Challenge Cup inched out of reach

13 February 2024

A Defence ice hockey team came within striking distance of winning the Challenge Cup ice hockey tournament in Newcastle, but fell short in the final game.

After blitzing the tournament round robin without a loss, ADF Strike defeated the Sydney Pigeons 6-1 to make it into the finals as favourites.

In the final game, Strike players planned to rely on their physicality to give them an edge over a team of retired professional players.

Assistant team captain Flying Officer Jacob Clayton said the team’s strength was in its fitness.

“We use a lot of hard skating that usually works to our advantage against most teams,” he said.

In the grand final against the Sydney Old Dogs, Strike tried to stay ahead, but their opposition’s experience meant they tied 2-2, leading to a five-minute overtime.

Playing in his second Challenge Cup, winger Army Corporal Simon Laverty said the biggest moment in the final came in the dying seconds.

“In the last few seconds of overtime one of our guys hit the post with a shot, which would have given us a win. So it really came down to inches,” Corporal Laverty said.

Still tied at the end of overtime, the game went to a penalty shootout, with the Old Dogs scoring two quick goals to win the final 3-2.

Flying Officer Clayton said despite the loss, he was happy with the team’s performance.

“It was some of the best games I’ve seen them play. We’ve had the same guys for a few years now so we were definitely one of the stronger teams,” he said.

“Everyone played their role and did their bit, it was just unfortunate we didn’t get the result in the end.”

Flying Officer Clayton also helped coach the ADF Storm development team, who won their first game of the round robin despite never having played together.

According to Storm centre Acting Sub-Lieutenant Scott Tunnard, studying the systems put in place by the coaches allowed quick cohesion.

“We come together from all over Australia, and the coaches do a great job of communicating how we play as an ADF team so we can practise in our local areas,” Acting Sub-Lieutenant Tunnard said.

“Winning that first game, having never played together, was really exciting and doesn’t happen very often.”

The Storm finished 3rd in its division but missed out on the finals.

Acting Sub-Lieutenant Tunnard said it was good to see new people taking up ice hockey.

“ADF ice hockey is a really nurturing space in that regard. When people want to try out we can give them some kit to start; it’s good to get people to keep the sport going,” he said.



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