After an extremely long wait, the Buccaneers finally returned to competitive action on Saturday as they welcomed the Sheffield Ice Tigers to Planet Ice Blackburn for the first leg of the War of the Roses Lockdown Cup.
The game started evenly with both teams sharing early possession but it was the visitors who broke the deadlock after 6 minutes. Andre Beighton cut into the Buccs zone and fired an accurate wrist shot over Rattray’s shoulder to make it 1-0 Ice Tigers. The Buccs didn’t panic, however, and in the 11th minute, they went from 1 goal down to 1 goal up. First, a shot from the point by Walsh caused a scramble in the Ice Tigers crease and Sam Calderbank forced the puck over the line for the equaliser. Then just 52 seconds later, Thomson found himself with the puck behind the Ice Tigers goal and he fed a lovely pass to Walsh who had jumped in the play from the blue line. The traffic in front of Cartwright left him with little chance and Walsh made no mistake firing high into the net.
As the period wore on, the Buccaneers offence continued to pressure the Ice Tigers into mistakes in their own zone but the next goal would come when Alex Frewin, making his Buccaneers debut, fashioned a chance from what seemed like nothing. Picking the puck up from Jon Nuttall in the neutral zone, he went straight for the goal and after two outrageous toe-drags to go past the defencemen, he sniped it top corner for what was easily the goal of the game. End of the first period, Buccs 3-1 Ice Tigers.
The Buccs came out quickly again in the second period. With the Ice Tigers having a man in the box for too many men, Calderbank grabbed his second of the game on the powerplay with Rob McNair picking up the assist. Despite being 3 goals down, the Ice Tigers were growing into the game and were enjoying some puck possession in the Buccaneers zone but the home side maintained a solid structure at the back and the Ice Tigers could not find a way past Glen Rattray in goal. At the half-way point in the period, the Buccs grabbed another from an unlikely scenario as Michael McLoughlin fired a puck goal-bound from the corner of the ice which deflected off an unsuspecting defenceman and past a helpless Cartwright.
With the game approaching the last 5 minutes, it would have been easy for the Buccaneers to ease off and take a 4-goal lead to Sheffield for the second leg however they did the exact opposite. Despite bringing 4 lines, the Ice Tigers were started to tire and the Buccs sniffed blood. First it was the big d-man, Callum Greenhalgh who fired a bullet of a shot from the point straight into the Buccs goal, assist provided by Hudson Nuttall. Two minutes later, Walsh was breaking out of the Buccs zone and saw Sam Calderbank in behind the Sheffield defence. A stretch pass found Calderbank who completed his hat-trick. Not content with three goals though, Calderbank continued with his trademark tireless forechecking and just 46 seconds after his hat-trick goal, pick-pocketed a Sheffield player in the zone and roofed the puck over Cartwright to make it 4 for himself and 8 for Blackburn. The scoring was completed when Raivis Apfelbaums burst into the zone and layed the puck over to Adam Duxbury who forced it in on the back door.
Final score Buccaneers 9-1 Ice Tigers 1.
After the game, we asked Ice Tigers coach Jimi Drinkall for his thoughts
I thought we were poor in the first period and the lads know this too. I thought we dominated in the second and were unlucky not to be level pegging. The lads gave it their all in the third but a few mistakes and a lack of fitness in the last 10 minutes gave the Buccs a dominant victory. We regroup and are looking forward to the return on the 31st in Sheffield.
The result puts the Buccaneers in a commanding position heading to Ice Sheffield for the return leg but nothing will be taken for granted. Despite the scoreline, if not for some solid netminding from Rattray, the game could have been much closer.
We also asked Buccaneers debutant Alex Frewin for his take.
For a first game back after a long time out for most of us, I thought it was quite a strong game from the Buccs. The boys skated hard, kept our systems in play when challenged, and got pucks and bodies on net resulting in a bunch of goals across all lines. I was doubly impressed with the resilience on the bench to turn around a very quick goal against into a winning first period. It would have been easy to drop our heads at that point but if anything the opposite happened and everybody stepped up.
The Buccaneers make the return journey across the Pennines on Saturday 31st July where they will be hoping to get their hands on the Lockdown Cup.
Duxbury, McLoughlin, Greenhalgh, Frewin 1+0
Apfelbaums, J. Nuttall, H Nuttall, McNair, Beesley, 0+1