Sunday 17th June saw the Buccaneers make the short trip over to Widnes for the return game against the Halton Huskies. Earlier in the year, the Buccs had enjoyed an 8-4 win at Blackburn but this would prove to be a much tougher test.
The first period started brightly for the Buccs – with just 2 minutes on the clock, Raivis Apfelbaums found Paddy Thomson all alone in the slot and he fired home for an early lead. Both teams had chances throughout the period but it was the Huskies who got the next goal. A stray pass from Michael Walsh in the offensive zone was nabbed by James Kelly and he flew up the ice and fired past Rattray in the Buccaneers goal to make it 1-1 going into the first period break.
The second period was the Huskies turn to have a quick start and it was another shorthanded goal, Josh Grocutt putting the home side in the lead for the first time in the game. Another goal each for Kelly and Grocutt in under 2 minutes gave the Huskies a controlling 4-1 lead before Walsh managed to round the Huskies defence and put the puck past Burns to cut the deficit to two. Any hopes of a second period comeback were dashed instantly though as Kelly completed a nice hat-trick and then Jeff Chapman-Watson rounded off the period scoring. End of the second period and it was 6-2 to the Huskies.
The Buccaneers had been slow for the first 40 minutes and the Huskies had taken advantage of some sloppy defensive play. The Buccs were on the ropes and in the third period, came out swinging. With 10 minutes left though, it was still 6-2 and despite the increased effort, it was looking like too little too late for the Buccs. But on 50 minutes, Apfelbaums set the Buccs on the comeback trail with Thomson and Dixon picking up the assists. Just 3 minutes later it was Apfelbaums again who found the net with his second of the night and his fourth in just two games for the Buccs – Thomson again picking up the assist.
With 6 minutes left on the clock, the Buccaneers called a time-out and the message from Walsh was simple – Win every 50/50 puck and if you get a chance, take it.
Michael McLoughlin did just that. With Clark in the Huskies goal believing he had the puck covered, he froze looking for a whistle but McLoughlin saw it loose and poached a goal from nowhere. Then exactly 1 minute later, Walsh played a stretch pass to Matt Dixon who was on his way down the ice. He got the puck under control and made no mistake slotting it through Clark’s legs to tie the game at 6-6 and send the Buccaneers bench into pandemonium.
There were big chances for both teams before the final buzzer but a combination of good goaltending and skaters laying their bodies on the line meant that no further goals would be scored. Final score Huskies 6-6 Buccaneers.
Buccs captain Michael Walsh offered his post-game thoughts:
“The Huskies played very well tonight and unfortunately we just weren’t at the races for the first 40 minutes of the game. That was frustrating because we had lots of quality on the ice, we just didn’t give the best account of ourselves.
That said, it was fantastic to see the response we gave to being 6-2 down. It would have been easy to come out downbeat and give the game up but we battled for every inch of the ice in the third period. It was balls to the wall and we came out fighting.”
MVP for the Huskies was Chapman-Watson. For the Buccaneers, Walsh.