The past weekend saw 4 games take place at the Dundalk Ice Dome. Saturday night saw a double header take place involving the Dundalk Bulls ice hockey club and the Dublin Rams ice hockey club. On Sunday evening, the Flyers I.H.C. took on the rejuvenated Latvian Hawks in the IIHL. Later that evening the Dundalk Bulls Ladies took on the Latvian Hawks ‘B’ in the IIHL Development Division.
The Dublin Rams faced off against the Dundalk Bulls Saturday night. All the Bulls had to do was to get one point and the league title was officially theirs. Not a hard task considering they had won every single league game they’ve played this season. This includes some “Turkey Shootouts” with like 32-4 and 26-2 the pick of games in which they mopped the floor with their opponents. So all sounds easy enough, however, the Rams had the majority of their players back. More importantly, Eric Tobia was in nets so the Bulls needed to be clinical with their finishing. Things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for the Bulls either with them going 1-0 up after only 1:15 played in the 1st period. Milosz Labudda finished off a nice shot from a pass into the slot from Robert Grochowiz. A very good goal and Tobia could do nothing about it. It looked as though the Bull, who were without Captain Kenny Redmond and Assistants Mats Ajnesjo and David Morrison, were going to skate to a comfortable victory.
They had 11 more shots on target in the 1st period, all of which Tobia stopped. However, it wasn’t all one-sided as the Rams had 9 shots on target in that period but Ajnesjo was on form at the other end. The second period started pretty much the same way as the 1st with the Bulls getting a powerplay goal from Sebastian Wachowski on a feed from Eric Hogberg. Hogberg was the captain for the night while Wachowski and Grochowiz wore the A’s. The 2nd period was dominated by the Bulls with them having 21 shots on goal to the Rams 6. Although it should be noted the Rams had a penalty shot midway through the period. Paul Silny was excellently turned aside by Christian Ajnesjo. Both teams will rue missed opportunities. The Rams came out in the 3rd period up for a fight and they battled for everything. They pulled a goal back at 43:35 with a goal from Matt Hearn. Then less than two minutes later they were level with a goal from Hunter Cape assisted by Adrian Huang. From there both teams went all out trying to push for the winner. It only made the game even better as it was end to end and fast paced. The Rams got the winner at 56:14 from Brandon Chalazan on a delayed penalty while on a powerplay. The Rams were leading 3-2 with less than 4 minutes to go. For the first time this season the Bulls were defeated. The Rams were absolutely ecstatic. It meant the Bulls hadn’t officially won the league and the Rams, no matter how unrealistic, can now still win the league. It was a fantastic game.
Sunday afternoon saw the second IIHL game of the weekend. The Flyers I.H.C. took on the Latvian Hawks in their last encounter of the season. It was another fantastic game and another great advertisement for the league. The Hawks were coming into this having come off a fantastic win against the Bruins while the Flyers were hoping to rebound from their tough loss against the Rams the previous weekend. The Hawks continued their winning ways with a goal after only 2:11 of play with a goal from Viktors Serdjukovs with assists from Virinjus Knistalitas and Ivo Kirsis. The Flyers were caught of guard and didn’t look as though they were up for a skate. However, after some early dominance by the Hawks, the Flyers started to skate. They scored through Sandor Szabi at 14:31 followed then again at 18:03 through Emil Kalir on the powerplay. They continued the scoring in the 2nd period with a goal from Barry Higgins at 6:24 of the period with the assist coming from Patrick McCabe. However, the Hawks decided to wake back up midway through the period by scoring 4 goals in the space of 3 and a half minutes. Firstly, Serdjukovs scored at 32:30 from Brencis and Mark Bowes. The second came from Brencis and then from Gints Ginters. Both were unassisted with Ginters coming short handed as a result of the Flyers turning the puck over. This was followed by a powerplay goal from Darzins Gaidis assisted by Ginters and Jumburgs. The Hawks led for the second time and went into the intermission a goal ahead. The Flyers came out into the 3rd period needing to get 2 goals and they needed to skate. They also needed to be more clinical in their finishing as Smyth was stopping pretty everything that came at him. He was looking like a wall as he stopped 8 shots in the 1st period and 18 shots in the second. The Flyers got the goal that brought them level at 48:00 with Dave Donaldson getting the goal with an assist from Captain Mike Daciw. They then got the go ahead goal at 51:57 with Dean Kelly finishing off a nice pass from Steven Cooper. Barry Higgins passed the puck up to Cooper along the boards who then carried the puck up the ice and into the Hawks zone and passed off to Kelly who finished it off.
Following this the Flyers then took some penalties in the last few minutes and put themselves under some needless pressure. However, it was the turn of Dermot Carney to steal the show as he shut the Hawks out on 2 minor penalties in the last 5 minutes. He kept the Flyers in the game throughout as he made several important saves and denied the Hawks 1st line when they had some great opportunities. He made a fantastic glove side in the last 3 minutes that got a huge applause from the Flyers team and their supporters. It’s fair to say that the Flyers played as a team and won the game together but Carney stood up when his team needed him to and did exactly what he needed to do. All in all it was a great game and both teams should be proud of the effort they put into the game. It was also very sporting that as the Flyers were getting their photo taken as a team that the Hawks joined them and showed true sportsmanship as both teams played each other for the last time in the season.
This past weekend shows great hope for the IIHL and Irish ice hockey as a whole as things look like they are getting better. The Bulls are no longer unbeatable while the Hawks vast improvements have made the league competitive and hugely entertaining. The league now looks like it has a bit of parity, maybe it’s only temporary but things look good. We all look forward to the closing weeks and the playoffs now as nobody is sure what will happen.