The BCD Solway Sharks travelled down to IceSheffield on Sunday for the second instalment of their double-header challenge series with the Sheffield Steeldogs and came away with a very creditable and hard-earned two-two draw.
The opening twelve minutes saw little between the teams as both side looked to gain the upper hand but to no avail. Up front sixteen year old Lewis Houston was lively, looking to impress and obviously relishing his ice time with the senior side. While at the back the defence appeared solid in front of Calum Hepburn.
Overall the home side, as to be expected, were enjoying a shade more possession than the visitors and this eventually paid off in the thirteenth minute. A flowing move involving Lewis Bell and Ashley Calvert saw the puck find the dangerous Adrian Palak (12:30) on the right and his precise shot evaded the grasp of Calum Hepburn and settled in the Sharks goal.
Solway heads might have gone down at that point, but they didn’t and within ninety seconds they were back on level terms. Lewis Houston (14:02), eight yards from goal, latched onto a loose puck, cleverly drew it back-handed across his body and slotted it home past Zimozdra.
The equaliser was no more than the Sharks deserved. Sheffield immediately went on the offensive but the Solway defence was ready and soaked up the pressure with relative ease and might well have made it to the first interval unscathed in another game. With just under two minute left in the period a swift break up the left found Ross Murray wrong footed and his clumsy challenge gave him a two-minute minor for tripping and the Steeldogs their first powerplay of the game. At first Solway defended well but the pressure told when Lewis Bell and Adrian Palak combined so set up Ashley Calvert (19:28) to score from close range.
It would be easy to talk about swift breaks up the left, excellent saves and stout defence over the next two periods and they would all be true. In the end both side tried to play to their coach’s instructions and provided pretty good hockey with a pinch of excitement for their supporters but often cancelled each other out.
With the game heading towards its last six minutes the Sharks got the reward that their determination deserved.
The combined efforts Lewis Houston and Stevie Moore saw the puck find Scott Henderson (53:56) in the slot and while he personally told me that the shot was a “muffin” I’m pretty sure it almost burst the net – just a thread or two remaining. Either way the shot deceived the excellent Dmitri Zimozdra (as was Calum Hepburn) and found the net to give the Sharks a deserved draw.
With the clock ticking down inside the last minute Solways efforts to secure a win broke down and Sheffield were suddenly racing up the ice two-on-one against Kyle Horne. As the home support arose to their feet the big Solway D-man used all his experience to position himself and force the puck carrier to the outside. With Horne holding his ground the Steeldog had a decision to make and by the time he made up his mind the chance was gone.
A draw was a fair result overall. Sheffield certainly had more possession but the Sharks played a good road game and forced Zimozdra into making a number of good saves while Calum Hepburn also made several crucial saves at the other end. The two games provided both teams with the competitive action that they required before the season gets underway next weekend. Knowing that a second import is on the way, together with players who were unavailable this weekend and with another possible forward signing to come, the Sharks supporters can expect to see a competitive team on the ice this season who will still be challenging for honours.
Man of the Match for the Sharks was Kyle Horne while Lewis Bell picked up that honour for the Steeldogs.
Match photographs can be seen by following this link.