The Building Craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks were in action in the Scottish National league last weekend, travelling to Dundee to face the Comets on Saturday before facing Murrayfield Racers at home on Sunday.
After the journey Northwards the Sharks took to the big Dundee ice apace, keen to make their mark. Ruairi Lockerbie opened the scoring with a Sharks goal at 3:50, in a well-worked move from Kyle Horne and Peter Gapa. Gapa was next on the scoresheet with a powerplay goal at 8:15, assists coming from Scott Henderson and Lewis Houston who used the extra space to their advantage. Comets pulled one back at 11:22, Lewis McIntosh halving the deficit with a shorthanded goal. Undeterred, Sharks ploughed on, Iain Bowie finding Henderson who found the net at 14:50, followed by Lockerbie with a fine unassisted goal at 18:11. Sharks weren’t done yet, Bowie and Henderson combining again in a forward rush, Bowie with the goal at 18:35. The first finished with the score Comets 1 Sharks 5.
The second period saw Sharks start well, a flying Lockerbie adding another unassisted goal for his hat-trick at 21:15, but Comets were determined and put up a fight, pulling out all the stops to contain the Sharks attack, while keeping the defence and Calum Hepburn in the Sharks’ net busy. Despite end to end play there was no further scoring, and the second break saw the score at Comets 1 Sharks 6.
Sharks again got off to a great start in the third, the Henderson – Bowie combination again bearing fruit, Bowie finding the net at 41:39. Comets were determined, and their perseverance paid off when John Dolan found the net at 43:39 to pull one back. More determined play from both sides saw chances at both ends, and as the game neared its conclusion Comets struck again, John Gordon with the goal at 57:08. Revitalised, the Comets added another seconds later, courtesy of Billy Baxter, bringing the score to Comets 4 Sharks 7. Neither team relaxed as the clock counted down, and Henderson added another to restore a bit of the gap at 58:05, on the end of passes from Ben Coughtrie and Liam Stenton.
The final score was Comets 4 Sharks 8, and Calum Hepburn was man of the match for Solway.
Coach Martin Grubb said afterwards, “Dundee are a good offensive team and we wanted to make sure we got of to a good start and put their defence under pressure straight away. I liked the way we played in the first period and we moved the puck well and scored some nice goals but then we switched off a little too much and I wasn’t overly happy with how we played in the second and third period but we got the job done and kept our momentum going.”
Sunday saw the Murrayfield Racers return to Dumfries Ice Bowl. The last two meetings had been close, with the game decided with 6 seconds left on both occasions, Sharks emerging victors both times. The sizable crowd expected a thriller, and they were not disappointed as a fast, physical and evenly-matched contest took place. Despite end-to-end productive play from both teams, and due to hard work from both sets of defenders and netminders, neither team capitalised on the many chances during the entertaining first period, which finished goalless.
Things ramped up during the second as both teams fought to get ahead, working hard all over the ice. Play was physical and there was a string of injuries to content with. It was Sharks who broke the deadlock, taking advantage of a powerplay to work the puck round the Racers net, Stuart Kerr picking out Gap in space, the latter sinking it in the net for the game opener at 28:07 much to the delight of the crowd. Racers were swift to reply, Callum Boyd breaking away to score shorthanded at 29:54 to restore the balance. More penalties ensued and Sharks’ powerplay again proved fruitful, Kerr and Scott Henderson combining to supply Jaakko Heiskanen who put the Sharks ahead again at 33:19. There was a nailbiting moment when Racers’ Lewis Gold was awarded a penalty shot, but Gary Russell made the save to keep the Sharks ahead. Despite dogged performances the remainder of the period passed with no further scoring, and the buzzer saw the score at Sharks 2 Racers 1.
The third saw both sets of fans on the edge of their seats as more scoring chances were thwarted at each end, the intense pace making great viewing. It took until the final stretch for another goal, Racers Ross Borwick equalising at 52:07 and sending Racers fans to their feet. With the game there for the taking the players all looked for another gear, and the winning goal. Just over a minute later Gapa put the Sharks back in front, sending a Henderson pass straight past Mark McGill in Racers net to reclaim the lead, send the home fans to their feet. The final 6 minutes of the game were a blur of attacks and heroic defending as the players gave it everything, but despite having a 5-on-3 powerplay Racers could not find a reply and Sharks emerged jubilant victors, the final score Sharks 3 Racers 2.
Gary Russell was man of the match for Sharks.
Martin Grubb told us afterwards, “The games against the Racers have all been 1 goal games so we knew we would need to be ready to compete for 60 minutes and execute our game plan to get a result. The first period we looked a bit tired from the Saturday travel but we grew into it and had a few chances. The second was littered with penalties and we managed to get ourselves ahead with a couple of powerplay goals and put ourselves in a good position. The third period we seemed to be killing for the whole period and the players frustrations were evident with some of the penalties called and that made the game very scrappy and difficult to manage, but we showed huge strength of character to get ahead and then kill off a huge 5 on 3 to make sure we kept our unbeaten record and finish with another four point weekend.”
Sharks are back in action in Dumfries on Saturday night at the usual time of 7pm when they face Billingham Stars. The last meeting in Billingham saw a 16-goal thriller, Sharks overturning a 4-1 deficit to win the game 9-7, so this fixture promises to be compelling.