umpire blew his whistle for a penalty corner.
"That would have made it 3-all and game on," Clark said.
"We had a repeat corner, 30 seconds later they went down and scored."
The game was a fast-paced one and Central opened the scoring but they could not keep the Wellington side out and could only manage two goals from Wilson and Fergus Watts.
The rest of the league will be played at tournament week in Auckland from August 25 to September 2.
Scorers: Capital 4 (Jacob Smith, Matt L'Huillier, Jared Jones, Todd Gould) Central 2 (Nick Wilson, Fergus Watts) HT 1-all. Central 3 (Nick Wilson, Ryan Cosgrove, Robin Smith) Canterbury 0 HT 1-0.
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