THE return leg of the Milo Cup quarter-finals will only see one tie which is still alive, UniKL Young Guns against Politeknik-KPM at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Sunday.
Three teams in Olak-PKT, SSTMI Thunderbolts and Petal ing Jaya City Council all have healthy cushions from their first leg on Friday.
Politeknik-KPM, the Division Two playoff champions, were a little jaded in the first leg, but have the players to turn the tables on UniKL who only won 3-2 on Friday.
During pre season, UniKL Young Guns were touted as the team to beat in the Milo Junior Hockey League.
But things went horribly wrong for them as not only were they soundly beaten to the Division One League title by defending champions SSTMI Thunderbolts (4-1), but they are also struggling in the chase for the Milo Cup.
Also missing is UniKL's 12th man - their supporters group who provide the moral boost from the stands that drove the team forward in previous seasons.
“We struggled for large parts of the first leg and this probably was due to the fact that the players were too eager to seal the match early,” said UniKL Young Guns manager Mohamed Faiz Isa.
“Conceding the early goal put further pressure on the team and that compounded matters. Only in the final ten minutes did we play hockey we are capable off.
“For the return leg we need to thread with caution and not allow them to score as that will boost their confidence.”
Faiz said that he was optimistic UniKL will make the last four and their performance will improve.
The other last-eight matches are just formalities, as SSTMI Thunderbolts hold an 8-0 lead over MS Pahang Juniors. BJSS trail PJCC 4-1 and Malacca High School also trail Olak-PKT 4- 1.
“We are a young side and considering that making the last eight was a good achievement," said MS Pahang coach Benedict Arrias.
“Let's be honest, Thunderbolts are a class act and we hope that one day our players too will play with the same confidence as our quarters opponents do.”
For BJSS, they are not prepared to throw in the towel yet: “We need to score an early goal to get back into the match,” said BJSS coach S. Prakash.
“We made far too many mistakes in defence and could have avoided the heavy defeat had we played with more confidence. Still I believe that we can bounce back if we show determination from the first whistle.”
Olak are playing with renewed confidence and should make it through to the last four, a creditable achievement for a Division Two side who missed the 2010 edition through financial troubles, the only time they did not play in the MJHL since it's inception in 1995.
SUNDAY: Quarter-finals return leg: Bukit Jalil Sports School (1) v Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (4) (4pm, Pitch II); Politeknik- KPM (2) v UniKL Young Guns (3) (4pm, Pitch I); MSP Pahang (0) v SSTMI Thunderbolts (8) (6pm, Pitch II); Olak-PKT (4) v Malacca High School (1) (6pm, Pitch I).
(Note: All matches at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil. First leg scores in parenthesis).