|Sheffield Ice Tigers||—||3||—||3|
The second game of the Summer Classic League campaign took the Buccaneers over the Pennines to Sheffield to face the Ice Tigers. After a 10-10 thriller in Blackburn last August, both teams had points to prove.
The game could not have started better for the visitors as Matt Duncan won possession from the opening faceoff and sent Mark Higson down the right wing. With Bell in the Tigers goal slightly off the post, Higson shot from a tight angle and it found its way into the back of the net. 1-0 Buccaneers with just 11 seconds on the clock. Two minutes later, it was Higson on the board again, this time with a fine solo effort, rounding the Tigers defence and firing over the shoulder of Bell. Despite protests from the Ice Tigers that the puck had hit the crossbar, the officials correctly ruled that it had gone in.
After a strong start from the Buccaneers, the Ice Tigers slowly started to find their way into the game, forcing a number of saves from Tomlin in the Blackburn goal. There would be no further scoring action in the period and the Buccs went into the break 2 goals to the good.
The second period got underway and despite the Buccaneers enjoying more shots on goal, the Ice Tigers continued to look a threat to Tomlin’s goal. On 27.20, captain for the day, Matt Dixon lit the lamp with a wrist shot with Gareth Fogarty and Sam Towse picking up the assists. Less than 40 seconds had passed by before Higson completed his hat-trick. A strong cross-crease pass headed for Duncan at the back door was deflected off an Ice Tigers defenceman into his own goal. Higson would complete his goal-scoring for the day just 2 minutes later – Mark Jenkins dropping a nice pass into the Wigan-native’s path and he made no mistake, rounded the keeper and finishing on his backhand. Three goals in under 2 and a half minutes had put the Buccaneers 5-0 up and it seemed to all that this could have signalled the opening of the floodgates.
The Tigers, however, were not to be deterred from the task and they hit right back with 3 goals of their own in the space of 3 minutes. Some slack man-marking from the visitors allowed the Tigers time in the slot and they took advantage to reduce the deficit to 2, the goals coming from Andy Shackleton, Joe Hawnt and Darren De Souza. The Buccaneers were keen to see out the period without conceding again and they just about managed thanks to some solid saves from Tomlin.
The message in the period break for the Buccaneers was to get back out hard and fast in the third period. They did just that and in the process drew a number of penalties from Sheffield. A couple of weeks previous in Hull, the Buccaneers had enjoyed tremendous success on the powerplay but could not replicate that form again, struggling to create clear chances.
As the period ticked on, the Buccaneers put plenty of rubber on the Tigers goal but Bell was in fine form and had an answer to everything. With three minutes left on the clock, a timeout was called by the Buccaneers bench and while Michael Walsh took time to remind everyone of the importance of being responsible in the defensive zone to see the game out. Straight from the re-start, Matt Duncan put the age-old adage of ‘attack is the best form of defence’ into action and burst up the other end of the ice to fire through the 5-hole of Bell and put the game to bed.
The buzzer sounded and the final score was Sheffield Ice Tigers 3-6 Blackburn Buccaneers. MVP for the Ice Tigers went to the netminder, Bell who produced a string of fine saves to keep the home side in touch throughout. The Ice Tigers picked Jade Conway as the Buccaneers MVP after a typically, gritty and hard-working performance.
We caught up with Ice Tigers team manager Jimi Drinkall to get his thoughts on the game:
I was disappointed with the result but very impressed with the way the team fought to the end. It was good to see how much the team has come on over the last couple of months. I was pleased with Blackburn too, they played the game with the right spirit and we look forward to playing them in Blackburn.
Ryan Spencer had a solid game on the Buccaneers blue-line and he had this to say:
We played a good game against a battling Sheffield team. Although we struggled to get shots on the goal on the powerplay, I thought we moved the puck well and that special team is something that could serve us well this year. We’ve got a big game against Kingston next Sunday and we need to make sure we’re communicating well and getting our heads up in the zone.