Saturday 22nd January saw the long-awaited return to competitive action for the Blackburn Buccaneers as they welcomed the Halton Huskies to Planet Ice Blackburn for their opening game of the 2022 Summer Classic.
The Huskies had already played two games in the competition, a 10-7 loss to reigning champions Wyre Seagulls and a 6-4 victory over Earle Road Elks.
The Buccs were out of the blocks quick in this one and in their first competitive shifts for the club, Will Hapgood and Ian Mcquade Gilligan linked up to fire the home team into an early lead. Hapgood picked up the puck behind the net and played a perfect pass to the incoming Mcquade Gilligan and he made no mistake.
Just 5 minutes later, Hapgood went from provider to scorer with a nice finish of his own from inside the circles to make it 2-0 inside 10 minutes.
The Huskies slowly started to come into the game and began to test Ciaran Chapman in the Buccs goal but he started the game as he would go on with a string of nice saves. After 13 minutes, Walsh broke up a Huskies attack in the neutral zone and set off with the puck. With space opening in front of him, he was carry the puck all the way to the net and made it 3-0 with a backhand finish past Derbyshire in the Huskies goal.
The Buccaneers pressure continued and not long before the first intermission, Karl Milton fired a low shot from a tight angle that Paddy Thomson was able to redirect into the goal for a 4-0 lead at the first period break.
The Buccs showed no signs of slowing down in the second period and Thomson grabbed his second goal of the night with Alex Frewin getting the assist. The Huskies then stemmed the flow somewhat with two quick goals of their own. First it was Dominic Gray and then just two minutes later, Connor Dakin scored to reduce the deficit to 3.
With both teams pushing hard, it was the Buccs who got the crucial next goal. A shot from Mcquade Gilligan bounced back out off the boards and Raivis Apfelbaums was on-hand to tap it into an open goal. The second period ended with the home side’s lead restored to 4 at 6-2.
In the final 20 minutes, the Huskies started to look tired and the Buccs took full advantage, applying extended pressure on the visitors. After Hapgood carried the puck into the offensive zone, he played a nice pass to Luke Savage who fired a hard shot over Derbyshire’s shoulder into the top corner of the net.
Shortly after, Walsh grabbed his second of the game with a slapshot from the top of the circles and then Matt Dixon rounded off the scoring with a fine solo goal. After carrying the puck down the boards, he cut inside before patiently waiting for Derbyshire to drop before he sniped the puck into the roof of the goal.
Ciaran Chapman picked up the MVP for the Buccaneers after a solid performance in goal, turning away 37 of 39 shots.
For the visitors, it went to John Buckell.
Will Hapgood recorded a goal and two assists on his debut for the club and he gave us his thoughts after the game.
Great to start off the Summer Classic with a dominant win and very happy to make a contribution on my debut. We stayed structured and outworked the Huskies all game and Ciaran was amazing when called upon. Also shout out to Dux who covered D, he had a very strong game playing in an unfamiliar position.
The Buccaneers are scheduled to return to action in April as we play the return fixture against the Huskies at Widnes.
Mcquade Gilligan 1+1