The building craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks delivered another crowd-pleasing thriller as they faced close table rivals Solihull Barons at Dumfries Ice Bowl on Saturday night, still stinging from their defeat in Solihull in November, their only loss to date.
In determined fettle Sharks took to the ice fast, coach Jamie Thomson looking for his team to get an early advantage. Despite maintained pressure by the Sharks it was Barons who struck first, Thomas Soar putting the visitors a goal ahead in after ten minutes. Sharks refused to be cowed and kept up with their attacks on Barons goal, looking for the equaliser while soaking up pressure from the Barons at the other end of the ice. They were rewarded after just 4 more minutes of play, Iain Bowie finding the net from Kyle Horne to level the score, much to the delight of his teammates and the packed crowd. There was more exciting play for the rest of the period, with good chances at both ends, but despite their best efforts neither team could break through and the first period break saw the score tied.
There was end to end action in the second period, with puck battles all over the ice and Sharks looking to have the upper hand, but despite the fast pace and engaging play there was no further scoring, the well-matched teams equal to the challenge. Despite the lack of goals there was plenty of action to entertain the supporters, with several skirmishes as tension on the ice built, and Gary Russell in the Sharks net having to work as hard as his Barons counterpart Sam Hewitt.
The final stanza saw play continue apace, both teams looking for the advantage to put themselves ahead. A smart bit of play round the Barons net in the 49th minute saw Ruairi Lockerbie find Peter Gapa, who fed the puck to Struan Tonnar on the blue line – when the Sharks Captain’s strike found the net his delight was clear, and echoed in the stands. Seconds later Gapa was involved in the Sharks next goal, using the space on the powerplay to pick out Bowie who again made no mistake in sending the puck to the back of the net – Sharks 3 Barons 1. The goal-fest continued, Gapa going it alone to beat Hewitt with a fine solo effort to make it 4 at 51:56, three goals in 3 minutes putting the Sharks in charge. Sharks then found themselves on a five minute penalty kill, and with a man disadvantage they struggled to contain Barons attack force. Niklas Ottosson took advantage and pulled one back at 55:03, before Richard Slater followed suit at 57:25, bringing Barons within 1. A nervy final couple of minutes passed with Sharks giving their all to keep Barons at bay, and at the final buzzer they were delighted to emerge victorious, the 4-3 scoreline adding another 2 points to their league campaign. Scott Crane was Sharks’ man of the match.
Afterwards coach Jamie Thomson, taking the reins from Martin Grubb who is on GB duty, commented, “We knew this weekend was going to be hard with some of our players being unavailable for the first time this season against two of the better teams in the league, Solihull came in well prepared and confident after beating us earlier in the year but we battled hard for the win, every player played their part and I can’t ask for more than that.”
Sunday saw the team travel to Sheffield to take on Sutton Sting.
Sting hit the ice fast and caught the Sharks off guard, Stanislav Lascek putting them ahead after only 42 seconds. Sharks regrouped and fought hard, but as the end of the first period approached Sting drew further ahead, Adrian Palak with a short-handed goal at 17:28. Sharks were quick to respond this time, Gary Russell in Sharks net playing a long puck to Iain Bowie who sent it to Peter Gapa for the goal-scoring strike at 18:02. Not done Sting struck back almost immediately, Palak again at 19:41. At the first break the score sat at Sting 3 Sharks 1.
The second period saw both teams work hard, and there were numerous credible attempts at both ends of the ice, Sharks trying hard to get back into the game. Sting struck with another at 25:50, Cameron Glasby with the goal. Sharks kept working hard, and as the period played out they were rewarded with a goal at 39:17, Gapa and Kyle Horne combining to feed Kieran Hair for the strike on the powerplay. The end of the second and the score was Sting 4 Sharks 2.
Despite Sharks best efforts they could find no way through the Sting defence in the third, and they had to work hard to soak up pressure. The end of the game saw the score at Sting 4 Sharks 2, just the second defeat of the season for the Dumfries team, who currently remain top of the NIHL league. Gary Russell was man of the match for Sharks.
Afterwards coach Jamie Thomson reflected, “Sunday we travelled light to Sheffield to play Sutton, who were flying off a big win the night before and caught us a little flat footed at the start, but we made some adjustments and pulled ourselves back into it as the game went on. There were chances there that normally would have been tucked away and we 100% could have came away with the win but it was one of those nights. The lads really emptied the tanks this weekend, and I’m very proud of them. We now regroup for a massive weekend coming up and aim at getting back to winning ways.”
Sharks are back in NIHL action on Saturday night at the ice bowl, taking on Billingham Stars. Face off is the usual time of 7pm.