Surbiton goalkeeper David Kettle revealed he was at a loss to celebrate his Championship play-offs exploits on Sunday – because he is not used to being the hero.
The 25-year-old Wales international made two crucial saves as his side beat Reading 3-2 in a shoot-out after their Men’s Hockey League Premier Division third-place play-off had ended all square at 1-1.
Balham-based Kettle was not a good enough out-field player to make the grade as a goalscorer having only taken up the sport to burn off excess energy as a schoolboy.
But the years spent playing hockey’s loneliest position paid off in spades at the weekend – much to the hero’s surprise.
“I’ve won one or two shoot-outs for Wales before, but nothing in serious competition,” he said.
“You always practise them but they don’t actually happen that often and rarely turn out like that.
“I didn’t really know what to do when I saved the last one.
“I thought about running to our supporters or running towards my team-mates and ended up doing nothing really. I just stood there and got mobbed.”
Head coach Todd Williams’ men missed out on automatic EuroHockey League qualification in losing Saturday’s Championship semi-final 6-2 to East Grinstead, but an Alan Forsyth penalty forced Sunday’s third-place play-off to a shoot-out as they bounced back in style.
The result kept Surbiton in the hunt to qualify for next season’s EHL, with their participation hanging on who well the three English clubs still involved – including Williams’ men – perform at this year’s EHL quarter-finals in Eindhoven at Easter.
Surbiton face Dutch side Oranje Zwart on April 17 and Kettle admitted his side had more reason than most to perform well.
“This is a very proud team and we were gutted to lose to East Grinstead,” added the Commonwealth Games-bound stopper.
“But we kept European qualification in our hands.
“We want to show people that we are not the flash in the pan people think we are.
“We are building each year. It will be tough in Holland, but we can do well.”
Surbiton’s women bid to go one step further than their male counterparts at the Women’s Hockey League Premier Division championship play-offs in Berkshire this weekend.
Captain Sarah Haycroft’s team, who finished third in the table, take on hosts Reading in the semi-finals needing to reach Sunday’s final to stand a chance of qualifying for the EuroHockey League.
Surbiton have won one and lost one of their two encounters with Reading this season.