Last night’s IIHL Development Division game between Belfast Eagles and DKIT Ravens was a tight and intense affair. Before the game took place, the Ravens were sitting nicely in 4th place with 9 points coming off two impressive results against the Dundalk Bulls Ladies and the Dublin Rams ‘B’. On the other side of things, the Eagles were in 7th with 6 points and a very poor goal difference. They’ve been scored on 31 times in only 6 games with their goal difference at -16, second worst in the league. They had also just come off a very tough game against league leaders Kilkenny City Storm in which they lost 5-2. A win would bring them into 5th place, level with the Ravens on points and behind on goal difference. The Ravens were just looking to continue their run and move ahead of the Dublin Rams ‘B’ and into 3rd place. So it was a must win for both teams.
Right from the start both teams skated hard and the action was end to end with the Eagles edging the possession side of things. The first penalty of the game was called 5 minutes into the game. The Ravens turned over possession of the puck in the neutral side and left their defence exposed. Mark McDonnell had to turn quickly along the boards with an Eagles player bearing down on him. He was forced into pinning him along the boards and received a 2 minute minor as a result. The Ravens successfully killed off the penalty, despite having one of their best penalty killers in the box. However, a minute or so later, the Eagles got a partial breakaway along the wing through captain Paul Maginess. The Ravens defenceman got drawn towards him as he passed across the slot to Steven Irvine who coolly converted the opportunity by putting the puck over the right hand shoulder of Miceal O’Neill. The 1st period ended 1-0 in favour of the Eagles with Eagles’ player Gary Jackson picking up a 2 minute minor for boarding later in the period.
The 1st period was a disappointing one for the Ravens as they only managed 1 shot on goal in the period. The Eagles had 4. If the 1st period belonged to the Eagles, the 2nd belonged to the Ravens as they upped their tempo and work ethic. They edged the Eagles 4-3 in shots on goal. However, it must be said that they had a lot more opportunities than that; they just failed to get them on target. The physicality picked up in the second period as both sets of players were fighting for every inch of the ice. Although, it must be noted that despite being physical it wasn’t dirty and the players kept in mind that the league is non-checking. The 2nd period finished 0-0 in scoring with neither team receiving any penalties.
More of the same continued in the 3rd period with the Ravens again out shooting the Eagles 5-1. Eagles’ goaltender was up to it as he stopped all of those shots including a partial breakaway. His teams’ confidence grew greatly as he kept them in the game. He proved even more valuable as he and 3 penalty killers successfully killed off a 2 minute 4-on-3 at the mid-way point of the period. The Eagles were fighting for everything while the Ravens just couldn’t get that goal. With just over a minute remaining in the period, the Ravens pulled their netminder and went for broke. They came close on three separate occasions but wayward shooting and some poor passing meant they couldn’t convert. During this bombardment, the Eagles were eyeing the empty net and twice gained partial breakaways only to be denied by the right hand post. The third occasion saw the puck pass right across the goal front for an icing. It was almost laughable and I’m sure Miceal O’Neill loves his posts even more now that they cover him even when he’s not on the ice.
All in all, it was a very clean, fast paced game with both teams playing hard until the end. Unlucky Ravens, we all have those nights were we just can’t score so keep your heads up. On the other side, congrats go to the Eagles on a well earned win and goaltender Jon Arnold on his shutout. It should also be noted the good sportsmanship by the Ravens as they clapped the Eagles off despite being dejected and disappointed.
Next Game is this Saturday night at 22:30 p.m. when the Latvian Hawks ‘B’ and Dublin Wolves take each other on. This is a slight change from the original fixture and follows the IIHL game between the Dublin Rams and Flyers I.H.C. which faces off at 20:00 p.m. at the Dundalk Ice Dome.