Hero Hockey LeagueOn February 18 and 19, two of the remaining three league games in the Hero Hocky India League were played at Mohali and Delhi. Though these matches had no impact on the already qualified semifinalists, the results were still important to decide the line-up for the two semifinals on February 21, 2015. In the first match at Mohali on February 17, visitors Ranchi Rays stole the match from Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the final minute to turn the tables on the hosts and registered a 3-2 victory. Next day at Delhi, there was another thriller between Delhi Waveriders and Uttar Pradesh Wizards. Until the third quarter UPW looked like taking the match away from Delhi but DWR scored three goals in the last 15 minutes to square off the match 3-3.

On February 17, hosts Jaypee Punjab Warriors locked horns with Ranchi Rays for the second time this season. JPW had an aggressive start in the first quarter by taking the action in Ranchi’s half early in the quarter. These attacking tactics materialized in a 9th minute penalty corner that drag-flicker Sandeep Singh converted with aplomb, leaving little time for RR’s Australian goalie Tyler Lovell to react. Keeping the pressure up, JPW earned one more penalty corner in the 15th minute, from which another goal accrued. Kieren Govers took the first shot but it was blocked by Lovell. However, defender Christopher Ciriello had a chance for shooting on the rebound and he sent the ball crashing into the net for a 2-0 lead in favor of JPW. RR improved their game in the second quarter and had higher ball-possession percentage. JPW also created some chances but they were thwarted by RR’s defense. In the 26th minute, RR succeeded in their efforts, when Ashley Jackson scored from a scorching field goal.

In the third quarter too, RR continued with their new found enthusiasm and got another penalty corner. However, JPW defender Gurmail Singh foiled the attempt and the third quarter ended with 2-1 lead for JPW. In the last quarter, Punjab Warriors played a spirited game and earned three penalty corners in close succession. However, RR defense was ready to nullify all these opportunities. The last minute of the match saw unprecedented thrill, when a 59th minute penalty corner was initially blocked but Jackson had a chance on the rebound to get the equalizer. With seconds left for the match, RR earned a penalty corner and this time Ashley Jackson found the mark to finish with a hat-trick for himself and a 3-2 last-minute victory over the hosts.

On February 18, Delhi Waveriders hosted UP Wizards in another thrilling encounter. Five minutes into the first quarter, Waveriders got a penalty corner but Rupinder Singh’s strike was effortlessly saved by UPW goalkeeper Sreejesh. A few minutes later, Sreejesh made another brilliant save, when he blocked Gurwinder Chandi’s firing strike from a smart pass by Sardar Singh in the D. With time for the first quarter running out, UPW also earned a penalty corner but they wasted it and the teams finished goalless after the first session. In the second quarter, UPW went ahead in the 20th minute, when Raghunath converted from UPW’s second penalty corner. Egged on by the lead, the Wizards kept a heavy pressure on the hosts but no more goals came in the second quarter.

The third quarter was also dominated by the Wizards. In the 34th minute, they produced a stunning field goal, when a lovely cross from right by Pardeep Mor found Jeroen Hertzberger standing in front of the goal. Hertzberger was bang on target as UPW went 2-0 up in the match. Delhi Waveriders missed a simple chance soon afterwards, when Gurwinder Chandi sent a superb pass to Lloyd Norris Jones in front of the goalkeeper but Jones missed it. With minutes left in the third quarter, UPW also missed a chance, when Ragunath could not convert from a penalty corner. In a counter attack, DWR were able to force a penalty corner in the 45th minute and Andrew Hayward beat Sreejesh with a brilliant hit. The third quarter ended at 2-1 in UPW’s favor.

There was a feverish activity in the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, when 3 goals were scored in space of 3 minutes. First DWR got the equalizer in the 51st minute from a breathtaking field goal as Matt Ghodes entered the D by beating two defenders and shot past Sreejesh to make it 2-2 in the match. In the next minute DWR went into a 3-2 lead, when another scintillating field goal came from Simon Child. But UPW were not done yet. With minutes left, UPW attacked the DWR goal to extract a penalty corner and this time Raghunath made no mistake. In the dying seconds, both teams tried to improve their positions but the match ended in a thrilling 3-3 draw.