This weekend’s only IIHL game takes place this Sunday afternoon and features two teams who have already faced each other this season. The Dundalk Bulls will host Flyers I.H.C.. in the fixture as both teams will look to continue winning ways. The Bulls coming off a 9-0 victory over the highly talented Dublin Rams, while the Flyers will look to get back to winning ways after suffering defeat to the Belfast City Bruins. The Bulls are undefeated and are on course for a 4 game winning streak. On the other hand, the Flyers last victory was their first of the IIHL in four outings and will just be hoping not to suffer the same fate as they did the last time these two teams played each other. And to call it a one sided affair last time around would be a major understatement as Dundalk walked away as 26-2 winners. However that was over a month ago and a lot has changed since then. The Flyers aren’t the whipping boys that they appeared to be at first and the Bulls can when they concentrate play a complete game of hockey.
Having opened their campaign against the Hawks and Flyers with victories of 13-6 and 26-2 respectively, the Bulls then faced the Dublin Rams in their third outing in what was billed as the game of the season to date and it proved to be just that too. Even though the Rams were considered the underdogs, the Bulls were expected to struggle to score against the high flying Eric Tobia and the Rams goalie was definitely out to spoil their party. Despite having 31 shots on goal in the 1st period alone, the Bulls couldn’t put the puck behind Tobia with it nearly bordering on embarrassing for the Bulls with Bill McKiernan having three clear breakaways and failing to convert any. However, credit has to be given to the Bulls as they continued to plug away and reward came in the 2nd period as it was Bill McKiernan who broke the dead lock. From there, the goals kept coming as the score finished 6-0 at the end of the stanza with them adding 3 more in the final period. Having overcome their biggest challenge so far, the Bulls will be very confident coming into this fixture. And they have no reasons not to be.
That game had many positives for Dundalk, such as they found the back of the net against quite possibly the best goaltender in the IIHL but it was also that Bulls goaltender, Christian Ajnesjo earned a shutout. Having allowed 6 goals late on against the Hawks and a pair of goals against the Flyers there was talk and it looked as though the Bulls could not concentrate for a full 60 minutes defensively. But after posting a shutout against the Rams, the argument is that they dominate and score so many goals they don’t need to. But against the Rams, they did both. They played very solid defensive hockey and also scored the goals too. After all, the Bulls are led by their captain, Kenny Redmond, who is something of a legend in British hockey and is proving to a great hero and role model for the young fans of the Dundalk Bulls. An absolute gentleman on and off the ice, he leads the team in scoring with 10 goals and 6 assists in 3 games. The other players who lead the team in scoring are Robert Grochowics who has 7 goals and 2 assists while Milosz Labudda has 6 goals and 3 assists. On the other hand, the team is led defensively by Sebastian Wachowski and Team Ireland captain David Morrison. Obviously the time since the league started has allowed this team to come more accustomed to each other and have become more solid all round.
Flyers I.H.C., are proving to become a better team everyday it seems, although, it’s a slow progress and the improvements are small, they are getting better and could be seen in their last two outings. Having suffered defeats from the Bruins and then the Bulls, the Flyers then took on the Latvian Hawks and rather surprisingly gave them a bit of a thrashing. That contest finished 13-3 in favour of the Flyers, the Flyers played tremendously well and looked up for it right from the start with Szabi Sandor scoring 35 seconds into the contest. And from there it was only ever going to be the Flyers who came out on top. After that game the Flyers took on the Bruins for a second game and despite losing 7-2, it was an improvement on their first game against the Belfast outfit. The flyers matched the Bruins in two of the three periods and would appear that if they put in a full game might eventually be able to match the Belfast team. The Flyers seem to have found their feet and have realised that they can compete with anybody in the IIHL. They can score goals, and defensively they seem to be improving every game. Net minder Dermot Carney seems to be regaining the confidence that saw him selected to Team Ireland in 2004 and appears to be more comfortable in net following a long break from the sport following his selection. And his defence in front of him appear to be given him more protection too which he badly needed.
The Flyers too have their goal scorers, with Szabi Sandor leading the team with 7 goals and 2 assist in four games, while new arrival Dave Donaldson has 4 goals and 3 assists in just two games. These two players are talented goal scorers and are given that room to find the net because of the cast surrounding them. Szabi enjoys the support of Stephen Cooper and Barry Higgins who both chip in offensively but work tirelessly in defense allowing their team to score goals. The line also has the daunting task of matching the best players on other teams in the league. Also another new arrival to the Flyers is Emile Kalir who scored on his debut against the Bruins. So look for him to get some chances this Sunday
Both teams have vastly improved since the start of the IIHL. All the Dundalk Bulls needed was some time to bond and a challenge before they started playing a complete game of hockey. The Flyers needed a bit more than that. As time has passed, they have picked up a couple of players who have displayed tremendous talent and also become a closer knit unit who’ve improved little by little.
Although this Sunday’s result may not go in favour of the Flyers, one can certainly expect a much closer game than the first time these two teams met. All in all it should prove to be a great game. The game takes place this Sunday at the Dundalk Ice Dome and face-off is at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are € 8 for adults and € 5 for children under 16.