Hawks 5 â€“ 0 Sting: Match Report
[by Chris Riley, Mr Dodgeball]
[main image by Steve Pollitt]
The Blackburn Hawks entertained Sutton Sting on Sunday evening looking to capitalise on their 2 wins already this season.
A comprehensive win at last yearâ€™s runners up Billingham was followed up with a stuttering home win to Moralee new boys Telford Tigers.
The visitors were icing for the first time this season, and were hoping to put a marker down to the rest of the league. Similar to the Hawks, it has been a summer of changes for the Sheffield based outfit, with Ian Johnson moving upstairs and Ian Ross taking on the role of player coach. Sting have also been boosted by the signing of former Sheffield Senator marksman Serejs Jegorovs, a prolific point scorer in the Senators promotion campaign from the Laidler Conference last season.
Hawks were missing Ollie Lomax and iced 15+2 while Sting travelled with 19+2.
After a delay to the start of the game to secure one of the nets, the home side were straight onto the attack with Andy Dunn forcing Zimozdra into action almost straight from the face off, following neat build up play from Arnone and Adam Brittle. Hawks were fast out of the blocks and dominated both possession and territory in the opening 5 minutes. Sting were using their big bench to try and thwart the home sides rhythm.
It was while Blackburn were killing a Dave Meikle roughing penalty that they took the lead through Adam Brittle. Strong work against the boards from Rjay Berra allowed him to Tee up the former Telford man to beat Zimozdra from close range. Next it was Max Drakeleys turn to sit out for two minutes as he was called for hooking. This allowed Sutton some much needed possession in the Hawks zone, but this resulted in only one shot on Stuart Ashtonâ€™s goal.
Hawks were now finding space on the ice and a fierce slap shot from Bentham resulted in a scramble round the crease, but Hawks were unable to beat Zimozdra. The rest of the period provided little action as the Hawks went into the first break one to the good.
Period two began in the same vein as the previous one as the home side peppered the Sutton goal. Zimozdra once again stood firm and to wave of attacks from Blackburn, denying Brittle, Miettinen and Simister in quick succession. Bentham was now starting to dictate play with his clever positioning and use of the puck, and with the industrious Matt Viney getting in the faces of the opposition, Hawks were penning Sutton back into their own zone.
The pressure finally proved too much as Aaron Davies managed to beat the impressive Russian from a tight angle to double the lead. It was now like the proverbial London bus as Hawks soon added another. David Meikleâ€™s cross shot was fortuitously deflected in off a Sting skate, following smart build up play between Aaron Davies and Matt Viney.
Although comfortable in their play, Hawks were becoming a little complacent in their own zone and a series of misplaced passes nearly resulted in Sting attacks on Ashtonâ€™s goal. A less profligate side than Sutton would make teams pay for such errors.
Jordan Bannon was a frustrated character on the night and it was the Liverpudlian who was involved a flashpoint with Johnson as the period drew to a close. This resulted in the Blackburn man drawing a 2+2 roughing and misconduct penalty to give the visitors an opportunity to get back into the game. Hawks saw the penalty and the period out to go into the final period in a comfortable position.
It was Sutton who began the final stanza in the ascendency, desperately trying to get a foothold in the game and test the home sideâ€™s nerves. Thankfully for Blackburn Stuart Ashton was to prove a more than adequate barrier to keep his shut-out intact. This appeared to give the champions a wake-up call as they swarmed all over their opponents. With Sting serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, Blackburn hit the post 3 times in a 60 second onslaught.
Adam Brittle added his second of the night, slotting home from a tight angle following good work from Arnone and Berra.
Ziomzdra was finally beaten for a fifth time as he uncharacteristically gave-way an Aaron Davies’ effort slid under his body. This was the cue for the stopper to end his own evening prematurely to allow his understudy Brown some ice time. As he skated off Zimozdra was given a general ovation by the knowledgeable and fair home crowd. The rest of the period was played out with little goal mouth action.
It must be a concern for the rest of the league that this new look Blackburn Hawks team are winning games comfortably without gelling as they would perhaps like. With new players still being integrated, the champions are only likely to get stronger and more formidable.
It is difficult to assess Sutton after just one game. Their lack of firepower must be a concern, yet with Zimozdra in goal they will always be in games. If they find an attacking formula they may be a threat as the season progresses.