Sharks Ladies Stoic in Swindon

   Solway Sharks Ladies traveled south to Swindon at the weekend to participate in the annual end of season British Woman’s Ice Hockey Friendship Tournament. The competition consisted of teams from the Dumfries side’s Division One level as well as giving them the opportunity to test themselves against some of the UK’s best teams from the Premier and Elite Leagues. Minus a line of regulars, the weekend would see impressive contributions from all squad players.


Sharks started the tournament on Saturday with an opening fixture against Sheffield Shadows. A very gutsy effort saw the Sharks’ roll all three lines as they would over the whole weekend and keep the experienced opposition at bay. The dynamic pace of Sheffield’s GB international duo of Saffron Allen and Jodie Bloom caused all sorts of problems and it took their best efforts to finally beat Sharks netminder Sarah Gibson (sponsored by William Kennedy Plumbers.) Not to be outdone, Sharks raised some eyebrows when their own GB u18 international Beth Milne (sponsored by Sandy & Suzanne Milne) picked up a lay off from Mandy Dinning (sponsored by Sound Travels) to soar up the ice before unleashing a screened shot over the Sheffield keeper’s shoulder into the roof of the net to tie the game. Allen was twice on hand toward the end of the game though as she picked out line mate Bloom who complimented the set up play with some great finishes to secure a 3-1 win for the Shadows.


Sharks continued their fixtures with a narrow 1-0 defeat to the Premier League’s Nottingham Vipers before picking up their first point of the tournament by shutting out Coventry Phoenix in a gritty 0-0 stalemate. Further international experience from the clinical Katie Henry and Cloë Keijzer saw the Sharks on the end of a 7-0 whitewash from the Elite League’s Solihull Vixens which would be the trigger for the Sharks to display great bounce-back-ability and play some of their best hockey of the season thereafter. Some great defensive zone play and a fantastic effort from Basingstoke Bison’s netminder saw the Sharks held 0-0 in game five before ending the day by taking on Premier League Champions and hosts Swindon Topcats. An amazing effort throughout saw shot after shot turned away comfortably by Gibson in the Shark’s net with her teammates forcing the shots from wide angles. With just a minute left, however, Swindon sent a desperate shot goalbound from the blue line which only found the net via a double deflection to hand the hosts and eventual tournament winners a 1-0 victory.


The Solway Ladies having gained confidence from the Saturday games and Solihull education took on Oxford Midnight Stars first on Sunday morning. Despite going a goal down against the run of play, the Sharks maintained composure when Milne reversed a pass from behind the Oxford net for Mo Muir (sponsored by Hazel Mair Therapies) to tap home with five seconds left to earn a third draw of the competition. The momentum grew further as the Sharks then took on Blackburn Thunder and took the game to their Division One rivals. Midway through the game Lisa Calvert (sponsored by Kyle & Taylor Carruth) collected a Muir pass but with little time to shoot, slid the puck to Karen Craig (sponsored by The Bank of Poor Paul) who made no mistake in opening the scoring. With two minutes remaining Milne cut in from the wing and although her shot was well saved by Blackburn’s netminder, youngster Vicky Carson (sponsored by CMS Broadband) was on hand to slip the rebound home and secure a 2-0 victory, the goal being Carson’s first at senior level.


A heart breaking last second goal via another deflection saw Bracknell Firebees squeeze a 1-0 win in game nine with Premier League Widnes Wild also scraping the same result despite some fantastic teamwork by the ever improving Sharks. The final game saw a tough prospect in another Premier League team, Milton Keynes Falcons. The Sharks’ fantastic character again shone through though with the defensive zone covered solidly and the forwards asking questions of the opposition goalie. The game ended in another 0-0 tie, Sharks’ netminder Gibson earning her fourth shut out of the weekend.


“The tournament was a great experience for the ladies” commented Sharks coach Jamie Kerr. “We got to compete against teams of a similar, higher and a lot higher level than ourselves. With 3-4 of our regular point-getters unavailable, we played well and gained results against all the teams at our level and were narrowly and on more than one occasion very unluckily edged by some Premier teams. The Solihull game, although lop-sided, shows the girls how top level teams can operate and seize on momentum. Overall, it was great to get everyone playing and get those players that haven’t iced much this season due to injuries, health, work commitments etc playing. It’s a positive end to the season and they can take the confidence solidified over the two days into the summer and get ready for the new season to better themselves again.”


Sharks Ladies’ MVP of the tournament was netminder Sarah Gibson for her solid and consistent performances over the weekend, which saw her pick up four clean sheet shut outs.

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