Oct 14 2011 by Susan Bryden, Dumfries Standard Friday
ON SUNDAY evening the Solway Sharks were on the road once more, this time to Blackburn to face the Hawks in a Northern Cup fixture that could go a long way towards deciding the eventual winners of the competition.
The Hawks had thrown the competition wide open the previous week with a fine victory so Solway knew they had a match on their hands.
But after a long and exciting night’s hockey, the Sharks returned with a hard-earned six-two victory.
The Sharks now top the mini-league with three victories and one loss, four points ahead of anyone else, and could probably be considered favourites now with just two home fixtures remaining against Billingham and Blackburn in January.
On the evening, the home side began slightly the quicker to the delight of the large Lancashire crowd and drew several excellent saves from Sharks netminder Gary Russell with Richard Hughes and Jared Owen looking dangerous up front.
However, Solway grew in confidence as the session progressed and began to hit Blackburn on the break as the hosts found it difficult to cope with the speed, passing and free-flowing movement of the visitors.
Resolute defending and the skill of both netminders came out on top though and the audience were as happy to draw breath as the players were when the first interval arrived with the match still scoreless.
The second period began with the Sharks in a far more aggressive frame of mind and they quickly took the game to Blackburn and were rewarded after four minutes when a lick interchange between Mark Gallagher and Calum Henderson allowed Adam Reynolds to open the scoring.
One facet of the Sharks play this year is that they have shown more of a killer instinct with goals coming in groups rather than individually and just two minutes later they doubled their advantage when Struan Tonnar set up Nathan Salem to score.
Just after the midway point, the match got a little scrappy with a run of minor penalties and this seemed to throw the Sharks off their game.
Blackburn were quick to take advantage of this and four minutes before the second interval they got on the score sheet when Owen set up Hughes to score from the slot.
The Sharks responded well as they went back on the offensive and within two minutes their two-goal lead was restored when Joe Coulter and Bob Chalmers, together with the fast hands of Lewis Gold allowed the latter to make the score three-one Solway at the second intermission.
The Hawks came out for the final period in determined mood but their early possession failed to bring the dividends that it probably deserved and in the end they may well have regretted passing up the opportunity to sign a natural goal scorer such as the previous evening’s five-goal hero Elvis Velze.
After the early pressure subsided, the Sharks went onto the attack once more and their speed on the ice and their incisive passing brought anther two-goal haul in quick succession.
On the 43-minute mark an Aaron Greger pass allowed Nathan Salem to net goal number four and the fifth came a minute later when Mark Gallagher scored from close range after good build-up play from Adam Reynolds and Calum Henderson.
Another scrappy period of play followed and another rash of minor penalties saw the Hawks on a powerplay in the 48th minute when, after prolonged pressure, the home side scored on the powerplay through Jordan Bannon with assists on the play going to Tom King and Chris Arnone.
An unfortunate accident 10 minutes from the end saw Struan Tonnar leave the ice after a skate went over his ankle that left him with a deep cut that required stitches.
At the time he was ably treated to first aid from ex-Hawk Anthony Kinder and Struan was given very sporting applause from the large crowd as he was helped to the dressing room.
Despite dogged effort from the Hawks the Sharks sealed the contest with the goal of the game on the 53-minute mark. A pass from close to his own goal by Aaron Greger found Adam Reynolds just out side his own blueline and the ace marksman turned provider as his deft reverse pass set Bob Chalmers free up centre-ice. The Sharks veteran then reminded the Hawks fans what they had once adored as Bob bore down on the Blackburn goal at speed. A quick flick of his hips swung Chalmers sharply to his right across the face of the home goal, allowing him the space to pull the puck back into the net at the far post and the Sharks had a winning six-two margin.
Scoring statistics for the Sharks: Nathan Salem two goals and no assists, Adam Reynolds 1+2, Robert Chalmers and Mark Gallagher both 1+1, Aaron Greger and Calum Henderson both 0+2, Joe Coulter and Struan Tonnar both 0+1. Netminder Gary Russell saved thirty of the thirty-two shots that he faced while Mark Gallagher picked up the man of the match award for Solway.