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Nationals 2014

2014 wasn't a fantastic season results wise, until the Dragons Senior team hit Nationals in New Plymouth.

Our seasons results were patchy at best and we were'nt even sure we'd get to Nationals, so to recieve the wild card and tear Nats up was fantastic.

We went away to nationals extremely undermanned.
For our first three pool games we only had 8 skaters and two goalies.
Players lining up for the Dragons were;
Adam Kingston
Shawn Retter
Leroy Blythe
Jake Ladd
James Muir
Nick May
Kaitlyn McLeod
Mark Smith-Pilling

With Mitchell Eade and Kylie Taylor looking after goal duties

Our first game up was against a very fired up home side in the New Plymouth Ravens.
We were behind the 8-ball right from the get go and played catch up the entire game, finally going down 3-8. Not a great start. It that game we lost Nick May who broke a couple ribs and was out for the rest of the tournament.

Our second game was against the favorites in the Northland Stingrays. A very polished side who beat us in the 2012 Senior finals at Nationals in Hamilton.
We went down 3-8, so that put us into soul searching mode.

Our third pool game was against a very strong Mustangs side, who we downed 7-4 in a torrid affair.
After this game, Kaitlyn bussed back to Palmerston North for Uni leaving us with only 6 skaters for the quarter final.

This put the standings in our Pool, Stingrays, Ravens, Dragons, Mustangs...and meant the crossover games were as follows;

1st Pool A Vs 4th Pool B; Stingrays Vs Devils (won 7-3 by Stingrays)
2nd Pool A Vs 3rd Pool B; Ravens Vs Panthers (won 6-4 by Panthers)
3rd Pool A Vs 2nd Pool B; Dragons Vs Renegades (won 8-7 by Dragons)
4th Pool A Vs 1st Pool B; Mustangs Vs Lightning (won 2-1 by Mustangs)

Our quarter final against Renegades was the game of the tournament...
Our team of 6 skaters with only 4 players with National honours (including two Veterans players) up against the current 1NZ side comprising 12 skaters, all current or Past New Zealands representatives and a side that would have held it's own in the Premier Grade).
We took charge right from the first puck drop and took off to a 4-0 lead, before the Renegades came storming back. The game see sawed and the scores were level with a minute to go when we recieved a penalty and had to see the game out shorthanded.
A strong, smart Penalty Kill held out the far superior Renegades Power play and the game ended at 7-7.
We went into the overtime short handed and saw the penalty out before we recieved another. So all in all we played 3 of the 5 minute overtime short handed.
Fantastic heart saw us hold out and end the OT at 7-7 (although Adam could have wrapped it up during that time)
So, a shoot out it was...... one for one through 7 shots before Jake calmy slotted his second shootout goal to give us the ascendency... next up for them was Matt Chan, who is a goal scoring machine, so all the pressure was on Mitch to keep him out...

BOOM, a fantastic save and the game was ours... 6 extremely outskilled players had just rolled probably the strongest Senior side the grade has seen in years (including two Snipers Prem players that Renegades had pulled in just before the tournament to guarentee they went back to back)

We were estatic, but completely physically and mentally drained. The beer in the changing room never tasted so sweet as we saviored an amazing win over our nemesis side.

Adam then took to the Fastest Skater competition, and even thought he was completely drained from our Renegades game (straight off the floor and into the speed comp), he wiped the floor and came away with the title.

Our semi final was against Stingrays who had wiped the floor with us earlier in the week and destroyed everyone they came up against.
We matched it with them the whole game, and being 0-2 down with a minute to go we pulled Mitch to play with 5 skaters and try and pull back some goals. Stingrays scored an empty netter to win the game 0-3, which was not an indication of just how close it was.

So that meant we played Mustangs for 3-4th.
Even though we'd beaten Mustangs earlier in the tournament we knew they were a quality side after the dispatched the number 1 seeds from Pool A, Lightning in the quarter final.

No one in our side had anything in the tank, but wise hockey worked in our favour and we came out with a 6-3 win to take 3rd place.

To play Nationals with the roster we had, number wise and ability wise, and come away with 3rd place was the highlight for a lot of people at Nationals 2014, not just our club members.
We were the crowd favorites as I guess people still love rooting for the underdog.

Sothe plan in 2015 is to imprve on our current 3NZ..

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