Tiger claws cling onto narrow victory
The BCD Solway Sharks completed their NIHL (North) 1 league fixtures for the season with a hard-fought but ultimately disappointing three-two defeat to the Telford Tigers at the Shark Tank on Saturday evening.
The Sharks knew that they had to be at the top of their game if they were to beat their ex-EPL opponents and this meant maximum effort and concentration from the opening puck drop. Unfortunately events did not start out as planned when the teams took to the ice. With less than two minutes gone Adam Jones and Scott McKenzie combined to set up Jack Watkins (01:46) to score with a tame looking shot from the left-hand face-of circle that must have caught the Solway netminder unsighted. Undeterred the Sharks came roaring back and were once more on level terms just sixteen seconds later. A Joe Coulter pass sent Duncan Speirs free on the left wing and his pinpoint pass across the face of the Telford goal found Iain Bowie (02:02 pictured) free at the back post and he joyfully fired the puck into the net.
For much of the remainder of the period the visitors held the upper hand in terms of possession and territory but Solway clung on valiantly and posed a number of problems for the Tigers defence when they were able to break in numbers. It was looking like the teams might head into the first interval with the scores level until disaster struck. A needless trip by the hard-working Joe Coulter on the Telford blueline gave the visitors an extra man. On the resulting powerplay Telford showed their class as they patiently passed the puck around until a gap opened up for Corey Goodison and Richard Plant to set up Warren Tait (19:09) to fire the puck over Calum Hepburn’s blocker and into the net.
The Sharks knew that it was vital to score first in the second period if they were to hold out any real hope of beating their opponents. Unfortunately luck was not to be on their side. Telford won possession from the restart and immediately found space on the right when a Solway defender lost an edge and that was all the visitors needed for Richard Plant to send Jason Silverthorn (20:24) through on goal and he expertly committed the netminder before chipping the puck into the net.
For a time it was real “backs-to-the-wall” stuff for the Sharks but they showed a great deal of heart and determination to repel the Tigers pressure and keep their goal intact. Mention should also be made of netminder Calum Hepburn who made a number of fine blocks to keep the deficit to two. As the period wore on with no further damage suffered Solway seemed to take heart and might well have scored themselves with Duncan Speirs and Iain Bowie looking particularly dangerous but netminder Denis Bell made several good saves of his own and the second intermission arrived with the visitors leading by three goals to one.
The final session started with Telford once more on the front foot by the Sharks defended well and as the period progressed they began to come into the game more and by the final ten minutes they were looking the more dangerous team. With three minute remaining they got the reward their endeavours deserved. Iain Bowie, with nowhere to go, passed the puck back along the left-hand boards to James Hutchinson (56:59) who immediately drove a powerful first-time slapshot into the Telford goal.
The Sharks swarmed in for the kill but the Tigers used all of their experience to limit their opponents to long range shots as they resolutely guarded the centre of the danger area. With a minute to go coach Grubb called a time out and on resumption of play pulled his netminder in favour of an extra forward. For the last fifty-two seconds Solway tried all they knew but a clear shooting opportunity just wouldn’t come their way and Telford were able to run the clock down and secure their single goal victory.
The Man of the Match Awards were presented to Denis Bell for the visitors and to James Hutchinson for the Sharks.