The past weekend saw another great weekend full of action for the IIHL and IIHL Development Division. On the same weekend that the IIHA held its first of many Team Ireland Development Camps, three games took place between Saturday and Sunday as Dundalk was once more the place to be. Saturday night saw a double header as Dublin Rams took on the Dundalk Bulls followed by the Whalers v Kilkenny Storm. Sunday afternoon then had Flyers I.H.C. v Latvian Hawks in the second IIHL game of the weekend. On paper, round two between the Rams and the Bulls was the big one but all three games lived up to the same hype that game received.
The Dublin Rams came to Dundalk looking to rebound from their shootout loss to the Flyers a week earlier having given up a 3-1 lead in the last 10 minutes. They were also looking to avenge the humbling 9-0 defeat at the hands of the Bulls one month earlier. They were also boasting several key players that were missing for the previous few games, such as Brandon Chalazan. So they had every reason to be confident going into the game. The Bulls on the other hand, well why wouldn’t they be confident of steamrolling the Rams again as they have every other team in the league. Things started exactly like that for the Bulls as William Morrison scored the opening goal 23 seconds into the encounter. Following a dump in by Bill McKeirnan, the puck took a strange bounce off the boards and Morrison was there to put it past the diving Tobia. For the Rams, things couldn’t have gone worse but they responded by sticking to their game plan. They upped their effort and matched the Bulls for hard work and at 7:23 they were rewarded when Andrew Moriarty equalised.
The 1st period ended with both teams level and the 2nd started in the same way as the 1st. Bill McKiernan scored for the Bulls after only 54 seconds. The Bulls were leading 2-1 and the score stayed like that for the rest of the period. Both teams were even throughout much of the match with the Rams edging in the shots on goal as Christian Ajnesjo making 35 saves. He was solid throughout and made some very impressive saves. At the other end Tobia, stood on his head once more for his team but this time, he didn’t have to do as much work as the Rams kept the shots to 24 on goal. Tobia made some day light robbery saves and no doubt frustrated the Bulls’ players. The Bulls did find a third goal mid-way through the 3rd period as Marek Bailly came out of the penalty box and forced the Rams Chalazan to turn over and the Bulls’ player capitalised. The game finished 3-1 and was one of the better games of the season as the Rams gave the Bulls their hardest test all season.
Following this game the, the IIHL Development Division saw the Whalers take on the Kilkenny storm. These unfortunately had to wait about an extra 10 minutes for their game to take place as the preceding game ran late. This just increased both sets of players’ eagerness. Kilkenny got off to an early start and were clearly the stronger of the two teams as they scored 4 unanswered goals in the 1st period. The Storm’s number 85, Latimer, was the obvious leader for the team as he scored two and assisted on another. Without him the game probably would’ve been a lot closer as the Whalers threatened Kilkenny constantly throughout the game but found it hard to get the puck in the back of the net. Despite conceding 3 more goals, the Whalers persistence was rewarded as they got their first goal through number 26 Graeme Bell. Later having gone down 11-1 they scored the final goal of the game as Niall McEvoy took a shot from the right hand side and it deflected into the top corner of the Kilkenny goal. All in all, it was great game as both sets of players thoroughly enjoyed the night and played the game in great spirits.
Sunday saw the Flyers I.H.C. take on the Latvian Hawks for the second time this season. The Flyers coming off an impressive performance against the Dublin Rams the previous week and the Hawks were very confident having beaten the Belfast City Bruins 12-3 in that same weekend. In the last meeting between these two teams, the Flyers defeated the Hawks 13-3. However the Hawks have improving since then with additions such as former Team Ireland captain, Mark Bowes. He brings some much needed speed to their defence and links up very well with Brencis. It was expected to be a much closer game then last time as the Flyers were short benched. That’s how it went, with both teams playing intense hard physical play early on. The Flyers got the first early on as Szabi Sandor broke free and scored his first of five at 5:58. However the Hawks fought on and equalised at 10:49 through Gints Ginters. From their, the “Hungarian Sniper” got his hat-trick as he scored two goals within quick succession of each other. Brencis then went onto get one back for the Hawks in the 1st period.
The teams went into the break 3-2 but the Hawks were quick off the mark as they equalised through Brencis once more. The Flyers then got another two goal lead as Sandor scored his final two in the 2nd and 3rd periods. The Hawks were given some hope with 10 minutes remaining as Brencis got his hat-trick. The crowd were then silenced as Dave Donaldson scored a very impressive individual goal from the ensuing face off. The score finished 6-4 and this was probably the game of the weekend. Both teams were given tremendous support, the Latvians as always brought their huge crowd with the Flyers gaining some local support as well as some fans who travelled from Dublin. The Hawks could teach some of the other teams a thing or two about bringing in fans while the Flyers gained some extra support from the scouts. A group of children spent the day in Dundalk and stayed on to watch the game. The Flyers obviously gaining an extra boost from this.