Play-off Weekend Round-up
Full 9 Yards sponsored Blackburn Hawks took on Sheffield Steeldogs in the Moralee Division Play-off Quarter-Finals at the weekend. Sheffield finished 2nd and Blackburn 7th at the end of the regular season league games, making Sheffield heavy favourites to move to the semi – finals. Somebody forgot to tell the Hawks.
SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS 7 BLACKBURN HAWKS 2
Hawks lined up with only Rick Ravey and Adam Barnes missing and Harrison Walker between the pipes. Referee was Hamilton and he wasted no time making his mark with a hooking call on Robin Kovar after just 54 seconds. Sheffield were taking advantage of the extra man and only sterling defence by Neil, Kennedy and Walker kept the puck out and the penalty kill was successful. Both teams went hard at it in the first 7 or 8 minutes without getting the breakthrough.
Hawks were first on the score sheet after 9.32. Robin Kovar stole the puck from the Dogs and sent Luke Boothroyd in one on one with Zimozdra and Luke deftly squeezed the puck between pad and post for 0-1 Hawks. Hawks were defending resolutely and looking very dangerous going forward and that brought its reward after 13.29 when the visitors took a shock 2-0 lead with a superb goal. Petr Valusiak went coast-to-coast before sending the puck past Zimozdra for 0-2. Steeldogs were stung into action after losing that second goal and pulled one back less than a minute later. Nathan Salem got the goal assisted by Spiers and Morgan. Goal was timed at 14.13 and that ended the scoring in the first period despite heavy Steeldogs pressure. The noisy Hawks support were delighted and stood to a man/woman/boy and girl to applaud their heroes back to the locker room.
The second period started off a bit scrappy as both teams turned the puck over. Robin Kovar had the first good chance of the period when he ran the Dogs’ defence ragged before producing a good block from Zimozdra. Sheffield then had a brief period of pressure and a great pad save by Walker and superb defending by Bannon kept the home team at bay. Hawks then took over and Zimozdra made save after save to keep the period scoreless. As the game passed the half way mark, it was all Sheffield, pushing the Hawks well back into their own defensive zone. Pressure eventually told with 33.14 on the clock as the home side equalized. Milan Kolena cut in from the win and wrong -footed Walker to put the biscuit in the barrel for 2-2. Both teams were hunting the go-ahead goal as the period entered its final minute and it was the home side that found the net with just 36 seconds left. Spiers took the puck round the back of the net and managed the wrap around to push the puck past Walker. End of 40 minutes of scintillating hockey and it was the home side that took a slender 3-2 lead to the break.
Steeldogs made the stronger start to the third period as they sought the goals to take a good lead back to Blackburn. Hawks were equal to the task and made a few good chances of their own, firstly when Jared Dickinson had a shot from the middle of the blue line which went just wide and Luke Boothroyd trademark rocket beat Zimozdra but stuck in the netminder’s skate. The Steeldogs increased their lead on 42.26 when Brownley shot from the face off spot and the puck went in off the crossbar. Hawks fought back gallantly but tiredness was creeping in and the Steeldogs just looked too strong for them at this point. Steeldogs made it 5-2 on 47.32 as Smith battled hard, taking the puck wide and fired a shot over Walker’s shoulder into the top corner of the net. Ollie Lomax then fell foul of another Hamiltonism as he queried a decision and was given a 2 minute abuse and a 10 minute misconduct penalty.
Sheffield should have scored again shortly afterwards but Harrison Walker made an incredible save from Sheffield’s Brownley. Sheffield were now having most of the possession and made it 6-2 with 7 minutes left in the game. A game of tic-tac-toe ensued with pin point passes from the Dogs and Spiers was left alone at the back post to sweep the puck home. The score-line was completed on 55.39 with a short-handed goal by Nathan Salem to give the Steeldogs a 7-2 lead to take to the nest.
A great performance by the underdogs, who frightened the life out of the dogs and the 7-2 score-line does not reflect the Hawks performance as they left it all out on the ice. Harrison Walker was given the Man of the Match beers with the home-side’s Tim Smith taking the honours for the home side.
BLACKBURN HAWKS 4 SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS 6
Hawks took to the ice missing Rick Ravey as Adam Barnes returns to the roster with Hawks looking at the seemingly impossible task of turning a 5 goal deficit around.
A blitz start by Hawks had Sheffield on the back foot and it paid off with only 98 seconds on the clock. James Royds stole the puck from the Dogs in their defensive zone and fed James Riddoch who skated into the slot and slipped the puck past Zimozdra. Hawks kept the pressure on the visitors and hit Zimozdra with everything but the kitchen sink. Steeldogs were reeling. Sheffield’s netmider was totally on his A game as he stopped a plethora of shots from the hungry Hawks. All that in the first 5 minutes of the game! The pressure was relentless as the home side tried everything to reduce the deficit with Sheffield looking dangerous on the odd break. Adam Barnes then went coast to coast but his low shot was padded to safety by the Dogs’ netminder. Sheffield then went close as Walker was stranded at the wrong post and was grateful to see the puck go wide. Steeldogs had the puck in the net with 5 minutes left in the period but the net was well off prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
The period ended with the Hawks leading 1-0 but 3-7 down on aggregate.
The start of the second was end to end but the final pass/shot was being well defended by both sides. Hawks made it 2-0 as the mid point in the game approached. Blackburn were set up around the Sheffield blue line as a pass aimed cross ice was intercepted by Lee Pollitt who turned and shot and the puck flashed past Zimozdra. 3-0, 5-7 on aggregate with 30 minutes to go. Adam Barnes was tormenting the Sheffield defence as Zimozdra denied him twice. Third time lucky for Barnes as he crossed the blue line on the right wing and unleashed a wicked shot, bulging the net, with the Sheffield netminder no-where. 3-0 and the dream was still alive. 5-7 on aggregate. Hawks were looking in control of the game and Adam Barnes nearly made it 4-0 with a shot pinging off the post.
Sheffield then hit Hawks with a devastating double blow. Firstly, on 38.32 Spurr scored , assisted by Kolena and Graham then less than a minute later Nathan Salem went on a solo run and scored off the post. 3-2 Hawks with 48 seconds left in the period. The period ended with Bobby Streetly in the box on a tripping penalty and a relieved Steeldogs side made for the locker room with a 4 goal lead on aggregate.
That quick double blast by Sheffield seemed to have taken some of the heart out of the Hawks and Sheffield started to play the puck around and made it 3-3 on the night with a goal from Graham, assisted by Spurr. Hawks were not done yet and re-took the lead on 44.50 with a power play goal. Barnes passed to Kovar who sent the puck out from the corner to Kennedy on the hash marks and a lovely shot found the top corner. The home fans’ joy was short lived however as Sheffield scored their 4th of the night with a solo goal from import Palak. Jared Dickinson then put a huge hit on Palak which shook the Sheffield forward a bit. So much so he went chirping to the ref who gave him a 2 minute misconduct penalty. Kovar found Davies in the slot and his shot was blocked and rebounded to Robin who sent a rocket goalwards but it was just wide of the post. Hawks seemed to have found a new energy as they pinned the Dogs back in their own half but just could not get that finishing touch. Steeldogs took the lead on the night on 56.03 with a second goal for Graham as he knocked a loose puck into the net. Things then got a bit feisty as a group of players came together and Steeldogs’ Brownley appeared to fall into the boards and groggily made his way to the changing room. The result was that Palak received a 2 minute misconduct and a 2+10 for checking from behind and Jordan Bannon received a match penalty for spearing.
The final goal of the evening went to the visitors with 7 seconds left as Spurr scored, assisted by Kolena and Morgan. Final score Hawks 4 Steeldogs 6 and a 13-6 aggregate win for the Steeldogs who move on to the semi finals next weekend.
A superb weekend’s effort from Hawks who frightened the life out of the Steeldogs early in both games. Congrats to Sheffield and good luck in the next round but you head home knowing the Hawks battled to the end.
And so the season ends for Blackburn Hawks. A bit of a mix with a tremendously large injury list in the first half of the season, a change of coach, and a spirited end to the season with the team giving their all every game Congrats to James Neil and the lads for fighting right to the very end and making a lot of Hawks fans very proud of their efforts.
The season may be over for your favourites but you can get your hockey fix on the 21st April at the nest when the Rob Craig Memorial Charity game takes place. Tickets still available for this worthy event.
The following week it is the Blackburn Hawks presentation night on the 27th April in the bar. Get your tickets from the office and come and see the awards ceremony.
Action photos byTom Foy