Debutants Ranchi Rays will face season’s most consistent team Jaypee Punjab Warriors in the summit clash of the third Hero Hockey India League after both teams registered contrasting wins in their respective semifinals.
The Rays kept their nerves to get the better of Uttar Pradesh Wizards in a lengthy penalty shoot-out in the first semi-final today, while in-form Punjab Warriors beat defending champions and hosts Delhi Waveriders in the second last four game later in the evening.
While Ranchi Rays and Punjab Warriors will face off in the final tomorrow, the Waveriders and Wizards will fight it out for the third spot.
In the first semi-final earlier in the day, India cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni co-owned Ranchi Rays eked out a thrilling 9-8 win over Wizards in the shoot out after both the teams were locked at 1-1 at the end of regulation time.
Dragflicker VR Raghunath (34th minute) gave Wizards the lead from a penalty corner before skipper Ashley Jackson (41st) levelled the scores for Ranchi by converting a penalty stroke.
After both the teams failed to find the winner in the remaining 19 minutes, the match went into the shoot-out.
The Rays were guilty of taking the match that far as they earned as many as seven penalty corners in the regulation 60 minutes but failed to convert a single one.
The Wizards, on the other hand, converted one of their two short corners through Raghunath’s fierce flick in the 34th minute.
After a barren first quarter, the Rays secured four penalty corners in quick succession but Wizards goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was right upto his task to deny the debutant outfit as both the teams failed to score at the halfway mark.
Four minutes after the change of ends, Wizards broke the deadlock when Raghunath scored with a powerful, high flick from his team’s first penalty corner.
But Wizards lead was shortlived as Jackson drew parity seven minutes later from the spot.
The Wizards got another penalty corner soon but this time Ranchi custodian Lovell Tyler came up with a fine save.