On February 13, defending Champions Ranchi Rays crushed UP Wizards 6-0 home at Ranchi. With 32 points from 9 matches, Ranchi has secured their place in semifinals. Ranchi play their last league game on Sunday against Dabang Mumbai but the result will be inconsequential for Ranchi. Mumbai recorded their third successive win on February 9 by beating Delhi Wave-riders but lost 1-5 to Jaypee Warrior Punjab on February 12. With just two league games, Mumbai’s semifinal chances are slim. Jaypee Warrior Punjab are almost certain to take their place in semifinals and fight for third and fourth places will be fierce. Kalinga Lancers and UP Wizards both have 23 points and Delhi Wave-riders are close behind on 22. If Mumbai could win both their remaining league games, Delhi and UP could be in trouble. As for Kalinga Lancers, they have 2 games remaining and with their current form, they should make the semifinal grade with just one victory.
In the 26th match of CIL Hockey India League on February 13, Ranchi Rays dominated against the visiting UP Wizards. Despite the presence of PR Sreejesh in the goal, the Wizards lost 0-6 to Ranchi. As the match began, Ranchi went on the attack. Sreejesh foiled several chances and the first quarter ended goalless. The second quarter was a replica of the first as Sreejesh continued to deny Ranchi. By halftime, Ranchi had already wasted 5 penalty corners, thanks to the scintillating Sreejesh. Wizards began the third quarter with aggression but Ranchi’s tough defense thwarted their ambitions. Finally Flynn Ogilvie’s excellence in scoring a 40th minute field goal gave Ranchi a 2-0 lead. In last quarter, Ashley Jackson made it 4-0 in 47th minute before the outcome was effectively sealed 6-0 with a brilliant Sumit Kumar scoring in 59th minute.
After three back-to-back rejuvenating wins, Dabang Mumbai lost 1-5 on February, 12 to Jaypee Punjab Warriors. In first quarter, Punjab succeeded in 2nd minute from a penalty corner conversion. That became 2-0 in 13th minute, when another penalty corner was converted. Punjab made it 3-0 from one more penalty corner in second quarter. In third quarter, Mumbai showed aggression but couldn’t penetrate Punjab’s solid defense. Punjab took an unassailable 5-0 lead, when Nithin Thimmaiah scored a field goal. Mumbai’s consolation goal came from a Jeremy Hayward penalty corner as Punjab emerged 5-1 victors.
On February 11, Delhi Wave-riders beat Ranchi Rays 7-4 in a closely-fought game. It was Delhi’s first home win after 4 consecutive losses and it kept Delhi’s semifinal hopes alive. In the first quarter, Wave-riders’ Mandeep Singh scored a 7th minute field goal and with Talvinder Singh converting from a penalty corner in 13th minute, Delhi led 3-0 after the first quarter. Delhi carried the momentum into the second and went 5-0 ahead in 19th minute from Talvinder’s field goal. After halftime, Ranchi reduced the deficit to 5-2 in 35th minute, when Ashley Jackson scored a field goal. However, Delhi enhanced their lead to 7-2, when Mandeep Singh scored his second goal. Ranchi made some counter moves but Devon Manchester stood like a rock. In the last quarter, Ranchi cut the deficit further with Trent Mitton’s field goal. The match ended with Delhi winning at 7-4.
On February 10, UP Wizards scored a creditable 4-1 win over Jaypee Punjab Warriors in Lucknow and registered their first home victory after 4 consecutive losses. The match began with Punjab launching an attack and succeeded in taking a 10th minute 1-0 lead from Mark Gleghorne’s penalty corner conversion. In 19th minute, UP leveled the score 1-1 with a penalty corner goal by Gonazlo Peillat. In third quarter, Peillat converted another penalty corner to put UP in front 2-1. Raising their game further, the hosts went up 4-1 in 43rd minute, when Agustin Mazilli scored a field goal. The fourth quarter remained goalless and the match ended 4-1 in favor of UP Wizards.
Dabang Mumbai scored their third consecutive win on February 9, when they defeated Delhi Wave-riders 8-3 in a table turner. It was Delhi’s fourth straight home loss after they looked certain to win with a 3-0 lead after three quarters. But Mumbai scored 4 field goals in final quarter to turn the match on its head. After a goalless first quarter, Delhi led 2-0 in 22nd minute from Steven Edwards’ field goal. In third quarter, Delhi shot to a 3-0 lead in 39th minute from Rupinder Pal Singh’s penalty corner. Delhi looked certain winners as fourth quarter got underway. Mumbai, however, had other ideas as Danish Mujtaba’s 49th minute field goal followed by another in 52nd by Nilkanta Sharma took Mumbai 4-3 up. The sudden surge from Mumbai tore Delhi’s defenses in final minutes. Manpreet Singh brought off two field goals in 57th and 58th minutes and Mumbai turned the tables on Delhi with an 8-3 victory.
In first game of fourth week on February 8, Ranchi Rays played Kalinga Lancers at Bhubaneswar. Lancers went 2-0 ahead in 9th minute with Dharamvir Singh scoring a field goal. Ranchi reduced the deficit to 2-1 with Ashley Jackson’s penalty corner. After the goalless second and third quarters, Ranchi pressed hard in the fourth and took a 3-2 lead, when Mohammed Amir Khan scored a field goal in 49th minute. With no more goals accruing afterwards, Ranchi were 3-2 winners in the end.
With just 4 league game left in Coal India Hockey India League, Ranchi has already secured the semifinal berth. Punjab and Kalinga look almost certain to take the next two spots. Therefore. the fight for the last place will be among Delhi, Mumbai and UP Wizards, before the four qualified teams go to Ranchi for the knock-out phase of the tournament beginning on February 20, 2016.
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