Sharks Winning Ways Continue

The Building Craftsmen Dumfries Solway Sharks were in action in both the English National and Scottish National leagues this weekend, their unique crossover position covering both leagues over two nights.

First up, the team welcomed Nottingham Lions to the ice bowl on Saturday night, a large crowd in attendance to watch as they continued their quest for NIHL league points.  Despite controlling the game from early on Sharks took a while to make an impact, Lions working hard to thwart their attacks and defending strongly.  As the halfway point of the period passed Sharks finally found the net courtesy of Peter Gapa, sending a Ewan Anderson cross to the back of the net at 10:53, much to the delight of the Sharks’ fans. Finding their rhythm Sharks now dictated the run of play, and it was no surprise when Gapa struck the net again 5 minutes later, assisted again by Anderson and Struan Tonnar.  Despite several credible attempts on Lions goal their netminder Joshua Crane pulled of a succession of great saves to keep the puck out, facing 32 shots, and there was no further scoring in the first.  At the break the Sharks held a 2 goal to nil lead.

Lions again worked hard to contain Sharks through the first part of the second period, and for 12 minutes they managed to keep them at bay, despite the Sharks attacking hard – Crane again protecting the Lions net from a volley of Sharks shots.  In the 13th minute Sharks added to their tally, Gordon Horne finding his way past Crane into the net from some smart work from Scott Crane and Kyle Horne.  Sharks took advantage of the stoppage to change netminders, Calum Hepburn taking over in the Sharks net from Aaron Forsyth, who had maintained his clean sheet.  Just minutes later Sharks scored a short-handed goal, Liam Stenton collecting the puck from a Hepburn clearance and sending it goalward with Gapa, who made no mistake finding the back of the net for the Sharks’ fourth.  The clock ran down to the end of the period with no further scoring and the second break saw Sharks with an unanswered 4 goal lead.

The final stanza saw the Sharks take control of the game, the crowd at the ice bowl appreciative of the skill on show.  Just seconds into the play Scott Henderson took advantage of the space afforded by a powerplay and added a grand unassisted goal.  8 minutes later Stevie Adams weighed in with another, picking up a Ben Coughtrie pass and slotting it past Crane.  Another Lions penalty saw Sharks on the pp once more, and this time captain Struan Tonnar found the net at 50:33, from a Gapa pass on the end of good work round the Lions net.  Hardworking Lions didn’t give up, and continued to make Sharks work for every puck, despite the 7-goal difference.  In the final minute of the game Sharks struck again through Gordon Horne, assisted by Michael Thomson and Stevie Adams, taking the final score to Sharks 8 Lions 0 – 2 valuable points added to Sharks’ NIHL total.  Peter Gapa was Sharks man of the match.

Afterwards coach Martin Grubb commented, “Nottingham always come and work hard and they have improved over the season, but we wanted to get back to winning ways after the Murrayfield game last Sunday.  We started the game with lots of possession and took a little bit of time to get fully into our stride but when we did we scored some nice goals and were able to use our full bench and give some valuable experience to our young players.”

Sunday night saw Sharks travel to Edinburgh to take on the Murrayfield Racers, hot on the heels of last weeks’ defeat at the hands of the Racers that saw Sharks exit the Northern cup.  Looking for a vital 2 points to see them strengthen their Scottish title challenge, Sharks knew Racers were looking for a win – Sharks one-goal victory in their earlier match-up the only defeat Racers have faced this season, and only one point separating the two at the top of the league.

The first period saw the teams evenly matched, play and momentum switching from one team to the other as they fought for possession of the puck and the upper hand.   There were numerous attempts on goal at both ends, Gary Russell busy in the Sharks net while his Racers counterpart Mark McGill was tested under a barrage of shots in the other.  The sizeable Sharks support was thoroughly entertained by the fast, skilful play, as was the huge crowd on the Racers side of the rink.  The balance of play tipped one way and then the other throughout the period, until Racers made their mark first, just under two minutes before the end of the period.  It was Callum Boyd with the goal, and the first break saw the Racers with a one goal lead.

Both teams came out fast at the start of the second, but Racers were fastest, Joel Gautschi catching Sharks unawares and scoring on the first play of the period after a mere 11 seconds.  Sharks were swift in their response, Stuart Kerr winning the puck and supplying Ewan Anderson who found Scott Henderson, who went straight to the net and slotted the puck past McGill for a Sharks goal at 20:59, reducing the deficit to one.  More end to end play followed, the teams evenly matched and neither giving anything away easily.  The next breakthrough was in favour of the Racers, taking advantage of a Sharks penalty to add a powerplay goal at 29:10 through Michael Ireland – the halfway point of the game seeing Racers with a 2-goal cushion once more.  Sharks kept up their attacks, only to be denied repeatedly by McGill, and the end of the second saw the score at Racers 3 Sharks 1.

Coaches Martin Grub and Jamie Thomson rallied their troops in the break, and the Sharks fans were in fine voice as the play resumed for the third and final period, vocal in their support for the team.  After a mere 30 seconds a breakaway saw smart play between Scott Henderson and Stuart Kerr as they rushed the Racers net, Kerr with the final strike to reduce the deficit.  By this point both teams were flying, the pace and precise passing making it a great game of hockey for both sets of spectators.  As the final 10 minutes approached Racers scored again as Garry Simpson sneaked the puck past Russell at 49:28 – Racers again with a 2-goal lead.  Sharks, however, were not done, and when Racers took a penalty they took full advantage.  Moving the puck well Ruairi Lockerbie found Kerr in space, Kerr’s shot was kicked wide and the rebound picked up by Iain Bowie who slotted it home blocker side of McGill for Sharks third at 52:53, reducing the gap to a single goal with 7 minutes remaining.  Sharks were now on a roll, putting Racers under more pressure, and Liam Stenton batted a loose puck into the net only to have it waved off by the referee, judged to be a man in the crease.  Sharks still had momentum on their side, and kept applying pressure round Racers net.  As another shot was kicked wide by McGill Racers tried to clear their zone only for Stenton to stop the puck on the blue line, send it quickly to Bowie, flying on the way to net, who turned, fired and scored past McGill for the equaliser at 55:24 – the Sharks fans on their feet in delight as the team celebrated on the ice.   With just over four minutes to play and the score tied at 4 goals all Racers threw everything they had at the Sharks net, Russell in almost constant action keeping his net clear.   When Sharks took a penalty in the final minute Murrayfield stepped up the pressure, even pulling McGill to make it 6 skaters to 4 , but they could find no way past the determined Sharks and the final buzzer saw the tied score guarantee both teams at least one valuable league point.  However, a conclusion was required, and overtime followed. With Sharks still under a penalty the spell started with Racers having 4 skaters to Sharks 3, reverting to 3 skaters each seconds of play as Racers took a penalty of their own.  The sides were again evenly matched, but as Sharks gained the extra skater at the end of their penalty the upped the pressure again.  When Racers took a second penalty at 61:21 Sharks gained another man advantage, and Grubb called a timeout to talk to his players.  Resuming play Sharks had a 5 on 3 advantage and it was only a matter of seconds before their sustained pressure on Racers net paid off, that man Gapa taking a Scott Crane pass and beating McGill at 62:15 for the overtime victory and the valuable 2 league points – the Sharks fans loud in their support.  Scott Henderson was man of the match for Sharks.

Coach Martin Grubb told us after the game, “We knew going into this game that this would be a potential league decider and that we needed to be better than we were last week to get the result we wanted. I thought we started well enough and created the better chances but were punished for our first mistake and found ourselves behind in the game. We stayed patient and the game was evenly matched but we couldn’t grab the lead and found ourselves in a tough spot going into the last period. We talked about what was needed in the third period and how we needed to show our desire to win and we dominated most of the third period and the players showed tremendous character to get ourselves back to 4-4 and give us the point and a chance to play for the extra point. We got a power play in OT and took a timeout and the players executed what we wanted and we were obviously delighted to get the win on the night and leave the Scottish league title in our own hands. It was a good night for the players and I must say our travelling support was exceptional and we look forward to the same noise at home this week in another huge game.”


Sharks are back in action at the usual time of 7pm at the ice bowl on Saturday night, taking on Whitley Warriors in a top of the table NIHL clash.

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