x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Abu Dhabi Storms warning in the play-offs

The capital side and defending champions will be eliminated if they lose to Al Ain Theebs, while the Dubai Mighty Camels need to beat the Al Ain Vipers to make their third successive final.

The Storms, in black, need to beat the Theebs to have a chance of defending their Emirates Hockey League title.
The Storms, in black, need to beat the Theebs to have a chance of defending their Emirates Hockey League title.

The Abu Dhabi Storms face a must-win game tonight when they visit the Al Ain Theebs in the semi-finals of the Emirates Hockey League play-offs.

The defending champions surrendered a 3-0 lead and lost to the Theebs 4-3 on Sunday night, and will be eliminated in the best-of-three series if they fail to win tonight.

"It is very hard to say what has gone wrong," Matti Fagerstrom, the Storms forward, said. "It is the confidence. I think it is at very low ebb at the moment. That's the situation right now and we need to just work on it."

The defeat was the Storms' second in succession. They lost to the Al Ain Vipers in the final game of the regular season, which denied them a first-place finish.

"We have gone through the details of the last match and did a little bit of practice on the areas we need to improve," Fagerstrom said. "It is a mental thing just now because we know we can play better.

"The Theebs are better than they were a few weeks ago. They have hit the peak and we are little bit struggling. We are now in a must-win situation and we will go out there and try to win this game."

Rok Jakopic's presence seems to have invigorated the Theebs. The 24-year-old Slovenian forward, who has played his entire professional career in Austria before arriving in Al Ain three weeks ago, scored twice in their win over the Storms.

"We didn't play as we wanted to play in the first period and we then had a little meeting during the break and started to play as we said before the game," Jakopic said.

"It was easy for us and became difficult for the Storms. After I joined we started on a bit of a physical training and a little system training to raise the level of our play. It was a good team effort but we now need to play as we did in this game to complete our qualification for the final."

Meanwhile, the Dubai Mighty Camels are looking to reach a third successive final when they meet the Al Ain Vipers in the second game of their play-off semi-final at Dubai Mall. The Camels won Sunday's match, 6-4, but the Vipers will draw comfort from the fact two of their regular season wins came against the Camels.

"We played a solid game, we stuck to our game-plan and it was good enough for Game One," Ron Murphy, the Camels captain, said.

"However that means nothing now; we need to finish off the Vipers as quick as possible. We know they have a strong team, but I think we need to keep the game plan for Game Two."