Sutton Sting beat Manchester Minators 11-5 in a real thriller at iceSheffield on Sunday in what was a four point double header game, with two points up for grabs in the National Hockey League One Moralee Conference and two points for the KD Flavell Northern Cup.
Sting knew they had to win to keep in contention for the cup, but more importantly maintain their involvement for a top four finish, and a play-off spot.
The home team had 21 players available, and Manchester travelled with 17.
The game started with both teams quickly out of the blocks, but with only 02.14 on the clock, Manchester’s Cade King was sent to the penalty box for holding and within 14 seconds James Spurr found the net easily on the early powerplay, assisted by Chris Sykes and Simon Butterworth.
Goal number two for the home team then came from another power play, this time is was Simon Offord who hit the net at 07.19, assisted by Spurr and Butterworth.
Manchester rallied and less than a minute later, after some great passing, Tomas Hnilica scored an even-handed goal, timed at 08.32.
The home team turned up the heat, with some fantastic passing, and physical play, and an opportunity arrived for Spurr to hit his second of the afternoon, following a great full ice pass from defencemen Scott Glover to Butterworth, who neatly found Spurr at the hash marks to beat young netminder Harry Greaves easily on the short side at 12.41.
Manchester continued to contain the Sting, but the offensive pressure was testing them to the limit and at 13.05 Manchester’s captain Brian Worrall was called for high sticks on Shaun Ashton.
For the third consecutive powerplay, Sting’s second powerplay line delivered a great goal through Ashton, assisted by Matt Jeffcock and Thomas Stuart-Dant to make it 4-1 at 14.42
No further goals were scored during the first period, and the penalties seemed to have settled, with referee Steve Wardell seemingly managing the game efficiently, allowing both teams to settle into their game.
The second period started where the first had finished with the home team pushing to extend their lead.
Manchester stood strong, with Greaves making some good solid saves, and Bagshaw in the Sting net also being tested, but again it was a too many men on the ice call against the Minators which enabled the home team to further extend their lead with another perfect powerplay display.
Richie Oliver netted goal number five, assisted by Chris Colegate and Jeffcock, the goal timed at 23.55.
Just over a minute later it was 6-1 as import Slav Movko scored from close range, assisted Sykes and Ryan Johnson at 26.04.
Manchester still pushed for a goal, and never looked like quitting, and after Stuart-Dant was called for tripping at 28.01 it was their turn to demonstrate their powerplay ability.
They almost scored, but Bagshaw made a great save to deny Joe Greaves.
Sting coach Ian Johnson then made an error by icing import Movko on the penalty kill line, and, already having Canadian import Stuart-Dant in the box, referee Wardell called the home team for icing too many non-British trained players at 29.02.
Minators now icing five on three had a great opportunity to pull a goal back, and they did after some patient play, Chris Hutchinson beating Bagshaw, assisted by Hnilica and Sean Day at 29.23.
Sting managed to kill the remaining penalty. But it was Manchester who took the game by the scruff of the neck, putting Bagshaw under immense pressure between the pipes for the home team, and the hard work paid off after a defensive error allowed import Lukas Zeman to break through one on one with Bagshaw and slot home.
At 6-3 it was a real chance for the away team to pull themselves back into to game. Sutton looked like they had switched off and the Minators saw an opportunity and took it. Strong words on the bench were clear for all to hear as Johnson demanded a response.
He didn’t have to wait long as Stuart-Dant went clear through against Greaves only for him to be denied by a great save, the rebound tipped behind the net.
It was collected by Stuart-Dant, who then neatly wrapped the puck around the net, slipping it through the five hole of Greaves for 7-3.
The third stanza was another great period, with both teams looking to dominate the other, but with all cylinders firing it was Sutton’s Mark Turner who extended the home team’s lead only 47 seconds into the period, assisted by Adam Robinson.
The ninth goal for the home team came from Sykes, assisted by Butterworth and Spurr at 42.41 and goal number 10 came shortly after from Colegate at 43.35, assisted by Stuart-Dant, and Robinson.
Manchester pulled another back from ex-Sting defencemen Andy Dunn, assisted by Pollitt at 48.52. But Dunn was then involved in Sutton’s 11th goal as Colegate was awarded a penalty shot following Dunn throwing his stick after being beaten by Colegate to go clear on the net minder, Colegate easily beating Greaves at 51.18
The final goal of the game went to Minator’s import Zeman, assisted by Jared Dickinson, a great goal, but too little too late. The game finished 11-5, with 39 shots on Greaves, and 40 shots on Bagshaw, and Man of the Match went to Matt Jeffcock.