A tense 3-2 win over pace-setters Auckland catapulted Capital to the top of the men's points table and, on paper at least, the easier task in tomorrow's semifinals of the National Hockey League at Lloyd Elsmore Park.
Capital went into the last of the round-robin games a point back from Auckland but with goals from Jason Hilton, Matt L'Huillier, Jacob Smith snatched the points after leading 2-1 at halftime. Capital will now face Southern in the semifinals while Auckland will be up against North Harbour in the earlier clash between the second and third-placed teams.
North Harbour, after a slow start and picking up only one of eight possible points in their first two outings, won yesterday's must win game over Canterbury 4-0 to seal their place and Southern, who beat Northland 2-1 got through on the countback having beaten Midlands in pool play.
North Harbour, who scored twice in each half with veteran Dave Kosoof leading the charge with a brace, will take the psychological advantage into the game against Auckland after beating them 3-0 earlier in the tournament.
Central, who shared the spoils with Auckland a year ago when the final was cut short by shocking weather, were well off the pace after losing to Midlands 4-2 in bitter conditions yesterday.
Despite having the same points and a better goal difference, Midlands dipped out to Southern in the final analysis. Southern won their round four clash 3-2.
Southern, who have played steadily all week, now face Capital buoyed by their round-robin result when they won 4-3 in Dunedin.
The Canterbury women continued their winning way with a 4-0 win over Capital to end the pool phase as the only team - women or men - with a perfect seven-win record.
Led by two goals from Hannah Marshall, Canterbury scored two in each half, to confirm their favourites tag. They will face North Harbour in the second semifinal tomorrow confident of repeating the 3-1 win they scored in round six.
Needing to win their last game against Auckland yesterday to be assured of a top four finish, Harbour got home 1-0 with Petrea Webster's second half goal the difference.
Midlands booked their place in the top four and kept their hopes of a first K Cup triumph alive with a comfortable 4-0 win over luckless Northland.
With teams through to the men's and women's semifinals, Auckland and North Harbour have the chance of claiming the double but such has been the closeness in both competitions at the tournament that is a huge ask.