If you didn’t know better, you must have thought after the playoff-game between Amsterdam and Pinoké on Sunday that the Stingneuzen had just won the Dutch title of the Tulip Hoofdklasse Men. Hundreds of Pinoké supporters stormed the field. They hugged and cheered the players, thousands of fans clapped their hands and shouted to their heroes in the packed stands of the Wagener Stadium. “Pinoke ole, ole.”
In reality, the formation of coach Jesse Mahieu ‘only’ won the first game of the semi-final against neighbor Amsterdam after a 2-2 final score with shout-outs . A nice step, but the road to the top prize is long. Very long.
Still, the release from the fans was understandable. For many years, the Sting noses craved to participate in the play-offs. They’ve been close in the last few seasons. Now it was finally time. And they also dealt a heavy blow to the big neighbor in the stadium that you look at from Pinoké’s clubhouse.
‘This was great’, said attacker Dennis Warmerdam afterwards, after he and his teammates had retired to the locker room of the national hockey stadium. “We’ve waited so long for this. In my case more than ten years. We can also enjoy that for a while.’
The international actually enjoyed it from the moment he entered the Wagener Stadium. This was the moment it had to happen, in front of full stands, with the pressure on it. For many debutants, that tension is paralyzing and it is the playoff routines who take advantage of it mercilessly.
Sunday was different. There it was Pinoké who grabbed the multiple national champion by the throat. Exactly according to plan, Warmerdam taught: ‘We had agreed that we would immediately take the game to us. We did. That has been our style of play all year. If we take the initiative, we are good. When it fell silent for a while, we went after them and conceded goals.’
That happened twice, while Pinoké had the better of the game. In the first quarter, Australian Trent Mitton scored the 1-0 after a nice pass from Valentin Verga. Just before half time, Luke Dommershuijzen made the 2-1 from a corner.
Nevertheless, Warmerdam remained confident: ‘We have a certain resistance to a goal. All season long. That’s because of the confidence in the team and in our game. You have to keep relying on that. Many teams lose track when they fall behind and stop with their plan. We kept going today as well.’
That was necessary because Amsterdam’s 1-2 lead was on the board until well into the fourth quarter. Pinoké put Amsterdam’s back against the wall. Amsterdam captain Mirco Pruyser even had to blindly ram the ball forward once in a desperate act. It came to him with booing from the Sting-nose camp. But the Amsterdam tactics seemed to work as time went on.
Until Pinoké got a penalty corner three minutes before the end. The seventh of the game. The Belgian cannon Alexander Hendrickx sent a flaming push, goalie Joren Romijn made a great save and Niklas Wellen saw his rebound hit the post. Like a real goal thief, Warmerdam was in exactly the right place on the second rebound. ‘Then it was cashier’, Warmerdam said afterwards with a big grin on his face about the 2-2.
The striker, who will play for the current national champion Bloemendaal next year, saw in the final minute that a goal from Amsterdam was rejected. That caused a lot of commotion inside and outside the lines in the run-up to the shoot-outs, which had to bring a decision.
Warmerdam himself immediately raised his hand as one of the takers. “We have several guys who can take one. During the last few weeks I’ve been practising well, so I have to take that responsibility.’
Warmerdam took the fourth after all six takers scored for him. The attacker looked for his backhand but found Romijn on his way to new success. ‘That was sour. At that moment, it crossed my mind: I won’t be the only one who misses…’
That was not the case. First, Verga failed. And after Miles Bukkens had scored, Hidde Brink saved twice on a bet by Mitton. Pinoké won for example, which can already reach the final at home on Saturday. Although the fans celebrated extensively, Warmerdam was a lot more sober fifteen minutes after the game. ‘This is a nice base, but we don’t have anything yet. Amsterdam can play all or nothing on Saturday. We still have a long way to go and don’t think we’re almost there yet.’