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Aixen end local dominance

Craig Cozier

Aixen end local dominance

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Aixen of Germany broke a lengthy streak of local domination on Saturday, becoming the first foreign men’s winners in the Banks International Hockey Festival since 1999, edging out defending champions All Stars 1-0 in an entertaining final under the lights at Kensington Oval on Saturday.
The decisive goal came from the stick of Bastian Gerke in the 24th minute, but both sides created a number of chances with the respective goalkeepers, Pascal Knies of Aixen and Andre “Ba” Boyce of All Stars outstanding throughout.
While All Stars couldn’t fashion a repeat, A Badd Connection (ABC) women continued their rich dynasty with their fourth straight title, Dionne Clarke’s double inspiring a 2-0 over Deacons. ABC’s success was their eighth since first winning the event back in 1998 and was their sixth in the last seven years.
The ABC girls played the tournament with a skeleton squad but had enough quality to progress without much bother and, in the final, see off a Deacons side eager for a first triumph.
National cap Clarke gave ABC the lead midway through the first half following a neat penalty corner move and sealed the victory with a second, also from a penalty corner, this one a spectacular effort on the reverse stick, in the 47th minute.
In the men’s final, All Stars, seeking their fourth title, began the stronger, with Dario Jordan just failing to turn home Ramon Leacock’s wayward strike following good approach play from Neil Franklin inside the first five minutes.
The visitors’ goalkeeper had to be sharp to keep out Deron Harper’s reverse stick shot as the locals enjoyed the better of the early exchanges.
But the Germans began to take control as the half wore on, defender Jeffrey Webb having to save on the line and Boyce being forced to be at his best between the uprights.
The breakthrough arrived for Aixen in the 24th minute, following a cheap giveaway from a 16-yard hit out by All Stars. The Germans pounced and the impressive Gerke lifted past Boyce from close range.
Aixen continued to look the more threatening before the break, Boyce keeping All Stars in the match with some critical saves.
Despite Aixen enjoying their best spell, All Stars probably should have levelled just before half time with Small sprinting clear for a one on one with the goalkeeper, who pull off a fantastic reverse stick interception to thwart the Barbados national.
All Stars’ trump card for the past two Festivals has been their penalty corner routine, with Franklin’s drag flick being the main weapon. They earned a number of penalty corners in the second half but Knies in the bars repelled all that Franklin had.
Aixen were set back by the loss of goalscorer Gerke midway through the second half after he tried to block a Webb clearance and suffered a deep gash on his nose from the defender’s stick.
The final quarter hour was end-to-end stuff, with All Stars the more menacing as they hunted an equalizer. But, ultimately, they could not find a way through.
Aixen captain Philip Schmitz was delighted after his side’s success.
“We saved for four years to make this trip and to win it is a fantastic feeling,” he said.
Final scores
Aixen (Germany) 1 (Bastian Gerke 24th)
All Stars 0
A Badd Connection 2 (Dionne Clarke 17th & 47th)
Deacons 0
Plate winners
Men: Du Badd Crew
Women: All Stars
Mixed: Rockets