Hawks Make Play-off Push With Win
Full 9 Yards sponsored Blackburn Hawks took on Billingham Stars in a vital NIHL League game on Sunday night. With only 3 points separating the teams, the clash was vital to Hawk’s play-off hopes.
Hawks had lost to Telford Tigers the previous evening and were still missing James Neil, Jordan Bannon, Rick Ravey and Adam Barnes.The home side started well with Robin Kovar showing some great hands as he darted inside but his shot went over the bar. The next chance fell to Stars with a two on one breakout but the puck slid past the post. The first powerplay of the game went to Stars but Harrison Walker stayed focused to keep the puck out. Great end to end play with both teams realising the importance of the win and Riddoch, Streetly and Pollit worked the puck into the Stars’ defensive zone and the latter’s shot came off netminder Flavell’s chest. Hawks were now dominating the game and the breakthrough came after 15.45. Luke Boothroyd fed Robin Kovar behind the net and after strong work, tried the wrap around but the puck bounced off the net minders right pad. The rebound fell to the rushing Ross Kennedy and he made no mistake to put the home side up 1-0.
With Luke Boothroyd still in the penalty box on a check from behind penalty, Stars pushed hard at the start of the second period and put the Hawks defence under pressure. After a clearance sent Robin Kovar off on a solo run which ended with another good save from Flavell, Hawks managed to keep Stars in their own defensive zone. Lee Pollitt then went coast to coast and dropped a pass to Aaron Davies at the far post but the puck eluded him. The crowd were up on their feet with just over 3 minutes gone in the period as Robin Kovar scored his first goal for the club. He took a pass from James Riddoch just inside his own half and a mazy run through the whole Stars defence ended with him firing the puck high into the net. 2-0 Harrison Walker had to be alert 5 minutes later as he tracked the on-rushing Stars forward to make a good pad save. Blackburn made it 3-0 with 5 minutes left in the period. Luke Boothroyd slid the puck to Lee Pollitt who looked up and saw young Jack Murray crossing the blue line and when the youngster took the puck, he took his time and fired the puck home like a veteran. The noise from the crowd and the celebration by the Hawks players gave the feeling that it was a defining goal in the game.
Much of the same from both teams in the third as Hawks continued to look dangerous on attack but Stars were given a chance to get back in the game when on a 5 on 3 powerplay as Craig Lutkevitch and Bobby Streetly sat out penalties but never really challenged Walker in the Hawks’ net. Hawks eased off slightly as the period wound down and a penalty to Stars with 2 minutes left made sure that Hawks would have a vital win.
The Man of the Match award for Hawks could have gone to any number of players in an excellent performance but it went to Hawks 17 year old netminder Harrison Walker for a 35 shot, first time shutout for the impressive youngster.
Hawks Coach James Neil said after the game: “A great performance by the lads tonight. They did absolutely everything I asked of them and won with a confident game from in all aspects. It was a must win game and they all stepped up to the plate. Great to see young Harrison get his first shut out and a deserved Man of the Match but I cannot single out one single player from tonight’s win.”
With just three weekends left in the regular season, Hawks now are in a good position to make the play offs, with a 5 point lead over 8th placed Billingham, who they play again, this time in Billingham, next Sunday. Hawks are at home next Saturday evening against Nottingham Lions with the usual Saturday face off of 1800hrs.
*Photos courtesy of Steve Pollitt*