The Hercules Apparel sponsored Solway Sharks had a busy festive period, with 4 highly entertaining fixtures between Christmas & the New Year, coming away with 4 points & a sense of things finally falling into the right place, just in time for 2024 and the second half of the season.
A Boxing Day trip to Leeds was on the cards for the Sharks, and despite playing some entertaining & skilful hockey, it was the table topping Knights who ended up with the late Christmas present of 2 points, as they inflicted a 3-1 defeat on the Sharks. Positives were to be taken from the fixture however, especially from the defence, as last time out the Knights won 7-3.
The following night, in front of a record home crowd at the Dumfries Ice Bowl, the Sharks showed true determination & grit as they fought back to an incredible 5-4 overtime win against the Hull Seahawks.
Despite taking the lead early in the 2nd period, thanks to a home debut goal from Caly Robertson, the Seahawks were able to equalise minutes later. The Sharks did fight back to take the lead later in the match, before the Seahawks scored 3 unanswered goals to take a 2 goal lead into the final 5 minutes of the game. With the clock ticking, Head Coach Martin Grubb took a huge risk in pulling netminder Curtis Warburton from the Sharks goal, to give them the man advantage.
The risk of an empty net was well worth it though, as Robertson & Olivier Arseneau blasted home to tie the fixture up with mere seconds left in the third period, before the Sharks’ John Dunbar scored the winner with just 35 seconds gone in sudden death overtime – to send the crowd wild & secure the 2 points!
3 days later on the 30th of December, the Sharks welcomed the Telford Tigers to another record crowd at the Ice Bowl, and looked to continue the visitors 7 game losing streak.
However, despite plenty of chances for the Sharks & Tigers, it took over 40 minutes of play for the first goal to be recorded by either side, as the visitors went 1-0 up. Much like buses, where you wait hours for one & two to arrive seconds apart, the Tigers were able to double their lead, before securing an empty-net goal & shutout win over the Dumfries outfit to take a 3-0 win, and snap their losing streak.
Looking to end the year on a high, the Sharks travelled back to East Yorkshire for their last game of 2023 – against the Hull Seahawks who they had beaten in overtime a few days previously. The Sharks started the game in the best possible way, with Nolan Gardiner scoring in the opening 2 minutes, before scoring again giving the Sharks a 2-0 lead into the second period.
The Sharks secured their third of the evening, when Scott Henderson was able to slot home early in the second period, before the Seahawks staged a huge fightback, where they were able register 3 unanswered goals to level the scores by the end of the second period. The fairytale ending for the hosts was ruined however, when Gardiner recorded his hat-trick goal in the third period, to give the Sharks the 2 points and a 4-3 win.
Following a huge week of fixtures, starting netminder of the 4 fixtures, Curtis Warburton, stated;
“Over the holidays it was fun to play in a full shark tank. I think we’ve played our best hockey this season. It’s always tough to play 4 games in 6 days but we battled hard and did what it takes to win. We are entering the business end of the year and we need to keep picking up points to secure a playoff spot.”
Meanwhile, looking back at the weekend, player & head of Hockey Operations John Dunbar had the following to say about the games over the festive period;
“It was an entertaining stretch of games over the holidays and we were happy to collect a handful of important points. The team really seems to be gelling at the right time as we head into the New Year. It has been nice to see really full crowds at the Shark Tank as the atmosphere the fans create gives us so much momentum. We are really looking forward to two huge games at home against Bristol this upcoming weekend.”
The Sharks now look ahead to the weekend, when they welcome the Bristol Pitbulls to the Ice Bowl for a double-header weekend on Saturday 6th (19:00) & Sunday 7th (15:00) of January. As an extra incentive for fans to make both fixtures, tickets for the match on Sunday are half-price. You can get your tickets for these games now, either via the club’s website (www.sharksihc.com) or in person at the Ice Bowl.