The BCD Solway Sharks got their NIHL (North) 1 play-off campaign off to a thrilling start at the Shark Tank on Saturday evening with a four-four draw with the Solihull Barons.
There was little to suggest what was to come from the home favourites in a first period which saw far too many misplaced passes and a distinct lack of teamwork and, perhaps, as little as possible should be said of the opening twenty minutes. On the other hand the Barons must be given credit for the expansive and attacking game plan that they deployed. From the opening puck drop they were in the Sharks faces and at every opportunity they attacked with speed and precision and when the first interval arrived they were well worth their three goal advantage. For the record Niklas Ottosson (06:49) opened the scoring with a neat finish in the seventh minute, Adam Brittle (15:19 PP) scored the second on a powerplay and Elliot Farrell (19:30) made it three-nil just before the break.
Solway knew that changes had to be made to their tactics and they returned to the ice for period two in a far different frame of mind and were soon rewarded when Duncan Speirs (23:12 pictured) collected possession of a loose puck on the right wing and cut across the face of goal before lifting his shot over the netminder and into the net. With blood in their nostrils the Sharks went looking for more and soon forced a powerplay which allowed Iain Bowie (25:20 PP) to redirect a Josh Grieveson shot past netminder Nicholls from close range.
Five minutes later the Sharks were on level terms when Ross Murray (30:27) picked up a Struan Tonnar pass on the left wing and was allowed to proceed unchallenged into the face-off circle from where he produced a fine wrist shot to beat the Solihull keeper. To their credit the Barons regrouped and took the lead once more when a slick move down the right wing on another powerplay saw Andrew Whitehouse and Tomas Janak combine to set up Thomas Soar (33:00) to give the visitors the lead once more.
The final period of play contained just about everything you could ask for from play-off hockey. It started with controversy when the Josh Nicholls the Barons netminder was ejected from the game for spearing – a crime which only the referee appeared to see. Perhaps though this may have worked somewhat in the visitors favour as he was replaced by their regular keeper, Daniel Brittle, who was recovering from injury but proceeded to save no less than twenty-four shots in the remaining eighteen minutes.
The fact that the Sharks outshot the Barons by twenty-seven shots to seven in the final session suggests that the majority of play was headed towards the visitors goal and so it was. Everywhere you looked on the ice there was something happening and every player on each team gave absolutely everything for their cause. No quarter was asked by either team and no quarter was given. As the game entered its final minute the Sharks were still searching for that elusive equaliser when Lewis Houston and Connor Henderson combined well to allow Marek Charvat (59:15) to force the puck home from the edge of the crease.
In all honesty a draw was the very least that the players from both sides deserved for serving a real treat for the supporters and the tie is very much alive for either team to win in the second leg in Solihull on Sunday.
The Man of the Match award for the Barons was presented to Niklas Ottosson while James Hutchinson picked up that honour for the Sharks.
Full match statistics can be found by following this link.
GoPro coverage of all four goals from Saturday’s game against Solihull.