Sheffield Spartans & Blackburn Hawks shared the spoils in a great game of ice hockey at Ice Sheffield on Saturday in which both teams played with passion and desire to get the win. In the end they had to settle for a 4-4 draw in what was an end to end and entertaining game.
Spartans enjoyed the better of things in the first period, they certainly had the better chances but Hawks showed their class to twice draw level in assured fashion. After a good spell of pressure, in which Danny Brittle made a ridiculous save to tip one onto the crossbar, Ollie Barron deservedly put Spartans in front when he fired home from Dougie Jordan & Nick Whyatt on 14.12. Shortly after Adam Brittle equalised, taking his chance well although Spartans wouldn’t have been happy with the space & time they afforded Hawks to set the play up and score on 16.22. Shaun Wild & Stuart Brittle combined well to tee up Ollie Barron for his second timed 18.25 only for Hawks to square it up at 2-2 on 19.33 with a cracking shot from Chris Arnone on the powerplay.
Into the second period and it was a little scrappy as both teams tried to assert themselves in the first few minutes which wasn’t aided by some inconsistent refereeing against both teams, which was to gradually get worse as the game progressed. Shaun Wild almost put Spartans in front and only he will know how he didn’t get his sht away after some great individual skill. A harsh call on Luke Brittle saw Spartans on the powerplay from which Jonathan Kirk fired in a great shot after some neat work from Stuart Brittle & Elliott Knell on 25.33. Hawks frustrations boiled over somewhat enabling Spartans to take control of the game whilst penalties were being sat but were then put under a good spell of pressure from Blackburn; only to be denied with a marvellous double save from Brandon Stones who was called on again shortly after from which Spartans soaked up to then counter in the last few minutes, eventually increasing their lead to 4-2 when Nick Manning showed his experience and composure to score on 37.36 with an assist from Alex Harding with some great passing and movement to create and execute the chance.
Hawks clearly stepped it up a gear from the off in the third and were soon back in the game when Chris Butler’s shot went in from Aaron Davies on 41.32. Once again the referee’s inconsistency looked like spoiling things but credit to the players as they overlooked this to go all out for the win and it was a hard call to say which way it would go with both teams creating good chances to add to their score. Another good spell of possession and pressure on Spartans goal from Hawks reaped rewards with a determined effort to drive the puck home after Brandon Stones had made a fine save but unable to do anything about Aaron Davies popping in the rebound as there was a Hawks player lying on top of him. Brandon was clearly unhappy and received a two minute roughing penalty to add to his frustration with the goal, a powerplay goal timed 50.51. Spartans reacted positively to hit back at Hawks who always looked dangerous on the counter attack but it looked more likely a draw as the clock ticked down, despite both team’s best efforts and chances however there was to be a cruel twist in the tale with just 16 seconds left of the game. Some lovely build up play had Hawks on the back foot and when Will Barron forced the puck home and the goal signalled it looked like Spartans may have inflicted Hawks first defeat of the season. The reaction of the Hawks players spoke volumes as Spartans celebrated but it was not to be has the referee then decided to wash it out for a man in the crease, doing so without consultation to harshly rob Spartans of a hard fought and valuable win. It was a poor call, it was the wrong call,
one of many but obviously it had more of an impact than some of his other decisions. The last 16 seconds passed without further incident to see the final score tied at 4-4.
The Spartans vs Hawks Man of the Match beer monopoly continued for the Brittle family with Stuart for Spartans and Adam for Blackburn in a game where every player deserves praise and credit.
In the end it was arguably a fair result; Hawks had more chances whilst Spartans had by far the better ones in what was a great advert for NIHL hockey and an exciting, passionate game of hockey. You have to feel sorry for Spartans though, to be denied in that fashion was not nice but as results elsewhere went in their favour they are now 4th in the table and one point in front of Sutton Sting who are their opponents in their final league game of the season. Hawks remained unbeaten and their win on Sunday over Manchester saw their record intact with 21 wins & 3 draws…a fantastic achievement but a quick mention for Spartans, the only team to take a point twice off Hawks this season.
Spartans Coach Martin White added… “For anyone who didn’t witness the Spartans Hawks match on the 14th March you missed a doozy. Despite being robbed by inconsistency in the dying seconds we put together a fantastic performance for 57 minutes with only 2 minor slips in the whole game. We stayed committed with total concentration throughout and our execution of systems was dedicated and consistent.
Credit to the Hawks for fighting back, and it would be harsh to say they didn’t deserve 3 of their goals, almost as harsh as our 5th being washed out. Slips in discipline by the Hawks showed their frustrations and credit to our players for maintaining discipline (in the main). Before the game we’d talked about the performance being more important than the result, happily the performance was as needed and were gutted to have been denied the points at the death, that said we’re delighted that our chances of making the playoffs are in our own hands and we’ll start the Sutton game in the final playoff berth, where we finish is up to us”.
So it will be eyes down for the last game of the regular season, an “away” game at Ice Sheffield on Saturday 28th March, 7.00pm against Sutton Sting for a place in the play-offs in Dumfries.