Alex Sumenko-Bucknell … recovered from a hip injury. PHOTOS/FILE
A Dalefield win over Victoria today at the National Hockey Stadium will almost lock in home advantage for the first round of the Wellington men’s premier championship playoffs.
Dalefield have a four-point buffer over Hutt United with two rounds to play, and a bonus-point victory by five goals or more would almost guarantee them a home game against Hutt in the two-life playoff.
Despite their lowly position of fifth, Victoria proved a real handful for Dalefield in the first round before going down 3-0.
Player-coach Dane Lett said it was important that Dalefield didn’t fall into the same trap of getting into a physical battle.
“Last time we really struggled because we weren’t up for the match mentally and we weren’t prepared to do the little things that go towards winning a match.
“They got a roll-on and the longer they stayed in the game, the more confident they got,” he said.
“They don’t have any special players or any special tactics, but they’re young students, and they’re up for the game, so we’ve got to control them.
“We need to start well and make sure that we’re physically and mentally ready.”
Alex Sumenko-Bucknell is expected back after recovering from a hip injury, while Jordan Cohen is doubtful having been diagnosed with a hernia this week.
Otherwise, the team is at full strength and Lett said they would use the game to try some different tactics that are only meant for playoff matches.
“We have little changes of structure or set movements that we do that we will only ever do when the game is on the line in a playoff match, so when we get into that situation, we’re not doing them for the first time,” Lett said.
“We might be down in a final by a couple of goals, and we’ve got to know how to deal with it, so we’re using every game as a chance to trial different things.”
Dalefield missing key players in strike force
Meanwhile, women’s player-assistant coach Katherine van Woerkom won’t be using the absence of four players as an excuse if the team don’t come away with a win over Victoria at the National Hockey Stadium today.
Strikers Felicity Reidy is out for a week with a concussion suﬀered in last Saturday’s 0-1 loss to Hutt United, Brigitte Mossman is away, and Reese Robertson and Amy Bunny are unavailable because of their secondary school tournament.
Defender Lauren Mahoney, who played for Dalefield last year, has been called into the squad.
“Leading into finals we don’t really want to be slacking off, and I don’t really see having just two subs as an excuse,” van Woerkom said.
“We still have a good, solid team. Probably upfront we might be a bit weaker, but we’ve still got Jenna Anderson and Abby Crawley, and Kianna Dawson is going to go up there.”
Dalefield won their first-round clash 6-2 after leading 6-0 at halftime, and van Woerkom was keen to avoid a similar performance.
“They’re usually that sort of tough niggly team, and anyone in the comp you don’t want to underestimate especially coming into the finals, so we want to be playing well regardless of who we’re playing.
“We’re looking to play that good hockey and linking a few passes together, and we probably need to be a bit more clinical in the circle.”
A Dalefield win would almost guarantee a top-two finish, with only the struggling Karori to play in the final round.