14 Sep 2014

Finalists found in National Hockey League

7:56 am on 14 September 2014

Auckland and Northland will battle it out for the women's K Cup in the National Hockey League finals on the North Shore, while defending champions Auckland and Midlands contest the men's Challenge Shield.

In the semi finals, the Auckland women defeated 2013 champions Midlands 3-2 to earn their chance for play for the title.

Auckland were never behind on the score board with Charlotte Harrison and Su Arn Kwek scoring in the first half, while Midlands twice drew level thanks to goals from Natasha FitzSimons and Kate Kernaghan.

With the game delicately poised, Charlotte Harrison drilled home the match winner with a terrific shot from the top of the circle in the 47th minute.

Meanwhile, Northland stunned the Canterbury Cats 3-1 to take the other place in the women's final.

Midfielder Stacey Michelsen was a cut above the rest today, tearing her opposition to shreds and coming away with two crucial goals.

Michelsen opened the scoring in the 13th minute before play was postponed due to heavy rain and a flooded turf. After the game resumed, Canterbury drew level early in the third quarter to leave the score locked up at 1-all.

But Northland surged ahead again after Michelsen took the ball on a solo run from halfway and beat the goalkeeper from a tight angle. Ella Gunson then extended Northland's lead seven minutes out from fulltime with a stroke.

Auckland hockey player Dean Couzins

Auckland hockey player Dean Couzins Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In men's results, Auckland kept their hopes alive and now have a shot at a fourth consecutive championship after edging the Southern Dogs 3-2.

Auckland were first to score, but goals see-sawed between the two sides with much of the game tied, before striker Jared Panchia smashed home the winner from the top of the circle 13 minutes out from fulltime.

Panchia scored a double while Dwayne Rowsell was also on the card for Auckland after a powerful penalty corner drag flick. Joe Crooks had a solid game with two goals for Southern.

Joining Auckland in the final is Midlands, who took out a dramatic sudden death shoot-out 5-4 over the Canterbury Cavaliers after the score was deadlocked 2-2 at fulltime.

Meanwhile New Zealand women's hockey veterans Krystal Forgesson and Bianca Russell have announced their retirement from the international game.

Krystal Forgesson

Krystal Forgesson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

31-year-old midfielder Forgesson and goalkeeper Russell, who's 36, are both turning their focus to their full-time jobs.

Forgesson steps aside as the fourth highest capped Black Stick with 220 Tests, and the Aucklander's 77 goals make her the current all-time highest goal scorer alongside Katie Glynn.

She debuted in 2005, playing in two World Cups and Olympics and three Commonwealth Games.

Coach Mark Hager says the contribution Forgesson made to the success of the team and her presence will be greatly missed, and she drove the culture within the team and provided a benchmark for the next group of players to aim for.

Bianca Russell

Bianca Russell Photo: PHOTOSPORT

North Harbour's Russell retires as one of New Zealand's best-ever keepers, earning 75 caps after debuting in 2008. She played at the London Olympics, and two World Cups, and says she won't be leaving the turf completely.

Russell plans to play summer hockey in the North Harbour competition this year, and may still play club and national league next year.

Hager says Russell's performance at the London Olympics got them to the medal rounds, and she's one of the reasons why the Black Sticks moved so quickly from being number 12 in the world to number three.