Sharks bounce back into NIHL action

Saturday night saw the Building Craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks back in NIHL action, welcoming Sutton Sting to the Ice Bowl in their first meeting of the season.

Taking a while to get into their rhythm, Sharks found themselves struggling to make an impact early in the game, and despite several credible attempts they couldn’t find a way past Sting netminder Ben Ward to back of the net.  Taking advantage, Sting took the upper hand towards the end of the period courtesy of Lloyd Gibson at 17:53.  While Sharks were still gathering themselves Sting struck again, Adrian Palak with the goal at 19:33, leaving the home team with a two-goal deficit at the break.

Words from Martin Grubb and Jamie Thomson in the break saw the Sharks start the second in more determined fettle, heading straight for Sting’s net, on the attack from the start.  Jaakko Heiskanen was first in the scoresheet, passes from Iain Bowie and Kyle Horne setting up the strike at 22:50.  Peter Gapa wasn’t far behind, scoring at 25:03 from Stuart Kerr and Liam Stenton.  Taking control of the play Sharks added another courtesy of Kerr at 30:18, assisted by Scott Henderson and Stenton.  Using the extra man advantage from a Sting penalty Captain Struan Tonnar made no mistake finding the net at 31:56, his powerplay goal assisted by Bowie and Horne.  The score sat at Sharks 4 Sting 2 as the half-way point of the game passed, an embattled Sting struggling to contain the Sharks’ attacks, the ice bowl crowd loving the action-packed game.  As the end of the period drew close Stenton added to the tally with an unassisted goal at 38:17, before Gapa weighed in at 38:34 on the end of passes from Ewan Anderson and Henderson.  The score at the end of the second was very different, Sharks with a 6 goal to 2 lead.

Sharks came out confident and flying at the start of the final period, Gapa and Anderson combining to see the latter score after a mere 14 seconds.  Heiskanen stretched the lead further a few seconds later, sending a Tonnar cross to the back of the net for Sharks’ eighth.  Sting were not finished, and as the latter half of the period approached Stinislav Lascek clawed one back with a goal at 49:32.  Sharks were swift to restore to gap, Bowie scoring at 51:27 from Heiskanen and Marcus Murdoch with what would be the last goal of the game.  The final score saw the Sharks with a convincing 9 – 3 victory, and Peter Gapa was Sharks’ man of the match.

Sharks captain Struan Tonnar commented, “We took a while to get started and find our rhythm tonight, and Sting are a team that you don’t want to give a lead.  We did a good job of turning the game around and dominated the second, our guys scored some nice goals and lots of the boys contributed points.  Sting kept working hard and scored another in the third, but we shut them down again and by that time the game was all but over.  It was another good league win, and I hope our supporters were as happy with the game as the team were.”


Sunday saw the Sharks hit the road to the Forum to face Billingham Stars.  The last game there saw Sharks come back from a 4-1 deficit to win the game 9-7 in dramatic fashion, scoring 7 goals in the second period, and the team and the travelling support knew there was no prospect of an easy game.

Sharks again struggled to get going, while Stars flew out of the blocks and had most of the early play, setting their stall out with the opening goal at 4:58, Chris Sykes with the strike.  Sharks upped their intensity and dug deep and were rewarded with a goal from Peter Gapa at 12:20, assists coming from Scott Henderson and Ben Coughtrie.    As the period progressed Sharks were matched in their efforts by Stars, the play end to end.  Jaakko Heiskanen broke through with an unassisted goal at 18:30, doubling the Sharks’ lead by the end of the first period.

The play was pacy and entertaining in the second, with numerous attempts on both goals as both teams worked hard up and down the ice.  Liam Stenton extended the Sharks’ lead at 26:07, on the end of passes from Heiskanen and Marcus Murdoch.  Sharks finishing again proved too much for Stars, Ruairi Lockerbie and Heiskanen linking up for a Lockerbie goal at 33:38.  There was much more attacking play from both teams, but with Gary Russell in Sharks net and his counterpart Mark Watson both working hard there were no further goals, and the score at the end of the second was Stars 1 Sharks 4.

The final period saw the close physical play continue, and Stars’ efforts saw them add another goal at 44:48, Tomas Rubes with the strike.  Sharks were equal to the challenge, and Gapa replied at 48:34, assists coming from Henderson and Anderson.  With the action thick and fast Stars added another seconds later, Craig Thurston scoring at 48:46.  With their lead in danger and Stars pressing hard Sharks put themselves on the back foot by taking a couple of penalties, giving Stars opportunities on the powerplay.  Sharks successfully killed the first, but that man Rubes took advantage and scored on the second, bringing Stars within a goal at 54:04.  By this time the sizable Forum crowd was on the edge of their seats, the intense play end to end on the ice as Stars threw everything they had at the Sharks net, including taking Walker off in the final minute in favour of an extra skater.  Sharks whole team worked hard defensively and managed to see off the pressure to the final whistle, securing another league victory, albeit a narrow one at Stars 4 Sharks 5.  Lewis Houston was Sharks’ man of the match.

Afterwards Martin Grubb reflected, “We knew Stars would come out hard and fast, and that’s exactly what happened.  We played our game and were patient, chipping away, we took our chances and we got better as the first period progressed.  Our second period was really good and we got ourselves a good lead, but then we went to sleep.  The fact that we sometimes struggle to compete for a full 60 minutes really jingles my bells, but we still found a way to compete and a way to win.  We soaked up a lot of pressure in the third, we took unnecessary penalties and that put us under pressure –  Stars have a good attack and it was inevitable that they would take their chances when they arose.  We just used our experience to grind out a road-game win which will help us in our quest for silverware.”

Sharks are back in action at Dumfries Ice Bowl on Saturday night with the usual face off time of 7pm, taking on Blackburn Hawks in NIHL league action.  After the game there is a free “Skate with the Sharks” session – come along and join the team on the ice (free skate hire also available).

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