Double Delight for HAWKS
by Chris Riley
Blackburn Hawks vs Sutton Sting
Blackburn Hawks continued their relentless march to invincibility this weekend, as the league champions disposed of two of their rivals in ruthless fashion.
Second placed Sutton Sting were the visitors to Blackburn on Saturday on the back of a fine 6-1 victory over Billingham, a win that helped Hawks secure the title.Â Hawks were without Pavel Slowik and did not ice Matt Viney or Ric Hughes despite being dressed.
Sting were soon on the back foot, as some neat stick work from Jordan Bannon drew a 2 minute slashing penalty from Ashton.Â After some patient build up play Hawks took full advantage, with Tom King beating Zimozdra to open the scoring.
Bannon was proving to be the main threat for the home side early in the stanza, twice forcing the former Steeldogs stopper into blocker saves from powerful wrist shots.
An off the puck incident saw Luke Brittle sit out 2 minutes for roughing, as the visitors tried to curb the threat ofÂ Blackburnâ€™s leading scorer by any means possible.
The home side thought they had doubled their lead on 14 minutes when Jared Owen forced home a rebound, only for his effort to be ruled out after the puck had rebounded to him off Zimozdraâ€™s mask.
Adam Brittle was next to draw a penalty as he was halted by a wayward stick on entering the oppositionâ€™s zone.Â Despite laying siege to Suttonâ€™s goal, they held firm and went into the dressing room one down, despite Hawks total dominance.
The second period began as the first ended, with Hawks in complete dominance, with Bannon and MacKriel again calling Zimozdra into action.Â The champions were not to be denied though as the evergreen MacKriel skated onto a pass from Aaron Davies to fire home with the aid of a deflection.
Sutton did make the odd foray into the Hawks zone but such was the home sideâ€™s determination to keep a clean sheet, they were seldom allowed to get near Daniel Brittleâ€™s goal.Â On one such occasion a slap shot which could have troubled the Blackburn net minder was halted by a sprawling Ravey to loud cheers from the home crowd.
The remainder of the period saw Blackburn in the ascendency, but two power play opportunities failed to see the home side add to their lead.
Sutton came out for the final period determined to add a physical element to the game., but as has been the case on many occasions this season,Â Blackburn were more than a match for them, with Adam Brittle giving back as good as he got with a fierce hit-in against the board.
Hawks were frustrated time and again by the impressive Zimozdra as they looked to see out the game with a third goal.Â They were not to be denied however as Adam Brittle fired clinically into the top corner with a minute remaining.
Although the visitors were never really in the game, they always have a chance with Zimozdra between the pipes and will make a very dangerous play-off opponent should they make it to Dumfries.
Result: Â BlackburnÂ Hawks 3 – 0 Sutton Sting
Whitley Warriors vs Blackburn Hawks
On Sunday Blackburn travelled north to take on a Whitley Warriors, determined to hang on to their unbeaten record.Â The home side are in grave danger of finishing in the relegation play-off position and badly needed a victory to keep in touch with Sheffield Spartans.
Hawks were again without Pavel Slowik du to injury, and Ric Hughes, who did not travel due to the impending arrival of his first child.Â Daniel MacKriel was also unable to dress as he was required to sit on the bench as a level two coach.
The game got off to an explosive start in the first minute as D.J Good and Jordan Bannon decided to drop gloves at centre ice after the Whitley man slashed Bannon off the puck.Â A spirited tussle saw both combatants land some decent blows and set the tone for the evening.
Warriors were the fastest out of the traps and were ahead just four minutes in, with Chris Butler sitting out a 2 minute hooking penalty,Â Dean Holland rifled a slap shot into the top corner, giving Stuart Ashton no chance.
Blackburn were soon on level terms when Aaron Davies was on hand to stab home from close range after good stick handling behind the net from Luke Brittle.
The relentless pace continued as Warriors were giving as good as they got with Harley testing Ashton on a breakaway.Â Hawks nearly went ahead with Adam Brittle combining with his younger brother to force Turnbull into a smart pad save.
It was the home side who went into the first break in the ascendancy as Holland added to his tally, smartly rounding Ashton after intercepting from a dawdling Arnone in the Hawks zone.
The early stages of the second period saw Whitley on top as Hawks found it difficult to clear their own zone at times.
They were offered a golden opportunity to equalise with two Whitley players sat in the box giving the visitors a 5 on 3 situation.Â Despite camping themselves in the Warriors zone, Hawks couldnâ€™t press home their advantage, but the tide was turning.
Blackburn have fallen behind in every league game they have played in the north east this season.Â With this in mind the large travelling support were far from worried and true to form the visitors equalised through another Davies strike.Â After receiving a pass from the industrious Viney, the forward squeezed his shot home from close range, to make the score a Desmond (2.2).
A minute later the champions were ahead as Luke Brittle scored his customary goal, following smart work from Owen and Adam Brittle.
Blackburn were now taking control of the game and nearly added to their lead before the period closed out, through Tom King.Â This was largely due to spending much of the time on the power play as Warriors were in danger of losing their discipline, giving away soft penalties.
Talking of discipline Blackburnâ€™s Ollie Lomax was also given a ten minute misconduct penalty, meaning he will miss next weekâ€™s meeting with Billingham and the following week away to Sutton.
Both teams entered the final period knowing that the next goal was crucial and it was the Hawks who got it as Tom King arrived in front of goal at just the right time, as he so often does to score in the top corner with less than ten minutes remaining.
Despite Whitleyâ€™s best efforts, Blackburn were very comfortable and were now playing smart Hockey, turning their opponents round and making them play in their own zone.
Whitley pulled their net minder with four minutes to go but it was Blackburn who looked the more likely to score.Â After 5 failed attempts on goal, Ric Ravey finally finished the game off as he calmly finished into the unguarded goal from his own half.
Result: WhitleyÂ Warriors 2 – 5 Blackburn Hawks
[Images courtesy of www.eventog.uk]