The Blackburn HAWKS found themselves either side of results this weekend after Saturday’s Challenge Cup loss on the road to Solway was followed by an assured return to winning ways against Whitley.
Blackburn were unlucky not to take points from a closely fought contest north of the border, and confidence was high following a 4-0 win over last year’s treble winning Sharks last Sunday.
However, with a decidedly shorter bench than their last outing (both Chris Arnone and Adam Brittle were missing through suspension), the Hawks found themselves behind just after the eight minute mark when Stuart Tonner struck for the hosts with a power play goal.
Former Hawk Richard Bentham doubled their lead to open the second period, but within ten minutes, Blackburn had turned the game on its head as Luke Brittle, James Riddoch and David Miekle fired home in quick succession.
Leading 3-2, the Hawks looked to build on their advantage in the third period, but two quick fire goals from Solway just after the 40 minute mark out the Sharks back in front.
James Riddoch bagged his second of the evening shortly after to tie the scores at four, but further goals from Duncan Speirs and Ross Murray gave the Sharks their first win under the new Challenge Cup format and handed Blackburn their first loss of the season.
The following evening, the Hawks faced the Whitley Warriors at the Blackburn Ice Arena, looking to extend their lead at the top of the Moralee Conference. The Warriors, who made it as far as the semi-finals of the Playoff Weekend last season, arrived with a strong line-up having bolstered their squad significantly over the summer.
The visitors started the game at a pace when new recruit Dean Holland found a way past Daniel Brittle with just over a minute played. But the early salvo failed to dispirit the Hawks, and when Whitley’s Alex Lawson was sent to the box for slashing, Blackburn captain Chris Arnone pulled his team level with a powerplay goal.
Despite the answering goal, the Hawks toiled to little effect during the first period and the frustration told when Jared Owen picked up a lengthy 10 minute penalty for misconduct, shortly followed by a 2-minute elbowing penalty for Adam Brittle. However, Whitley were unable to use the one-man advantage and the period ended at 1-1.
The Hawks began the second period strongly and quickly went in search of the ‘tie-breaker’. Under constant pressure, the Whitley defence was finally beaten mid-way through the period when forward Luke Brittle. His goal was almost immediately followed by an eye-catching tally from his brother – Adam Brittle – who danced his way to the crease to fire the Hawks further ahead.
The period ended with both sides creating chances on the break, but a steadfast defensive effort from both sides prevented any further goals and the Hawks began the final 20 with a 3-1 lead.
Two more quick fire goals followed to open the third period – first Matt Viney ‘lit the lamp’ before Jared Owen made it 5-1 just a few seconds later. Harry Harley gave Whitley hope 10 minutes from time, following a scramble in front of Daniel Brittle’s net, and set up a frantic finish as the Warriors went in search of a come-back.
Luke Brittle appeared to have sealed Whitley’s fate when he grabbed a second goal just two minutes later, but Daniel Pye answered to reduce the deficit to three goals.
Sensing more goals, and desperate to salvage a point, Whitley pulled Turnbull from the net and committed another forward to the ice, applying pressure to the Hawks goal. However, Adam Brittle was able to find enough room to break from his own zone and calmly place the puck into the empty net.
With just over a minute to play, a wayward clearance from the Whitley zone found its way into the stands, giving Blackburn a penalty shot. Luke Brittle, already confident from his previous two goals, weaved the puck past Turnbull for his hat-trick and sealed the 8-3 win for the home side.
[Images with kind permission of Hawk Photography and Ella Thornton]