Sharks Soar in Cup Comp – Ice Hockey News

Solway Sharks drew first blood in a hectic weekend of the first NIHL North Cup games of the season.


Saturday night saw Whitley Warriors’ first visit to the Shark Tank, hot on the heels of the Sharks’ overtime win at Hillheads last week.  A near-capacity crowd made for a lively and noisy atmosphere at the ice bowl, and the play was intense from the start as a fast, physical and skilful Warriors team looked for retribution, and the Sharks determined they wouldn’t succumb.  Captain Struan Tonnar lead from the front, putting his team ahead on the powerplay after 6:12, firing home after smart passing from Peter Gapa and Kyle Horne, much to the delight of the crowd.  Despite Sharks having most of the play Warriors made them work hard for every puck, and at 12:30 their perseverance paid off when Ben Campbell snuck a Harry Harley pass past Gary Russell to even the score. The end to end play continued to the end of the first, when Sharks again took advantage of a Warriors penalty to edge ahead, Gapa finding the net this time at 19:23, Scott Henderson and Lewis Houston taking advantage of the space afforded by the man advantage to pick him out in front of the net for the goal.  The whistle saw the score at Sharks 2 Warriors 1.


The start of the second saw Sharks come out flying, determined to show their speed and skill, Henderson taking passes from Liam Stenton and Gapa straight to the net and firing home to widen the gap after a mere 34 seconds, and the packed crowd were happy to show their appreciation.  More attempts on both goals followed, with numerous credible attempts at both ends, the crowd delighting in the fast, physical passing play from both teams.  It took until the final minute of the period for a breakthrough, Whitley pulling a goal back courtesy of David Longstaff, assisted by Ben Campbell and Dean Holland.  The end of the second saw the score at Sharks 3 Warriors 2.


With the play in the third going first one way then the other there was plenty to entertain the crowd, and both netminders were kept busy under a barrage of shots with both teams hungry for a goal. The final minute of the game saw Warriors netminder Jordan Boyle pulled in favour of an extra skater as they ramped up their efforts to equalise and force overtime, but the gamble backfired as Sharks’ Houston and Henderson combined to win the puck and feed it to Gapa, who sent it into the empty net with 4 seconds left, delighting the team and the crowd with a Sharks 4 Warriors 2 final scoreline.  Gary Russell, with a save percentage of over 92%, was Sharks’ man of the match.


Afterwards, head coach Martin Grubb told us, “It was an eagerly awaited clash after last weekend and the huge crowd helped create a buzz around the rink and I thought we started really well and fed off the crowd. We scored first and created some good chances in the first period and showed our character again after Whitley equalised.   The second period I thought we were very good and only a mixture of poor finishing and some good saves stopped us from building a good lead.  We lost concentration once and were punished and let Whitley back in the game, but we showed our composure and ability to close out a game in the third, and I thought we deserved our win against a good team.”


Sunday saw Sharks take to the road to Billingham to continue their cup challenge.  Up against another young, energetic team Sharks saw their positive start overturned at 3:54, James Moss puting Stars ahead.  Sharks dug in, and when Stars took a penalty Jaakko Heiskanen capitalised at 7:47, netting from Iain Bowie and Scott Crane to even the score.  The deadlock didn’t last long, Stars moving ahead at 11:14 through Tomas Rubes. The Sharks gloom was compounded by another Stars goal at 12:55 from Daniel Silar, before Michael Elder weighed in with their fourth at 14:17, much to the delight of the home fans. There was no further scoring from either side for the rest of the period and the first break saw the score at Stars 4 Sharks 1.


Coaches Martin Grubb and Jamie Thomson regrouped their team during the interval, and whatever they did worked, as the Sharks exploded onto the ice looking towards goal and attacking hard.  In a dominant performance Scott Henderson opened the scoring from Gapa on the pp at 23:18, before Struan Tonnar added another at 29:00, Gapa assisting again – the Sharks were now one goal adrift.  In his rhythm, Gapa added an unassisted goal 20 seconds later to tie the score at 4-4 midway through the game.  Sharks were flying, and it was no surprise when the end to end play resulted in another goal, that man Gapa scoring his second within 3 minutes at 31:48 to put the Sharks ahead for the first time in the game, a powerplay goal assisted by Kyle Horne. The game swung Stars’ way for a few minutes, Russell denying them several times, before Henderson took the game back to them with another goal for Sharks at 37:08, from Heiskanen and Lewis Houston.  With Sharks now 2 goals clear and the score Stars 4 Sharks 6 the play again flipped to the Stars, and Silars added another to their tally at 37:47.  From the face off Sharks again took control, Crane scoring the team’s seventh at 38:10 from Bowie and Heiskanen, before Gapa ended a breathtaking period with his hat-trick goal at 38:42 from Kieran Hair. After 3 Sharks goals in 3 minutes the second break saw the score at Stars 5 Sharks 8 – the Sharks scoring 7 goals in the period.


The end-to-end thrilling play continued into the third period, both teams creating chances and making the most of any opportunity that came their way, both still playing with energy despite the punishing pace.  It was Stars next on the scoresheet, Moss scoring at 47:58 to narrow the gap to 2.  The gap closed even further when Stars took advantage of a Sharks penalty, Moss again with his hat-trick goal at 55:58 to come within a goal of the Sharks – Stars 7 Sharks 8.  It was Henderson who stretched the lead again a minute later, weighing in with his own hat-trick goal, scoring at 56:58 from Heiskanen and Hair to make it Sharks 9 Stars 7.  3 minutes of close calls and breath holding from the travelling support saw the score stand to the end of the game, and the Sharks skated off worthy winners in a thrilling game. Peter Gapa was man of the match for Sharks.


Coach Grubb summed it up, saying, “We started slowly and I think we were guilty of making too many mistakes and not being as solid as against Whitley, and were punished for our poor defensive display.  We made changes to our line-up and system at the end of the first and I thought we were devastating in the second period with our speed, skill and desire, and to score seven goals in a period will always give you a chance to win.  We played a bit tired and nervous in the third period but we did what all good teams do and found a way to see out the game and win.  Billingham came at us hard but we stood strong and that was a great four points over the weekend for the boys.”


After travelling to play in Kilmarnock on Saturday night Sharks are back in home action on Sunday night this week, when they face Aberdeen Lynx at the ice bowl.  Face off is at 5.30pm, and the café and bar will be open from 4.30pm.


See More Images HERE

Latest Articles