The inaugural IIHL regular season came to a close last weekend with a double header. This past weekend, the IIHL Playoffs took place with a double header on Saturday and the final being played Sunday. All games were to take place at the Dundalk Ice Dome and it was to be a great event to conclude the 2007/2008 IIHL season. The first game took place on Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. The Dundalk Bulls were to host the Latvian Hawks. Originally the Belfast City Bruins had earned the right to play the Bulls in that opening game after finishing 4th in the IIHL Standings. Unfortunately though, the Bruins had to withdraw from the Playoffs. They were unable to field a team due to a combination of injuries and unavailability of players. Therefore the Latvian Hawks gladly accepted the invitation to replace them.
The Dundalk Bulls had a full compliment of players and had a full team out to practice earlier on in the week. They were looking forward to reinforcing to everyone that they were the best team in the country. The Latvian Hawks also had a full compliment of players and were even welcoming the return of Janis Kipars who was suspended at the start of the season. They were definitely looking to make a match of it and delight their fans who have been very vocal in their support all season.
The Bulls got off to a great start scoring the 1st goal of the game at 0:58 through Bill McKiernan with Eric Hogberg and Sebastian Wachowski getting the assists. They reinforced this lead with McKiernan getting his second less than 2 minutes later. The Hawks seemed stunned and everyone was probably thinking “here we go again” expecting an onslaught of goals from the Bulls. However, the Hawks did not let there heads down and brought the fight to the Bulls. For the next 10 minutes or so the play was even and each team exchanged scoring opportunities. The Hawks got their reward at 8:43 with Mark Bowes getting the goal. They then tied the score less than 2 minutes later with a goal from Captain Aigars Brencis. The Bulls’ players and management were getting worried and they stepped up their play. McKiernan got his 3rd goal and his hat-trick just over a minute later to regain the lead. 8 seconds after that, Dundalk Bulls’ Captain Kenny Redmond reinforced their lead.
The Bulls then went on to score 4 more in that period with goals from Sean Dooley, Milosz Labudda, Robert Grochowicz and a 4th from McKiernan. The period scoring finished 8-2 and the Bulls had stepped up when the Hawks got back into it. They had certainly ensured their place in the IIHL Playoff final on Sunday afternoon with that 8-2 lead after only 20 minutes. They furthered their lead in the second period with 8 more goals while shutting out the Hawks. Goals came from Jiri Mojak, Kenny Redmond, Robert Grochowicz, Eric Hogberg, Willie Morrison, Lucas Pniewski and a brace from Michael Minarech. It was like shooting fish in a barrel for the Bulls as they peppered the Hawks net and showed no mercy.
The 3rd Period was the much of the same, although the Hawks did manage to score a couple themselves. The Bulls added 10 more goals in the final period while the Hawks could only manage 2 goals. For the Bulls, Hogberg netted 2, Redmond got 3, Willie Morrison got his 2nd of the night, Peter Pucek scored a brace while MiKiernan got 2 for his 5th and 6th goals of the night. For the Hawks, Viktors Veilculonis picked up a goal as did Viktors Serdjukovs. Kenny Redmond finished the game with 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points to lead all scorers in the game. Bill McKiernan had 6 goals and 2 assists for 8 points. While Eric Hogberg had 2 goals and 4 assists for 6 points.
The final score was 26-4 and it wasn’t the semi-final everyone had hoped for. Firstly, everyone wanted to see a full Belfast City Bruins team ice against the Dundalk Bulls and see what the result would be. Secondly, more was expected of the Hawks as they had made major strides throughout the season and in the last few weeks they had in particular showed they were competitive with every team. The Bulls were just too strong for them and had that extra gear when needed. They also had the strength in depth needed to tire the Hawks top 2 lines.
For the Hawks, it was the end of the season and they will surely be looking to continue the major strides that they have made in the IIHL this season. They will certainly look to improve even more. The Bulls on the other hand had the final to look forward to on Sunday afternoon. They would either face-off against the Dublin Rams or Flyers I.H.C. who were due to play each other later that evening. They also had the opportunity to eye up both teams by sticking around and watching that game. Next up was the other semi-final, Dublin Rams v Flyers I.H.C. at 8:00 p.m.