Having spent the entire league season in the shadow of runaway English National League Two champions Solway Sharks, Sutton Sting’s senior ice hockey team have seen off their challengers for the runners-up spot and clinched the chance to battle it out in the play-offs.
Sting booked their chance to win promotion to Division One with last weekend’s 13-2 success over another league newcomer, Fylde Flyers, at home.
The game started very brightly for the Sting, who scored seven unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes of the game.
The Sting were in great form and going forward they were irresistible with goals coming from Ritchie Oliver (3), Simon Butterworth (2) Simon Williams and Danny Wild.
The Flyers just did not have enough to cope and, as penalties were conceded, the Sting power-play and penalty-killing systems proved to be highly successful and the game was soon beyond the Flyers’ reach.
Oliver was in scintillating form and by the end of the game he had scored five goals.
Butterworth, too, continued to set the pattern for with two goals and four assists, giving him another remarkable six-point game.
But it was Sting U18 player Danny Wild who once again showed what he is capable of.
Switching to defence, due to injuries to Ryan Gee, Simon Offord and James Goodman, Wild was an inspiration and added two assists to his goal for three points.
Other Sting goals came from Matt Jeffcock, Paul Lane, Ben Sayer and two for Nat Rose, who continues to rediscover the form that made him an EPL regular before his exile to the hockey wilderness five years ago.
After the game Sting coach Ian Johnson said: “That was another first class performance from the boys today.
“We came out hard in the first period and quickly put the game beyond a short-benched Flyers team. I am very happy with the job we’ve done today.”
With the play-off spot confirmed, the Sting can now enjoy the final two games of the season - a return to Cleveleys next weekend for a rematch with the Flyers and then the final game away at Sheffield.
But Johnson does not expect his men to relax and he will be increasing the tempo as he prepares his side for their biggest encounter with the mighty Nottingham Lions.
He said: “I’m really excited at the prospect of facing the Lions and it will be a massive test for Sutton Sting.
“The Lions have a great pedigree and are a massive Club so to face them it will be like a Cup Final. I’m looking forward to it.”
Pictured: Ritchie Oliver - five goals against Fylde.