NIHL North Playoff Weekend 2016
Emma Hill reviews the NIHL North Playoff Weekend from 9th-10th April.
Widnes go wild for semi-final win over Lions
Widnes Wild 3
Nottingham Lions 1
Kick starting playoff weekend in style, Nottingham Lions took to the ice against Scott McKenzie’s Widnes Wild for one last time this season as both teams set their sights on a spot in the Laidler Conference playoff final. Whilst the Lions opted for netminder Thomas Hovell between the pipes, shot stopper David Good was entrusted with the role at the other end of the ice. Though Widnes had made the trip to Sheffield with a slightly shorter bench than their opposition, it was clear that both teams were raring to go to be in with a chance of claiming the silverware.
The action opened with some early domination from Nottingham and it was not long before the Lions were ahead, young prospect Connor Glossop receiving the puck from Hovell to set up experienced forward Robert Perks with close to seven minutes played. Continuing to battle for possession, Widnes found themselves struggling to make an impact in front of goal whilst Nottingham appeared the organised outfit, working the puck in the Wild’s defensive zone to test Good. This game was always going to be a challenge for both teams however and, though McKenzie’s men outshot the Lions by eleven shots to six, Widnes failed to make the best of their chances before losing Chris Gee to the sin bin following a cross checking call from referee Mitchell Kempster.
This penalty continuing into the second period, Widnes were able to run down the clock without conceding further, their return to full strength allowing the side to build on previous offensive opportunities. The Wild continued to work hard and were soon rewarded with a power play when Lions’ captain Stuart Parker was made to serve two minutes for boarding. Applying pressure to Nottingham’s defence, Widnes eventually bagged their first goal of the game with just five seconds left of their advantage, Slovakian Michal Fico on target following some neat linkup play between player-coach McKenzie and captain Shaun Dippnall to make it 1-1.
Further attempts on Hovell’s net saw a switch in play as Widnes began to show themselves as a force to be reckoned with, outshooting their opposition to make life difficult for the Lions who had previously been in control. Both sides unable to find the back of the net before the break, it was the turn of the Lions to go a man down when blue liner Elliot Perrin took a minor boarding penalty with just eleven seconds left of the period to play.
As a result, the final instalment of the semi-final saw the tables turned as Widnes began on the power play and the side made no mistake in their efforts to punish the Lions as Fico turned assist alongside Dippnall to allow alternate captain Geoff Wigglesworth to snatch the lead for his team.
Shortly after this goal, a clash between players saw both Widnes defenceman Thomas Jackson and Nottingham’s junior Joe Humphries receive five minutes plus game for roughing. Becoming increasingly fiery, Luke Thomas soon warmed a seat in the sin bin for unsportsmanlike conduct but Widnes’ power play did not last long as, just over a minute later, Daniel Bullock was punished for a trip to create a level playing field for the Lions.
With both teams seeing an equal share of the puck, and such a narrow margin separating the two, anything appeared possible as Nottingham called a timeout on 49:14. Time fast running out and neither side able to break down the other’s defence, the Lions pulled netminder Hovell with less than a minute of the game remaining in one last bid to make it to the final. Unable to make the additional skater count, the puck was scrambled away to the Laidler Conference’s top points scorer McKenzie who dashed Nottingham’s hopes with an empty net goal to seal Widnes’ place in the playoff final.
Champions net victory against steadfast Sharks
Blackburn Hawks 5
Solway Sharks 2
Having fought hard to claim fourth place in the Moralee Conference, the very fact that Solway Sharks found themselves in a playoff semi-final against Blackburn Hawks was always going to be considered a great achievement by all associated with the Dumfries outfit. Competing with the champions however, was not going to be an easy task as Martin Grubb’s men lined up against an incredibly strong Blackburn Hawks side, boasting Division One’s top points scorers, Adam Brittle and Richard Bentham.
Undeterred by this line up, it was the Sharks who pulled the trigger first as some early pressure from Solway allowed Slovakian player-assistant coach Martin Cingel to launch the puck past netminder Daniel Brittle on 1:29, following neat link up play between captain Struan Tonnar and forward Marc Fowley.
Gaining confidence from this early success, it was the Sharks who took control of the period as Blackburn attempted to recover from the shock of their early concession. With several opportunities created in front of Brittle’s net, including a chance for Cingel to grab his second of the game, Solway dominated in the Hawks’ defensive zone with MacKriel’s men only managing five shots on Hobbins’ net by comparison.
The score line 1-0 in Solway’s favour at the end of the first period, the Sharks returned to the ice with a view to add to their tally whilst Blackburn were eager to turn their fortunes around. As the Hawks began with some strong possession in the opening minutes of the middle stanza, it was not long before the title-winning team had found the back of the net; Lee Pollitt and alternate captain Matt Viney working together to set up fellow forward Aaron Davies who made no mistake in snatching an equaliser.
Just fifty two seconds later, the puck was fired over the red line by Richard Bentham who struck before Solway could respond following support from Tom King. As the Sharks attempted to regain their composure, instantly calling a timeout, Blackburn remained on the front foot to make it 3-1 soon after, Bentham returning the favour to ensure King printed his name on the score sheet, this time captain Chris Arnone also claiming an assist.
With Solway’s lead having slipped from their grasp in spectacular style, it was clear that the side needed to act quickly but, try as they might, the Sharks could not combat Blackburn’s offensive efforts and the Hawks were able to achieve their fourth goal on 34:09 when Arnone’s pass to MacKriel was picked up by Bentham who made no mistake in lighting the lamp for his team. With the period almost over, there was just enough time for Solway to bag a second goal, Slovakian defenceman Juraj Senko weaving past the Hawks defence with exquisite skill to slot home before the interval.
The final period saw Solway take to the ice with the disadvantage of a two goal deficit and much work to do to make it to the playoff final. The game a disciplined one, referee Roy Hamilton making his first penalty call around the forty fifth minute mark against Bentham for a high sticks offence which sought to interrupt Solway’s attempt on goal.
Effective on the penalty kill, Blackburn were able to run down the clock successfully to ensure that the Sharks remained two goals adrift, hampering the side’s chances of a place in the playoff final. Strong efforts from some of Solway’s most skilled players, including hardworking winger Steven Moore, failed to make their mark on the game as both teams vied for possession, the Hawks only outshooting their opposition by twelve goals to ten.
Pulling shot stopper Hobbins with less than two minutes left to play, Solway decided to push for a third goal as they faced off in the Hawks’ defensive zone. Possession soon fell to Blackburn however, and forward Ben Simister found himself on hand to claim an empty net goal which sealed Solway’s fate, the score board reading 5-2 as the Hawks stormed into the Moralee Conference playoff final.
Speaking after this semi-final, Sharks’ captain Struan Tonnar told NIHL Northern Trio: “I thought the game was fast. Both teams worked really hard and it was during a spell of fourteen minutes in the second, when we stopped doing all of the little things that worked for us, that allowed Blackburn to capitalise. We can’t give teams the chance to get back into games after managing the game well but credit to Blackburn for grinding through and getting the result. It’s been a learning curve and we’re a young team. It’s not the way we wanted it to end, however it has, so we’ll take note on the game, take a couple of months off to enjoy the summer, get back to work and then try to get back to lifting some silverware next season.”
Eagles scorched as Dragons carve path to final
Deeside Dragons 9
Blackburn Eagles 5
With Deeside Dragons claiming landslide victories in all but one fixture against Blackburn Eagles this season, many would be forgiven for thinking this clash would be a breeze for the Laidler Conference champions. However, it was clear from the start that player-coach Scott Barnett and his team had other ideas as the Eagles took to the ice with a view to put in a strong performance against the Welsh outfit.
The opening stages of the game fast paced and fiery, Blackburn swiftly put their game plan into action, scoring with a little over a minute played through forward Bobby Chaunce after a neat pass from the side’s top points scorer, Slovakian forward Tomas Mitrik. Stunned by the Eagles’ early lead, Deeside were left dumbfounded when Blackburn clawed another just twenty eight seconds later, this time Barnett setting up alternate captain and former Dragon Chris Jones to make it 2-0 on 1:33.
Requiring a quick fire response to counteract this, the Dragons were able to halve their opposition’s advantage with under five minutes played when forward Gary Dixon sent Simon Furnival through on Phil Crosby’s net, the winger making the most of this opportunity to light the lamp. Soon after, a clash between Furnival and Mitrik saw both players serve minor penalties as the game continued to heat up and just twenty six seconds later, Eagle Jordan Ashington joined his team mate following a tripping call by referee David Farren. Deeside’s power play was incredibly short lived however, as netminder Matthew Compton was punished for interference. As a result, the Eagles returned to full strength in advance of their opposition but it was the shorthanded Dragons who carved out an opportunity when alternate captain Michael Jones made a pass to outstanding Slovakian winger Adrian Palak whose skill shone through as he placed the puck beyond Crosby on 10:49.
Soon after both teams had returned to full strength, Barnett conceded an interference penalty to reduce his side to four men but the Dragons could not break down the Eagles’ defence with the additional skater. With Deeside’s chance to take the lead frittered away, the outfit then conceded a penalty of their own, alternate captain Steven Fellows taking to the sin bin for hooking. Reduced to four players, the Dragons pressed forward and as the puck fell to Palak once more, the impressive import achieved a superb unassisted effort and a second consecutive shorthanded goal for his team to make the score line 3-2 ahead of the break.
Looking to continue from where they left off in the previous period, the Dragons rapidly sought to add to their tally, forward James Parsons on target following build up play from blue liner Matthew Wainwright and Slovakian whirlwind Filip Supa. Less than six minutes later, Crosby was again picking the puck from the back of his net when a pass from Deeside’s sturdy young defenceman Ross Kennedy allowed Furnival to achieve his second of the game.
The score line 5-2, the Eagles recognised the need to get back on track to prevent the semi-final from becoming a one-sided affair, prompting effective offensive play which saw the side reduce their three goal deficit; alternate captain Wayne Slater slipping the puck to Mitrik who buried his shot in Compton’s net to keep his side in with a chance of making the final. Forty seconds later, Deeside’s second choice shot stopper George Cox replaced Compton between the pipes but the young netminder did not have long to settle into the role before he was confronted by an Eagles’ attack, this time youngster Kyle Haslam teaming up with forward Sam Dunford to support Jones in his effort to make it 5-4. The Eagles clearly causing problems for Deeside, and the score line too close for comfort, Head Coach Laurence Paul called a timeout in the hope that his words could rectify the situation.
Armed with further instruction, Deeside rapidly restored their two goal cushion when captain Marc Lovell made a pass to Palak, the determined forward earning his hat trick with yet another fearless endeavour. The Dragons having the better share of shots on goal, Paul watched his side file in at the interval with a lead of six goals to Blackburn’s four.
Returning for the third and final period of the game, the Dragons sought to guarantee their spot in the Laidler playoff final and made the start they were hoping for with a goal on 46:35. On this occasion, Dixon was on hand with another assist as he integrated Paul Davies into play to set up Palak for his fourth of the game, the import’s ability and work rate admired by the majority. Though the Dragons appeared fully in control of the game as Blackburn pursued possession, ten minutes had almost passed before the side could achieve their eighth of game, Palak printing his name on the score sheet once again, following support from Dixon and Fellows.
Deeside’s punishment of the Eagles did not end there however, Jones finding Palak to allow the fired up forward to sneak his sixth goal of the game just twenty two seconds later. The score line 9-4 in the Dragons’ favour, matters were made worse for their opposition when ‘D’ man Craig Lutkevitch received a match penalty for clipping. With much work to do and very little time to work with, the Eagles remained industrious to the last, forward Steven Hetherington placing the puck beyond Cox on 59:42 to have one final say before the buzzer called time on the semi-final.
Warriors bow out against battling Barons
Whitley Warriors 3
Solihull Barons 5
Their recent defeat to Solihull Barons still fresh in the mind, Whitley Warriors went into their semi-final clash knowing that Perry Doyle’s spirited team would prove to be a great obstacle to the Hillheads outfit in their quest for a place in the Moralee playoff final. Icing in front of a large fan base, the Warriors were also cheered on by a small cluster of Deeside fans who joined the ranks of maroon and gold for the semi-final to show their support for former Dragon Shaun Kippin.
Hunting down an early lead, it was Whitley who made the better start to the game, David Longstaff’s team having several attempts before finding the back of Sam Hewitt’s net, though the ‘would-be’ goal was ruled out by officials for a player in the crease. With almost four minutes played, Baron Thomas Soar was sinbinned by referee David Emmerson for delaying the game. Unable to capitalise on this power play, the Warriors continued to apply pressure in Solihull’s defensive zone as their opposition returned to full strength. Just under a minute later, blue liner Harry Harley opened the scoring with a fantastic effort following link up play between player-coach Longstaff and youngster Callum Queenan who made his return to the side having recovered from a broken clavicle.
Soon after, the Warriors found themselves on another power play as Doyle served a minor penalty for hooking but Whitley failed to take full advantage of this opportunity as the Barons battled their way back into the game. Increasingly, Solihull attained possession of the puck, Soar and fellow forwards Josh Bruce and Niklas Ottosson working the Warriors’ defence.
Outshooting Longstaff’s line up in the opening period, Solihull returned to the ice with a view to draw level and the side were handed the perfect chance on 22:48 when a tripping call against Dean Holland saw their opposition reduced to four men. A shift in control becoming clear, Ottosson and Bruce combined to send Soar through on Richie Lawson’s net, the experienced forward firing the puck past the Warrior to claim a power play goal and a much needed equaliser.
As Whitley struggled to get back into the game, with short spells of possession and quick fire attempts, the Hillheads outfit were able to outshoot their opposition by nine shots without causing any lasting damage to the score line. Meanwhile, the Barons took confidence from their previous goal and were able to find a second as Doyle played the puck to Soar who slotted home a little over the halfway point of the period. In the aftermath of this goal, the Barons looked on as their player-coach conceded a boarding penalty to give Whitley their third power play of the game. Again, the Warriors were unable to build sufficient momentum to pose a threat in front of goal but the side found themselves with a greater problem when Lawson returned to the bench minutes later, the netminder suffering from a knee injury. As a result, second choice shot stopper Mark Turnbull was called into action and just fifty one seconds later, Whitley were on target for a second time as long-serving Warrior DJ Good worked with Longstaff to set up young forward Ben Richards.
The score line 2-2 at the break, the Warriors went into the final instalment aware that they needed to create further offensive opportunities if they were to stand any chance against the Barons who continued to have a strong foothold in the game. Whilst a stalemate unfolded in the opening minutes of the third period, the deadlock was soon broken as Edward Eaton delivered the puck to Soar who instantly demolished Whitley’s defence to claim his hat trick. Longstaff’s line up were quick to retaliate however, equalising in style as hardworking forward Callum Watson carved a path in Whitley’s offensive zone to stretch the twine just over a minute later with a single assist from creative blue liner Liam Smedley.
Though back on level terms, the Warriors hopes were dashed shortly afterwards when Ottosson received the puck from forward Andrew Whitehouse, quickly delivering to Soar who netted his fourth on 50:41. A little over three minutes later, Barons’ captain Rob Eley conceded a minor slashing penalty to present Whitley with an advantage. A successful penalty kill from Solihull ruined the Warriors’ chances of a third equaliser and as the Barons returned to full strength, Doyle decided upon a timeout to dish out further advice.
As Solihull raced forward into Whitley’s defensive zone, Ottosson provoked the temper of usually composed defenceman Dan Pye who hurled the forward into the goal, coincidently tipping over the net with the Baron inside. Events boiling over, both sides vented their fury at the situation but a single penalty went to the incensed blue liner, placing Solihull on a power play. Just one goal separating the two teams, Whitley’s successful penalty kill inspired a timeout for the side in the last minute of the game.
The team talks over, the Warriors were left to battle with time as they fought for an equaliser but it was the Barons who managed a fifth and final goal to claim their place in the playoff final, Soar turning assist to allow alternate captain Bruce to find the back of the net.
Speaking after this contest, David Longstaff noted: “We were a little bit disappointed after the semi-final but we didn’t really deserve to win. Overall, the season has been a good one so we’ll have to take time over the summer to see if we can improve in certain areas which could be very difficult with having no budget to work with. We’ll have some trials in the summer and see if we can attract some of the top players out of recreational hockey.”
Wild tamed as Dragons blaze to glory in playoff final
Deeside Dragons 5
Widnes Wild 3
Following Widnes Wild’s decision to abandon their last league game against Deeside Dragons back in March, the prospect of this clash was highly anticipated and the fixture did not fail to attract a large crowd. The Dragons boasting widely revered enforcer Owen Bennett, support for the Welsh outfit was visible amongst the ranks of Whitley spectators as they returned the favour to those Deeside fans who had rooted for the Warriors on Saturday.
With fourteen skaters, the Wild took to the ice prepared for a battle against the Dragons but the challenge that the side were confronted with soon became apparent when forward Thomas Ratcliffe conceded a minor penalty with just 1:06 on the clock to hand Deeside a power play. Not one to waste an opportunity, Adrian Palak received the puck from Dragons’ netminder George Cox to swiftly punish the Wild for their transgressions, firing home with less than a minute of the advantage played.
Fifteen seconds later, the tables were turned as Scott McKenzie’s side were presented with a five-on-four situation in their favour as referee Mitchell Kempster called Dragon James Parsons to the sin bin for elbowing. Though shorthanded, Deeside continued to take confidence from their early lead as alternate captain Michael Jones sought to build on his team’s work, playing the puck to Palak who could not be prevented from adding another to the scoreboard.
The Dragons were restored to full strength for all of twenty one seconds before Ratcliffe picked the puck up from Thomas Jackson to allow McKenzie to make it 2-1. Soon after, a cross check from Simon Furnival saw Widnes handed a power play as the winger took to the sin bin. Buoyed by this opportunity, the Wild wasted no time in getting on level terms, forward Sheldon Cassidy and captain Shaun Dippnall passing the puck in Deeside’s defensive zone before finding defenceman Pavel Vales whose shot from the blue line zipped past Cox to light the lamp on 7:02.
Following their return to full strength, the Dragons attempted to regain the lead but the game continued to be a feisty affair and it was not long before Deeside conceded another penalty, this time Palak heading to the box for a high sticks offence.
Though firing shot after shot beyond Deeside’s defence, Widnes struggled to alter the score line and it was not long before the close contest began to take its toll on both teams. A slashing call against McKenzie prompted Bennett to make an appearance, the affable enforcer talking himself into the sin bin as Kempster saw fit to dish out a ten minute misconduct penalty further to Bennett’s punishment for delaying the game.
With the final becoming a little heated, a string of penalties soon followed as both teams resumed play for the second period, Widnes’ Daniel Bullock the first to take a minor with almost three minutes played. Deeside’s power play not yet over, Palak and Vales were shown to the sin bin for roughing. Though a man down, the Dragons were still on the advantage and with thirty eight seconds of Bullock’s penalty remaining, the Laidler champions were able to re-establish their lead through Furnival with a single assist from Parsons. Subsequent to this goal, both sides endured further punishment with Dragons’ ‘D’ man Kenneth Williams side-lined for hooking whilst team mate Paul Davies and the Wild’s Lee Kemp were made to warm a seat in the sin bin for roughing.
Placed on the power play, Widnes were again looking to get on level terms but it was the Dragons who were able to go on the offensive to net their fourth, Slovakian Filip Supa slotting his unassisted effort beyond netminder David Good. As Bennett’s penalty drew to a close, Widnes’ Christopher Preston was next to take to the sin bin following a holding call but Deeside were unable to capitalise on the power play to head in at the interval with a 4-2 lead.
The intermission in play over, both teams returned with their hopes of silverware very much alive. A penalty for Ratcliffe four minutes into the period caused further disruption to the flow of the game but Deeside again failed to make the most of their chances and the Wild returned to full strength unscathed. With shots fired at either net, Widnes tried their upmost to get on the score sheet once again but, failing to cause enough damage with their ammunition, McKenzie’s men continued to trail. It was clear that Kempster’s work was not yet done however as the referee called Dragon Aled Roberts to the sin bin for slashing. The Wild found themselves with the advantage of an additional skater for all of fifteen seconds however, as Cassidy inadvertently levelled the playing field with a minor for cross checking.
Both sides eventually returning to full strength, Widnes found themselves conceding the final penalty of the game as alternate captain Ken Armstrong took two minutes for hooking on 53:49. Running down the clock, the Wild called a timeout shortly after their return to five men in a bid to grab a goal. McKenzie’s words appeared to resonate within his team as, less than two minutes later, Widnes had reduced their deficit to go within a goal of catching the Dragons, the player-coach working hard to set up Bullock.
This goal prompted action from Deeside’s Head Coach Laurence Paul who responded with his own call for a timeout. Play resuming, Widnes pulled shot stopper Good following possession in Deeside’s defensive zone. The puck falling to the Dragons, Palak’s shot came close to the Wild’s goal before the winger took control for a second time to claim an empty net goal and yet another hat trick on 59:01 to round off Deeside’s weekend in style. The final buzzer sounding, the Dragons celebrated their playoff win in front of their jubilant fans, adding another trophy to their tally this season.
Deeside’s captain Marc Lovell took time to comment on his team’s success at Ice Sheffield, noting: “I thought both games we played were both entertaining for the fans but, in terms of playing the final against Widnes, was pretty nervy. We started the Saturday game slow but soon got ourselves back into it and by the third period, we felt we were in control. The final on the Sunday was a good game. We started well but let Widnes back in then took control of the second period. I also felt the score could have been more because we missed three or four good chances. In the third, I thought we played well but let Widnes back into it but I was just glad we finished the game off as winners and secured the double to top a good season off.”
Hawks brush off Barons to swoop on silverware
Blackburn Hawks 7
Solihull Barons 3
Their sights set firmly on the silverware, NIHL North champions Blackburn Hawks once again took to the ice with a strong roster as they readied themselves for their playoff final clash against Perry Doyle’s stalwart Solihull Barons. With this game Rob Eley’s last before his retirement from the sport, his team mates pinned their hopes on an end-of-season high for their captain to round off the side’s successful Moralee Conference campaign.
Aware that Solihull are a force to be reckoned with, Daniel MacKriel’s Hawks sought to punish their rivals from faceoff and Blackburn’s determination to win shone through in the opening minutes as Aaron Davies’ unassisted effort flew past netminder Josh Nicholls to make it 1-0. Having lost the lead so quickly, the Barons looked to get back on track but the side were unable to find a sufficient response to find their deficit doubled a little over a minute later when player-coach MacKriel integrated Richard Bentham into some powerful build up play to allow Ben Simister through on goal.
As Blackburn appeared to be in full control, the Barons clung to the fine margin which separated the two sides in the hope that the goal difference between themselves and the Hawks would not increase further. Attempts from forwards Thomas Soar and Niklas Ottosson went wide of their mark but Solihull were soon handed an advantage when Bentham conceded two minutes for interference. Despite this, the Hawks demonstrated their quality on the penalty kill to keep the Barons at bay, returning to full strength only to enjoy the same advantage when alternate captain Josh Bruce headed to the sin bin for tripping. Similarly, the Hawks found it difficult to score on the power play and were punished for their failure to capitalise as the Barons’ return to five men inspired a goal, the versatile Kieran Papps picking up the puck from Bruce to allow Andrew Whitehouse to make it 2-1 before the interval.
Returning after the break, Solihull were in need of a goal to draw level with the Hawks but were given little chance to establish themselves in the middle stanza as MacKriel slotted the puck past netminder Nicholls just twelve seconds in, this time Simister working with Bentham to set up their player-coach. Minutes later, Finnish import Kim Miettinen was sin binned by referee Roy Hamilton for interference but again the Barons failed to make the most of this opportunity and it was not long before the outfit were made to regret their wastefulness, Lee Pollitt on hand to make it 4-1 with assists from Miettinen and forward David Meikle. This goal encouraged the Barons to call a time out, the side beginning to fear that the game was slipping from their grasp.
This mounting pressure showed no signs of subsiding for the Barons however, and matters were rapidly made worse when alternate captain Matt Viney played the puck to top points scorer Adam Brittle who did not miss his mark just thirty two seconds after Hawks’ fourth goal. With this, Solihull saw fit to switch netminder Nicholls for shot stopper Sam Hewitt but it was a change which sparked a confrontation as Nicholls appeared to challenge remarks made by Blackburn’s bench as he left the ice.
Soon after, Hawks’ captain Chris Arnone took to the sin bin to serve a hooking penalty but yet another opportunity passed Solihull by and it was not long before they themselves conceded a penalty, this time Doyle side-lined for a cross check. Continuing to dominate, the Hawks were able to fire the puck into the net once again, Miettinen working with blue liner Max Drakeley on this occasion to allow MacKriel to hit home his second goal of the game. The final becoming an incredibly one sided affair, the Barons sought to add another to their tally in a bid to recover some lost ground and did so, Doyle slotting past sturdy netminder Daniel Brittle on 37:38 courtesy of Ottosson and fellow forward Edward Eaton to conclude the action for the second period.
With a four goal lead, Blackburn Hawks returned to the ice hoping to leave fans in no doubt as to who would be crowned NIHL North playoff champions but it was the Barons who netted first as Soar and Whitehouse linked up to send Ottosson beyond Blackburn’s defence just two minutes into the final period, the Swedish import grabbing a goal to make it 6-3. Over three minutes later, Doyle conceded his second penalty of the game, the strong player-coach found guilty of tripping on this occasion.
Though Blackburn missed their chance to make it 7-3 on the power play, the side were quick to rectify this as forward Brittle claimed his second goal of the final following a neat pass from captain Arnone in the fifty second minute of play. As Solihull struggled against the dominant Hawks, tempers soon boiled over as Baron Stephen Heape dropped the gloves with Bentham to receive 2+2+2 for fighting whilst his opponent was handed a more lenient penalty of 2+2. With both players missing out on the remainder of the game as a consequence, Blackburn had little to do to hold onto their four-goal lead and as the final seconds of the game ticked away, MacKriel’s men were able to celebrate in front of their fans as the Barons were left to wonder over what might have been.
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