Icebreakers Crowned Champions

(from Dundalk Ice Dome)

The second game on Sunday evening at the Dundalk Ice Dome saw the IIHL Recreational Division Playoffs Final take place. The game was for gold and saw the Ice Breakers take on old rivals, the Hawks. Each encounter between these two teams throughout the season has been a tense affair and this game wasn’t going to be any different. The ‘edge of their seats’ crowd was going to be treating to nothing less than a hockey match at it’s best to conclude this years Recreational Division’s action.

The first face-off of the game was won by favorites Ice Breakers and the first opportunity came from them as Franto Smisek left the ears of the spectators ringing as he hit the steelwork of the nets. Martins Strazds stood solid in nets for the Hawks when he was tested by an on target slap shot from Ivo Kirsis. The Hawks then looked to go ahead through a wrist shot from Raivis Mardasovs but Robert Trnouee made a superp save. A top officiating team which consisted of referee Vytautas Lukosecicius and on the lines Jana Gerkena and Mario Nawrocki handled the game well and in a professional manner and credit needs to be given to their performance in what was an intense game of hockey.

Second period, both teams stepped up to the plate and it would later create for an end to end action packed third period of hockey. Spectators and dedicated game day staff alike had to wait until 11:30 in the second stanza to see the first goal of the game. A Kaspars Karkle pass found the stick of David Adras who put the puck behind the goal line, giving the Ice Breakers a 1-0 lead. Two minutes later it looked like the Hawks would come back after a Vasilijs Prjalkins slap shot went straight into the hands of Martins Strazds. But the Hawks time to shine did come when they equalized the scoring to 1-1 through a goal from Maris Jevdokimovs to set the foundations for a thrilling third period of classic hockey.

Anyone who was at the rink for the match would tell you that everyone’s heart and soul was in their mouths. A simple defensive error, a non-necessary penalty or a blink of an eye from either team could cost the game and both sets of coaches knew that. It was the Hawks that took the lead in the third after a goal from Ronsauntins Semchonoks made it 2-1. Both teams took a set of penalties as referee Lukosevicius remained to have the game under control. And the Ice Breakers stepped up to the game and equalized the goal scoring to 2-2 after Dany Ferencik scored for the men in the grey and navy uniform. With less than three minutes remaining, the game was set to go into a penalty shoot out frenzy.

The crowd was ready to take to their feet, the teams where anxious in selecting their appropriate shooters and the next few minutes would decide the winner of the Playoffs final. The Hawks had the honour of taking the first penalty with Maris Jevdokimovs successfully scoring. Icebreaker Milan Nandrazi replied with his penalty shot that went into the top left corner to make it equal. Alex Kuts from Hawks, Michal Radusovsky from Ice Breakers and Kanstantinos Semchonoks from Hawks all failed to score when they had their penalty shootout opportunities. The winning penalty shot came from Vytautas Knistautas from the Icebreakers who slotted the puck home nicely straight under the Hawks keepers legs.

The Ice Breakers had done it. They had won the game. Queen’s classic rock song ‘We are the Champions’ echoed around the walls of the Dundalk Ice Dome as the celebrations only began for this gold medal winning team. Commiserations must go out to the Hawks who for a second year in a row have lost after a shootout. Congratulations must be shared all around to everyone involved in the league, but that I have planned for another day’s story!!! President of the IIHA, William Fay, sent his regards to both teams as he wasn’t able to attend due to being stranded in Luxembourg after the news that the Irish team’s flight was cancelled.

So overall a great week for Irish Ice Hockey. Team Ireland taking gold in Luxemburg, Raiders become gold medal winners in the Development Division and the Ice Breakers are now crowned Playoff Champions for the 2009/2010 Ice Hockey season. As the celebrations are set to continue long into the night for the Icebreakers, this reporter is going to get some much needed rest after a jam packed week of reporting on the worlds finest – Irish Ice Hockey.

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