ALL-LOCAL outfit Tenaga Nasional are enjoying their rare moment under the sun, as they enter the second leg semi-finals of the TNB Cup on level terms with raging favourites Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC).
And Maybank Tigers finally bared their fangs when they beat League champions Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) 3-2 and are looking dangerous going into the return leg today.
Maybank were a docile side in the League as they only had five draws and five defeats to show, but the knock-out has brought out the best in their stripes.
Maybank, trailing UniKL 3-1 in the knock-out stage, upset the formbook and won 4-1 for a 5-4 aggregate to book their semis ticket. And the upset of the season was when they beat THT at their own turf in Kuala Terengganu, a venue where they were hammered 6-1 by coach Sarjit Singh's million-Ringgit outfit.
However, the story of the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) is not on the semi-finalists with all four teams still alive going into the second leg, but Tenaga's blooding of youth.
Tenaga Nasional, who are the only team fielding an all-local side, have 15 under-24 players who played with confidence to help their team hold four-time consecutive double champions KLHC to a 1-1 draw.
Overall, the Utility Giants have the largest number of youth, as they only relied on five seasoned players to hold the fort, and did not hire foreign hands.
"We will be playing KLHC for the fourth time on Friday, and it looks like my young brigade have finally found their footing. They not only helped keep alive the club's aspirations of playing in the final, but their maturity will also help the country in the long run.
"We had this in mind when we declined the management's suggestion to hire foreign players before the league started. As the argument was that if we give away slots in the club to foreign imports, we will not achieve our ambition of nurturing youth for the country," said Tenaga coach Nor Saiful Zaini, a former national skipper.
In their three encounters against KLHC, Tenaga lost the Charity Shield 5-3, second round 3-1 and drew the semis 1-1.
"We have managed to close them gap on KLHC after three matches, and hopefully, walk away with a win tomorrow (today)," said Nur Saiful Zaini.
But there is gloom in the club and also bad news for the national team's preparations for the World League Round Two in Singapore on Jan 17-25 as prolific striker Shahril Saabah picked up a shoulder injury and will be out for at least two weeks.
As for KLHC, coach K. Dharmaraj rued the 10-day rest: "I think the 10 day rest we had while waiting for our semi-finals opponents cooled down my team, while Tenaga playe two extra games to keep their momentum intact. The Tenaga youth have also shown tremendous progress and it will not be easy in the return leg."
TODAY -- Semi-finals Return Leg: Maybank (3) v Terengganu HT (2) (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 6pm); Kuala Lumpur HC (1) v Tenaga (1) (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 8pm).
Note: First leg scores in parenthesis.