After a 3-2 AD Flavell Cup defeat at Blackburn Hawks on Saturday, Sutton Sting bounced back with a 5-1 home victory over the Hawks in a return showdown 24 hours later to stay in National Ice Hockey League Moralee Conferece Division One play-off contention.
Sting travelled to Blackburn Hawks on Saturday evening in the cup, and all the talk was about the appointment of Blackburns’ new Canadian Import Jon Adams.
Sting took a strong roster to Blackburn although netminder Andy Bagshaw was playing it solo, as team mate Dmitri Zimozdra and U18 James Bostock weren’t available.
With Ryan Johnson missing too, the Sting looked to the new players and Latvian import Slav Movko to stamp their authority on the game.
From the start of the game it was clear that both sides were keen to play everyone on the benches and, apart from some contentious officiating, the game was end to end for all of the 60 minutes played.
The highlight of the game was the glass shattering hit where Sting’s Canadian import Thomas Stuart-Dant decided to welcome his fellow countryman to the league by checking him with a clean hit which then saw them both go through the Plexiglass.
Once that was repaired, the game ended up locked at 2 -2 with only a minute left to play when Sting conceded another soft penalty, and gifted the opposition an invitation to win the game.
Import Jon Adams didn’t need asking twice as he hit the winner with just over 30 seconds left.
Both netminders faced 37 shots apiece in a good game of hockey and the result leaves Sutton, Blackburn and Solway all on four points in the cup, so all is still to play for.
The second game at Ice Sheffield on Sunday saw a good number of the Sting juniors and their families supporting the home team, and it was the home crowd who were rewarded with the go-ahead goal from James Spurr at 6.41 with assists from Simon Butterworth and Chris Sykes.
Eight minutes later and, following some sustained pressure, captain Ryan Johnson joined the rush and, after four sublime passes he hit the net for a 2-0 lead, timed at 14.43, assisted Chris Colegate and Thomas Stuart-Dant.
The Hawks continued to look for a goal, and only some excellent penalty killing kept them from equalising, as both Matt Jeffcock and Adam Robinson were given two minute penalties for tripping, and delaying the game respectively.
With the penalties killed, it was the home side that again looked to punish Ashton, who managed a couple of good saves between the pipes, seemingly stopping anything that was thrown at the net with 18.12 on the clock.
Canadian import Stuart-Dant was released by an inch-perfect pass from Scott Glover to beat two Hawks players and fire home from long range, leaving netminder Ashton with no chance of making the save.
Hawks’ coach Owen changed netminders in the second period and put in number one goalie Daniel Brittle, who was soon put under pressure when the Sting were given a power play when Hawks’ Oliver Lomax was given a two minute penalty for boarding.
Coach Johnson called up powerplay line two, and it was forward Matt Jeffcock who slotted home from close range, after some excellent play instigated by Chris Colegate to make it 4-0 on 22.39.
The Hawks still pressed on with valour, and were again given an opportunity through a hooking penalty called on Sting’s defenceman Andy McEwan.
The Hawks pressed and eventually got a goal back when forward Jon Adams somehow managed to get the puck over netminder Zimozdra to make it 4 -1 at 30.10.
Chris Sykes then had a perfectly good goal scratched off when it appeared that netminder Brittle had kicked his own net off its moorings.
Tempers then flared when Hawks’ forward Daniel Mackriel crosschecked Scott Glover in the crease, which sparked a fight between the two. Hawks saw this as an opportunity to unsettle the home team, and draw them into their game, but Sting’s Captain Ryan Johnson let them know who was in charge, regardless of the 2+10 penalty he received for roughing and incitement.
The Sting killed the penalty with some fantastic netminding and disciplined defending and the period ended 4 - 1 to Sting.
Without captain Ryan Johnson in the final period, the Sting had to find some inner strength, but suffered another blow as defenceman Simon Offord was taken out of the game with a suspected dislocated shoulder.
Still the Hawks couldn’t penetrate Sting’s Armour. And, as they pressed, the Hawks started to leave a few gaps.
When Mark Turner was given the opportunity to skate the puck out of the home defensive zone seemingly unchallenged, he did exactly what coach Johnson knew he could do, end to end, through two players in the neutral zone, around the last defender then sneakily placed the puck underneath Brittle for an excellent solo effort at 44.51.
A few minutes later Sting had another goal disallowed and the game closed with a number of penalties for both teams, but with Offord out, and Johnson back out of the box, it was the home team that were not letting up.
Home man of the match went to Mark Turner.
Coach and chairman Ian Johnson said: “The lads were awesome tonight. They showed excellent togetherness and even the guys who sat out were constantly supportive of the job in hand.
“We deserved the points tonight and it’s a great feeling knowing that we are now well and truly back in the league race for a play off spot.”
Sting have their first full rest weekend of the season this coming weekend.