The Blackburn HAWKS continued their unbeaten streak in the NIHL Moralee Conference with a 5-1 win over last year’s treble winning Solway Sharks.
The Hawks, who were coming off a length break in fixtures, had played the Sharks three times so far this season – winning two and losing one – but a tougher test lay in store with the Dumfries outfit bolstering their squad with two imports in recent weeks.
Fears that Blackburn would struggle to rediscover their form after weeks without competitive ice time were tested in the first period, and the Hawks were noticeably sluggish – at least by their standards – early on.
As to be expected when these two sides meet, the game began at a pace with big checks and plenty of physical play on display. Both sides exchanged penalties before the Hawks appeared to take the lead, only for the goal to be ‘waved away’ by referee Emerson.
Despite further chances for both clubs it was the visitors who grabbed the first goal midway through the opening period . With defenceman Craig Rogers in the box for a two minute tripping penalty, Craig Mitchell was able to lift the puck over Stuart Ashton and into the Blackburn net.
Minutes later the Hawks responded only to once again see the goal disallowed by the officials. With tempers flaring, Blackburn’s Rick Ravey and Solway’s Struan Tonnar were made examples of and given a two minute roughing penalty each. This didn’t prevent a brawl between the two sides as they left the ice, neither club willing to back down as the fierce rivalry flared up once again.
The second period began with both clubs serving penalties including two misconduct penalties. Despite this, the home side upped the pressure on the Solway goal, finally finding their answer on 25 minutes through Daniel MacKriel. Shortly after, they found their second as Jared Owen gave his side a 2:1 lead and the Hawks started to gather momentum.
With the odds now stacked in their favour, Blackburn went in search of a third unanswered goal. The Solway net lived a charmed life as shots rang out off the posts and flew agonisingly wide.
But with just under a minute to go in the second period, Jordan Bannon made it 3:1 to take a two goal lead into the final period.
The third period saw the Sharks rally briefly, looking for a way back into a game that was quickly getting away from them, but they were unable to stop leading scorer, Luke Brittle from adding to the Hawks’ lead with less than five minutes played in the period.
Both sides continued to trade penalties throughout, with former Hawk Richard Bentham sitting a ten minute misconduct penalty for the visitors. The visitors’ frustration continued when they had their own goal cancelled out, with the Blackburn net off its moorings as the puck crossed the line.
With the Sharks reeling from their near miss, Blackburn immediately responded, taking the puck the length of the ice for Luke Brittle to grab his second goal, and wrap up a dominant display for a 5:1 win.
Speaking to the Lancashire Telegraph, Hawks captain Chris Arnone said: “We came out slowly in the first period, which was probably to be expected, and they went one goal up on a power-play.
“But even when we were behind I thought we pretty much dominated, we just lacked that cutting edge.
“It’s going to be non-stop from now until the New Year, it’s going to be tough and it’s probably going to define our season.
“If we can keep winning we’ll be looking pretty strong for the league.
“But I don’t want to be getting carried away yet. We’re just going to take it one game a time.
“It’s worked well for us doing that this year and we’re not going to change now.”
(Pictures by John Milton – Eventog)