Cats keep their cool after easy win
The Canterbury Cats go into tomorrow's National Hockey League playoffs unbeaten and in top form, but any talk of favourite status or Sunday's final is being quashed.
A seventh straight NHL win yesterday, 4-0 against Capital (Wellington), leaves the Cats easily the top qualifiers. But coach and players alike are talking down their title chances for now.
Never mind that they've scored 25 goals from seven games. Never mind that they have the competition's top scorer - out of men and women - in Olivia Merry, with eight open play goals. Never mind that they have conceded less than a goal a game. And what's more, most teams have at least some returning Black Sticks on the roster and the Cats have none.
What's happened is done; the tournament starts again in tomorrow's semifinals, coach Aaron Ford told The Press.
The seven wins and being easily the best and most consistent team in the competition do not count for anything if they lose tomorrow's semifinal, he said.
"We've just got to keep doing what we're doing," he said.
"[The semifinals and final] are one-off games and anything can happen so we just have to keep playing the type of hockey we're playing."
So what's making the Cats so strong? Ford said it was his side's focus and dedication.
But their depth is playing a big part too. Without the superstars, Ford has had to develop a star team, a team where each player, including those on the bench, fits in well and when the players are rested, the team loses very little.
Yesterday's win was never in doubt from early in the match. Harewood's Hannah Marshall scored twice early and her side dominated open play. Captain and former Black Stick Stacey Carr was again a dominant force in the middle of the turf and second-half goals were scored by Timaru schoolgirl Cass Reid and Sian Fremaux, both from reverse stick shots.
The Cats defended well and picked up their third clean sheet of the tournament.
"It was just a good team effort," Marshall said.
"We started well with the two early goals then played well and finished with a couple more goals, and we're pretty happy with how the game went."
The Cats will play fourth-ranked North Harbour who earned the last semifinal spot after upsetting defending champions Auckland 1-0. Auckland play Midlands in the other semifinals.
The Canterbury Cavaliers men were beaten 4-0 by North Harbour ending any slim hopes they had and giving them a two-wins, one-draw, four-losses record. Top qualifier Capital play Southern and North Harbour meet Auckland in the semifinals.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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