Solway Sharks continued their return to Scottish National League ice hockey on Saturday night, when Dundee Comets came to the Shark Tank.
The expectant crowd was not disappointed as Sharks put on a dominant performance, taking the game to Dundee from the outset. First period goals from Peter Gapa (2), Kyle Horne and Marcus Murdoch saw the Sharks set out their stall early, despite some good play from a hard-working Comets team who couldn’t manage to find a way past Gary Russell in the Sharks net.
Sharks again controlled the play during the second period, their defence working hard to contain the Comets attacks, while Sharks forward lines added to the goal tally courtesy of some fine passing play. Ruairi Lockerbie, Iain Bowie, and Jaakko Heiskanen (2) all found the net to see the score at the end of the second sit at Sharks 8 Comets 0, assists once again spread throughout the team.
A change of netminder saw Calum Hepburn step between the pipes for the final stanza. With some fine passing play amongst the Sharks players it wasn’t long into the third before there was further scoring, Struan Tonnar and Scott Henderson both netting, before Comets pulled one back at 51:33 courtesy of David Pokorny. Taking the game back Henderson added another, swiftly followed by Tonnar with his second. In the final second of the game Comets scored again, John Dolan sneaking in to score their second of the night just before the final buzzer. The final score was Sharks 12 Comets 2 and Scott Henderson was Sharks’ man of the match.
Coach Martin Grubb said afterwards, “I thought we came out ready to play at a high tempo, moved the puck well and created lots of scoring opportunities which was pleasing. It may sound strange but I didn’t think it was a 12-2 game as the Comets are a good team and had their opportunities, but their short bench and our speed caught up with them. It was good to keep the momentum going from last weekend and show that this new young team has plenty of skill, speed and offensive threat to it.”
Sunday saw Sharks hit the road for their first foray into SNL away games, heading to Kirkcaldy to take on the Kestrels. The first period of the feisty game saw some physical play, both teams working hard and Sharks having most of the play. There were numerous credible attempts on goal by both teams, Russell in the Sharks net and his Kestrels counterpart David Jackson working hard. Despite the entertaining play the first period ended goalless, and it was into the second with honours even.
Sharks came out for the second in determined fettle and proceeded to take the game to Kestrels. With some battling play all over the ice it took until the half-way mark for scoring to commence, ex-Flyer Iain Bowie with Sharks’ first, followed in rapid succession by Scott Henderson, Lewis Houston and Ewan Anderson, Kestrels unable to find any response to the onslaught. The end of the period saw Sharks with a comfortable 4 goal cushion.
The second break saw the Sharks regroup and come out flying for the final period, Henderson adding his second after only 17 seconds, before Anderson netted his second of the night to add to the team tally. Kestrels found a way past Russell with 10 minutes left, Jamie Wilson the scorer. Not content to rest on their laurels Sharks added more in the final 5 minutes, Henderson with his hat-trick goal before Houston finished the scoring for the evening. The final buzzer saw the score at Sharks 8 Kestrels 1, and Scott Henderson was man of the match for Sharks.
Grubb commented, “Fife is never an easy place to play and they know how to play on the bigger ice, and I thought we were average for most of the first period. We had most of the puck and a couple of PP opportunities but never really got going. We made a few adjustments at the intermission and came out better in the second and started to get ourselves going and managed to stay focussed in a scrappy, stop-start game. Overall we did our job and showed we can play defence as well as score goals and it was a good win to wrap up a four-point weekend.”
Captain Struan Tonnar shared his thoughts on the team return to the Scottish National League, saying, “After a few years playing exclusively in the English leagues it is great to get back to playing Scottish teams that we used to meet regularly, revive some old rivalries, and see how we measure up against them. SNL standard is on the up, with teams aiming for a higher level than in the past. Saturday I thought we played our game against the Comets and dictated a lot of the play. On Sunday it was great to be back in Fife, games against any Fife team are always competitive and Sunday was no different. They came at us fast and forced us to skate and play smart. Overall it was a good weekend for us. I think we have set a standard, now we need to get back to a new look NIHL after some good tests in the SNL.”
Solway Sharks are back in action at home on Saturday night (September 14th), their first NIHL game of the season against Nottingham Lions facing off at 7pm.