The road over the Pennines has been well-trodden by Buccaneers teams over the years however this game would be the first time we’d face the Sheffield Mavericks. Both teams were expecting a competitive game and nobody was left disappointed.
Just over two lines of Buccs made the journey and things were made even harder when Adam Bolton went down injured in only the second shift of the game, forcing him to take a very early bath.
It would be left to the 2 lines + 1 to keep the Mavericks at bay.
The first 10 minutes of the game were end-to-end. The Buccaneers enjoyed more of the puck but Sheffield showed they were dangerous on the break, forcing Glen Rattray to make a number of saves. The deadlock was broken halfway through the period by Matt Dixon with his first of the game and despite more chances for both teams it took until the 19th minute for another goal. Dixon again burying the puck with Sam Towse and Michael McLoughlin picking up the extras.
The Mavericks came out hard in the second period and it only took 11 seconds for them to get on the board. Link-up play between Duckenfield and Winstanley provided Renzl with a chance and he made no mistake in cutting the deficit to one. That did last long though as back up the other end, McLoughlin continued his fine points-scoring form restoring the lead to two. Sheffield continued to threaten the Buccs goal but Rattray produced a string of fine saves to maintain the advantage. His efforts were rewarded on the half-hour mark when Dixon completed his hat-trick, putting the Buccs truly in control of the game for the first time.
The visitors knew a huge effort was required in the third period. With only two lines, legs were starting to get heavy and after Sheffield finished the second period strong, they would come out strong again. Despite this, it was the Buccaneers who would score 3 minutes into the period. Simon Pickering finishing a nice play from Dixon and McLoughlin to make it 5-1 Buccs and surely game over.
The Mavs had other ideas though and two goals in three minutes from Watts and Moore meant the Buccs were not afforded the luxury of coasting to victory. Fine performances from both Bassendale in the Mavericks goal and Rattray meant that was the end of the scoring. Final score 5-3 to the short-benched Buccaneers.
MVPs for both teams deservedly went to the netminders who were both responsible for the game being kept close throughout.
We asked Mavericks manager Paul Reeves for his thoughts on the game:
The first two periods felt lacklustre by our guys – things were flat. Even the early goal in the second period didn’t spark us into life. We weren’t playing bad, we just couldn’t step it up a gear. The Buccaneers were quick on the break and made us pay for the smallest mistakes. Thankfully, a different team came out in the third period and if it wasn’t for two hot keepers, who knows what the score could have been!
Overall, the guys loved the game and enjoyed playing against a good group of guys we’ve not met before. Really looking forward to the return game!
Buccaneers captain Michael Walsh echoed a lot of Paul’s thoughts:
It was a really competitive game right from the off and we were made to work extremely hard for our victory. At 5-1 down it would have been easy for Sheffield to collapse but they came right back at us and didn’t stop until the final buzzer.
I was happy with how we played, we’ve been working on moving the puck around in training and we’re starting to see the benefits in games, especially when we get the puck down deep. Hopefully we can take this into the return game in a couple of week’s time.
De Souza 0+1
The Buccaneers welcome the Mavericks to Blackburn Arena for the return fixture on Saturday 26th May.