Ards manager Phil Mills paid tribute to his players as they retained the Denman Ulster Shield when they defeated Pegasus 2-1 on penalties after a 3-3 draw in the final at Comber Road on Friday to claim the famous trophy for the 11th time.
In a match of high drama, Pegasus looked dead and buried as they trailed 2-1 in normal time before netting a last gasp equalizer to force extra time.
And then the roles were reversed when the Belfast side took the lead in extra time only for Ards to force the penalty shoot out when they equalized with the last action of the added 10 minutes.
Then Ards keeper Naomi McKnight became the heroine when she saved two penalties to win the trophy in the shoot out.
“Vanessa Surgeoner’s shot flew past me to make it 2-2 but we dug deep in extra time to force the shoot out.” said McKnight.
Pegasus striker Alex Speers was disappointed at the result but said it was a great game to play in.
“That’s the sort of ocasion you want o be involved in - it wasn’t our day but it was a terrific game of hockey and both teams played well in periods of the game.” she said.
“We didn’t play well in the first half and the players knew that so we had a chat about things at half time,” said Mills.
“We performed a lot better after the break although we thought we had lost it when they scored to make it 3-2 in extra time with only three minutes left.
“But our corners were going well and we knew we had a chance when we got one right at the death.
“Tamara Macleod kept her composure . She picked her spot and managed to earn us the penalty shoot out.”
The Co Down side had beaten Pegasus 3-1 in last year’s decider to end a 50 year trophy drought.
Now they are on course for a double success as they are still well on contention for the Ulster Premier League title.
“We hopefully can build on this result and take things forward into the rest of the Premier League campaign and the Irish Hockey League,” added Ards captain Naomoi Elliott.
Suzanne Ferris put Pegasus in front in the 33rd minute but Ards drew level 15 minutes later when Chloe Brown netted a rebound.
Emma Reid made it 2-1 with a set piece with 11 minutes to go only for Surgeoner to blast in a last gasp penalty corner home to force extra time.
Taite Doherty converted a right wing cross at the far post but Tamara Macleod forced the shoot out with the last action of a pulsating 80 minutes.