Sharks Sting Sutton In League Showdown

Sharks Sting Sutton in league showdown
Gary Russell in action, credited to Helen Hobbins photography

The Building Craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks travelled to Sheffield on Saturday to take on Sutton Sting in the NIHL league.  Despite the Dumfries side winning convincingly on the previous 2 competitions on home ice, the last meeting of the sides in early January saw Sting win by 4 goals to 2, so nobody was expecting an easy game.

The first period started with both teams being cagy, Sharks taking a while to get their pace up after the journey.  When play settled it was end to end, the sides evenly matched for the most part.  There were plenty of attempts on both goals as each team looked for the advantage, and lots of near misses and good netminding to keep the travelling support entertained. In the Sharks net hard-working Gary Russell turned away a total of 21 shots to keep a clean sheet and at the end of the first period the game was goalless.

The period break saw coach Martin Grubb make a few adjustments to his lines, and a revitalised Sharks hit the ice fast for the second period.  Taking control of the game they soon forged ahead, a nice wee move round the net by Gordon Horne and Scott Crane feeding the puck to Ruairi Lockerbie in front, and he tipped it up over the shoulder of Miles Finney for the opening goal at 23:25.  Sharks worked hard all over the ice, putting Sting under pressure for the remainder of the period. Sharks had the majority of the play, but Sting always looked dangerous on the break and at times had Sharks pinned back in their own zone.  Russell was again solid at the back, keeping his net clear, and the period break saw the Sharks with a one nil lead.

The final stanza saw Sharks again on the front foot, their fast play seeing nice puck movement from Ewan Anderson to Peter Gapa, who dished the puck off to Scott Henderson to beat Finney for Sharks second goal at 42:07.  Sting were not done though, and just after the half way point of the period took advantage of a Sharks penalty to score through Stanislav Lascek, halving the gap at 52:06.  Momentum on their side Sting kept the pressure on, and Adrian Palak netted the equaliser at 54:53. With the teams equally matched both sets of players stepped up the pressure, and the rest of the game passed in a flurry or attacks at both ends of the ice.  There was no further scoring, and as the clock ticked down the score was tied at 2 goal apiece, and overtime beckoned…

Sharks were on the attack from the whistle, winning the face off, Liam Stenton sending the puck to Henderson who passed to Gapa who beat Finney for the overtime winner – after a mere 10 seconds of play.  A delighted Sharks team took the victory, and 2 valuable league points.  Gary Russell was Sharks’ man of the match.

Afterwards coach Grubb commented, “The last time we played Sutton in Sheffield we lost the game so we knew they would come out hard and we would need to be better than the last time. I thought we started a little slow after the long travel and slowly grew into the period but Rusty was solid and let us get ourselves into the game.  We made some lineup changes after the first and we were much better in the second and got ourselves in front and dominated most of the second period and I thought we should have been further ahead.  The third period started well for us and we were managing the game well until we took a couple of stupid penalties and they got a bit of puckluck on the PP and we found ourselves in a tied game when we should have taken our chances and finished the game off before that.  Before OT I told the boys I wanted it finished and to find a way to win and they showed their character and a desire to win and scored the winner after 10 seconds and that was pleasing.  Overall I felt that we dominated the game for long spells and better finishing would have made it easier for us but Sutton are a good team and we were happy to get back to winning after a touch weekend last week and the boys deserve credit.”

The Sharks are back in action at Dumfries Ice Bowl on Sunday night this week, facing Kilmarnock Thunder at 5.30pm.