LOGAN Hunter was the hero for Lithgow Panthers on Saturday afternoon as he kept St Pat’s scoreless in a men’s Premier League Hockey major semi-final penalty shoot-out.
After scores were locked at 1-all at full-time and 15 minutes of additional time did not produce a winner at Bob Roach Field, the teams squared off in penalties.
Both Hunter and his St Pat’s opposite Taylor Newton pulled off a string of impressive saves, but the Panthers’ shot blocker made one more.
Only experienced Panther Trent MacDonald found the mark in the tense finish as the Lithgow side booked itself a home ground grand final.
St Pat’s coach Shane Conroy was one of those Hunter denied. Though disappointed his side missed out in such circumstances, that they finished as minor premiers means they will get another chance at grand final qualification.
They will meet Bathurst rivals Souths in the preliminary final.
“I didn’t really want to take one [penalty], that’s why I was last. He’s a good keeper, he’s quick on his feet. I thought I could take him on and beat him with speed. But anyway, it’s not the end of the world, we get another shot next week,” Conroy said.
“It was disappointing, but it is what it is. That’s how it goes.
“I think we really should have won. I think we had the most chances in the game and really dominated, but just didn’t score.
“Our basics when we were under pressure cost us when we were in front of the net, which is something we have to work on for next week.”
Looking for its first major semi-final win over St Pat’s since 2012, Panthers made a strong start to Saturday’s match.
Newton made a sharp glove save off Taylor Dolbel in the second minute and two minutes later a shot from MacDonald rocketed into the post.
On the 12 minute mark Panthers had the lead as Dolbel made a penetrating run down the right wing before crossing to Mick Charlton. With time and space inside the circle, he powered home.
Pat’s was not without its chances during the first half, Charlie Schofield hitting the crossbar, but after 35 minutes it was Panthers who led 1-0.
The second half saw more chances down both ends, the first in the 40th minute as Hunter made a one-on-one block against Isaac Darlington.
But it took until the hour mark for another goal to come and it was Tobbie Muldoon who provided it from a penalty corner. It put the Saints back on level terms.
With 28 seconds left Panthers had one more chance as Dolbel burst into the circle, but Newton got his glove in the way to see the need for extra-time.
Panthers had the best chance in the first 7½ minute period via Dane Guffogg, but Newton once more produced a sharp save in goals for the Saints.
It meant the match came down to penalties.
Hunter was impressive as Darcy Davis, Luke Thorncraft, Tyler Willott, Darlington and Conroy were all unable to find the mark.
While Guffogg, Matt Writer and Greg Nelson missed for Panthers, MacDonald scored from his attempt to give Lithgow a 1-0 win on penalties.