A GOALKEEPER’S job is to save and that is exactly what Logan Hunter did for Lithgow Panthers.
In fact he produced a whole host of quality saves in Saturday’s men’s Premier League Hockey major semi-final at Bob Roach Field as Panthers defeated Souths 4-3.
From 12 penalty corners Souths only struck twice as Hunter – the same shot blocker who caused the two blues heartbreak in last year’s grand final – proved the difference.
“We just had that intensity for a period to get that lead, we dropped after that but kept our defence luckily,” Hunter said.
“There was just so much pressure, they had so many short corners. I got lucky on two of them, they were all over us and probably deserved to win, but once we got up we kept our composure.
“They played a very good game, they were always in our circle and had a lot of pressure on us. I think we are a little bit unfit, I’m not going to lie about that.
“But everyone was in there for us trying their hardest … that last goal, when they scored and I saw we had about 20 seconds left, I thought ‘Hurry up, end it’.”
Saturday marked Hunter’s last match of the season for Panthers, as he will now be busy with his Sydney club duties for Briars. Still, the way in which he signed-off impressed his rivals.
“I would say that we controlled 80-90 percent of the game, but I think we got up to on the stats sheet that their ’keeper made 18-19 saves. By far, he was the difference in the game today,” Souths coach Ray Winwood-Smith said.
“I was real proud of our boys today, we had a game plan, we came out strong, that first 10 minutes we controlled the game which gave us the upper hand.
“It was just five minutes in which we made two crucial errors which cost us, but sometimes that is just the way it works.
“So I’m confident with the way we played, the way the boys fronted up, we’ll be there in two weeks.”
READ MORE: Smith rescues CYMS
READ MORE: Late Kable strike hands Saints a rare defeat
Keep up to date with the latest sports news by clicking here
The opening five minutes of Saturday’s grand final qualifier gave an indication of what was to come. Souths had two penalty corners and Hunter shut them down.
It was Panthers who opened scoring in the 14th minute when Jacob Townsend converted a penalty corner play, but three minutes later Souths hit back.
Jono Cole’s penalty corner effort deflected in off the stick of a Panthers’ defender to make it 1-all.
But as the clock ticked over to 24 minutes it marked a major turning point in the contest.
Firstly Nathan Mitchell scored as his effort from the field deflected off a Souths player into the net. Then Greg Nelson struck twice in as many minutes as Panthers went from level terms out to a 4-1 lead in a tick under five minutes.
Though that blitz shocked Souths, they renewed their efforts. Three penalty corners followed and Dan Carter scored off the last of them to make it 4-2 at half-time.
Souths goalkeeper John Rudge was called into action early in the second half when Tom Piggott and Taylor Dolbel combined, coming up with a smart block.
But in the main the chances came down the other end of the field as Souths continued to press for the right to host the grand final.
Souths drew four penalty corners for the half, and created more chances in open play, but Hunter’s reflexes were superb.
Brad Brown finally beat him to make it 4-3, but by then there was only 20 seconds remaining.
LITHGOW PANTHERS 4 (Greg Nelson 2, Nathan Mitchell, Jacob Townsend) defeated SOUTHS 3 (Jono Cole, Brad Brown, Daniel Carter)
While you’re here
You can now receive online headlines from the Western Advocate delivered straight to your inbox at 6am six days a week. To make sure you’re up-to-date with all news across the Bathurst region, sign up here.