Lithgow Storm have gotten through to the men's Premier League Hockey grand final putting up one hell of a fight going 3-1 to St Pats in a penalty shoot-out on Saturday afternoon.
After a gripping 60 minutes of regulation time in the major semi-final at the Cooke Hockey Complex the rivals were locked at 4-all. Then 15 additional minutes saw neither Storm or the Saints find the golden goal which would have won it.
It came down to penalties and that too was gripping.
St Pat's goalkeeper Taylor Newton denied Storm's Brandon Horner in the opening timed one-on-one, then Jaden Ekert hit the target for the blue and whites.
The next three Saints were unable to find the mark. Newton was beaten by Eli Shirt, made a save but then fouled his Storm rival trying to clear the ball to concede a penalty stroke which was converted, then came up with a brilliant double block against Mitch Brain.
That saw Storm ahead 2-1 as their fifth player Taylor Dolbel lined up. Newton blocked his first attempt but the rebound was gathered up by the Lithgow talent and he slotted home before his time ran out.
"It's never much fun to lose like that," St Pat's coach Richard Sharp said.
"We played pretty well I thought and they certainly stepped up from last week. It was a good tussle, it was fairly even I think.
"But we didn't take our chances, I think we created more chances than them and if I'm honest, that's where we lost the game.
"They had a few chances too which they didn't capitalise on, but I think if you read the tale of the tape we probably had twice as many penalty corners as they did. We just need to be a little more ruthless and execute a little bit better and certainly learn from it."
While the Saints hosted the first grand final qualifier after their 4-2 win over Storm seven days earlier handed them the minor premiership, Lithgow had beaten the Bathurst outfit twice prior to that.
It pointed to an arm-wrestle and that's exactly what unfolded.
Storm took the lead in the fourth minute as Horner found the mark from a penalty corner, but two minutes later from their own set play the Saints equalised via Tyler Willott.
Four minutes into the second quarter the Saints hit the lead from another penalty corner. This time Zac Sharp found the mark as he powered in from the left following a dummy at the top of the circle to make it 2-1.
That quarter also saw Pat's striker Riley Hanrahan hit the post, Newton make a diving stick save and a glove save, while Lachlan Howard made a desperate diving block to deny Horner when he wound up on top of the area.
The third quarter saw Storm goalkeeper James Luck make a string of quality saves - including blocking a Willott penalty corner drag-flick with his stick and holding Ekert out from close range.
Down the other end Newton made a superb one-on-one block against Nathan Marshall, but the period ended with Horner converting from a penalty corner to lock it up at 2-all.
The final quarter brought with it even more quality hockey.
A Willott intercept then clinical Hanrahan finish put the Saints up 3-2 then Horner scored from open play to make it a hat-trick for the game and 3-all with a tick over 10 minutes left.
Ryan Neale put Pat's back in the lead with 1:56 left on the clock, but with 63 seconds remaining Shirt tucked one in on the right post to send it into extra-time.
In the first half of extra-time was end-to-end, the Saints coming the closest to finding a winner with a shot from Fletcher Norris that hit the outside of the goal.
In the second half Luck twice denied Willott from penalty corners as he continued his brilliant effort for Storm while down the other end, Brent Naylor made two freakish blocks on chest-high shots to send the semi-final into penalties.
Though Storm won that to book a home grand final, Sharp felt the effort from his side shows just how much they have developed so far this season.
"They've had the wood on us all season if I'm honest, I've been building a style of play with these guys and I'm really, really happy with where they've got us too," Sharp said
"Once again, if I'm honest, I really set ourselves two years before we'd win the comp.
"So to be where we are now is really pleasing and it's a great effort and a reflection of the effort the boys have put in. Yeah, fingers crossed we'll get another shot at them [Storm]."
ST PAT'S 4 (Tyler Willott, Zac Sharp, Ryan Neale, Riley Hanrahan) drew with LITHGOW STORM 4 (Brandon Horner 3, Eli Shirt) in regulation time
LITHGOW STORM 3 (Brandon Horner 2, Taylor Dolbel) defeated ST PAT'S 1 (Jaden Ekert) on penalties
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