The Blackburn HAWKS made the perfect start to their 2014/15 campaign with two clear victories on the season’s opening weekend.
Wins over local rivals, Manchester Minotaurs, and last year’s treble winning Solway Sharks issued a statement of intent for league and Challenge Cup honours respectively, with a total of 15 goals spread over the two games.
The majority came in Saturday’s road win over Manchester, where early tallies from new signing Luke Brittle, Aaron Davies and Matt Viney gave the Hawks a commanding lead at the end of the first period. The visitors later extended their lead to six with Meikle and MacKriel opening their accounts, either side of a second goal for Luke Brittle.
Manchester were able to stem the flow momentarily at the end of the second 20 as Sheldon Cassidy found a way past Daniel Brittle in the Hawks net, but Blackburn continued their assault in the third.
Facing down a five goal defecit, Manchester elected for a change in net – James Hurle making way for U18 backup Harry Greaves – but the home side was unable to prevent four unanswered goals from Jared Owen, Adam Brittle, Daniel MacKriel and former Manchester captain, Jake Nurse.
Manchester tallied with a goal from John Murray, followed closely by a second for Blackburn’s NIHL player of the year, Adam Brittle.
The home side were able to find their third late in the game, but Rhys Gillet’s goal was little more than consolation for the Minotaurs who suffered their fourth consecutive loss to their North West rivals in all competitions.
The following evening, the Hawks returned to home ice for the first time this season for their opening Challenge Cup game. The new format competition, which sees clubs from the NIHL face EPL opposition, replaces last year’s Northern Cup where Solway secured one of their three trophies last year.
Having played runner-up to Solway in both the league and playoffs last year, the Hawks were out to prove their championship calibre in the much anticipated contest.
Just eight minutes in, Daniel MacKriel opening the scoring for the home side, shortly followed by a second goal from David Meikle as the Hawks controlled the game in both possession and shots on goal.
However, with just over a minute left in the first period, Hawks captain Chris Arnone was called for ‘spearing’ and received a match penalty which saw him ejected from the game. The call, although unpopular with the home crowd, would not be the only controversial incident during the often bad tempered affair, with the Hawks amassing 84 penalty minutes over the course of three periods.
Despite spending the vast majority of the game short-handed, the Hawks were able to extend their lead following a goalless second period, with Adam Brittle grabbing two goals to extend his total for the season to four.
Tempers continued to flair, with a number of penalties being handed out liberally to both sides. Notable among these was a 5 minute plus game penalty for butt-ending for Adam Brittle during a scuffle after the forward’s second goal.
The four goal Hawks win was a serious blow to Solway’s cup ambitions having been on the receiving end of a 5-2 defeat the Billingham on Saturday.
With one game played in the Moralee Conference, the Hawks currently sit top of the table with Billingham, Sheffield, Solway, Sutton and Whitley yet to play.
The Hawks travel to Dumfries to face Solway in the return leg of the Challenge Cup next Saturday, before returning to the Ice Arena for their second Moralee Conference game against the Whitley Warriors.
(Images Courtesy of Lee Sutton Photography)