Cardiff Ice Hounds v Army Air Corps Ice Hawks – 5th June 2010
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|Army Air Corps Ice Hawks||0||3||1||0||4|
After beating one of their main rivals for the English Ice Hockey Association’s (EIHA) Southern Conference title on the road, on the Bank Holiday weekend, the Cardiff Ice Hounds knew that the pressure that the Army Air Corps Ice Hawks would bring to bear on them, for the return fixture, would be considerable, as Ice Hawks descended on the Cardiff Bay Ice Arena on Saturday 5th June 2010.
The Ice Hounds went into the match, with a little more comfort than the away fixture, as they had a full roster, which included a back-up netminder, Tom Brown – who formerly trained with the club in his junior years and now returns to make up what is hoped to be the most successful netminder duo in the Conference. But the initial comfort was unfortunately short lived, as defenseman James Coakley let the team down at the eleventh hour, becoming unavailable to play and the Ice Hounds’ Captain, Lucas Howell – struggling with fitness since the last match against the Ice Hawks – had to pull out, due to an acute case of gout, preventing him being able to kit up.
So with a weakened defence, facing a full Ice Hawks squad (featuring many of their ‘European’ sharp-shooters) the Hounds yet again, seemingly had their work cut out. But with a positive team talk from player/coach David Owen and (non-playing) coach Lucas Howell, the Ice Hounds were adamant that the first ten minutes of the game were crucial and wouldn’t see the visitors having a level of possession that they had enjoyed in their barn, just a week before. And despite sometimes making hard work of it, the first period generally went to plan from the off, with Stephen Donovan opening the scoring (assisted by Ben Brown and Owen) at 9:59, slipping the puck past the Ice Hawks number one keeper – who was unavailable for the previous fixture.
Just six minutes later and Craig Camilleri (assisted by Brian Lewis and Chris Cronin) scored at 15:42, giving the Hounds a two goal buffer, which they defended going into the first period break, leaving the pressure all in the laps of the visitors. First period score 2-0.
Conscious of the fragility of a mere two point lead, the Hounds third line took to the ice for their first shift of the second and the hard skating from last week’s Man of the Match, rookie Joseff Davies, paid off, as he along with fellow wing Mark Keogh, fed Centre Jason Chalke, to confidently score the Ice Hounds’ third goal. And as the game approached the halfway point, a degree of cockiness crept into the Hounds camp and some sloppy work in the defensive zone, lead to the Ice Hawks opening their account, as Thomas Ucen (assisted by Stephen Garr and Andrew Burnard) at 29:43. It took the Ice Hounds a mere 7 seconds to respond though, as a pass from Craig Balchin, was fired into the back of the Ice Hawks net, from a text book slap shot from Brian Lewis, as he broke the blue line.
But the two goal margin was again eroded, as the Ice Hawks took less than a minute to take advantage of the again sloppy Hounds’ defensive zonal play, as Peter Gunman (assisted by Ryan Hutchinson and Ucen) and the Ice Hawks made it clear that the final period was where the game was going to be decided.
Losing the second period, two goals to three, the Hounds’ knew they had to retake control of the game, as their two goal buffer seemed fragile going into the third period. And the fragility of this lead was shown just under three minutes into the third Lubos Udic (unassisted) brought the visitors level with the Hounds.
A penalty for interference was called on Nicholas Smith at 50:19, giving the Hounds the Power Play opportunity they needed, to regain their lead on the Ice Hawks and hopefully start putting the game beyond the visitors. The Hounds made short work of capitalising on the opportunity and with great work from all the players on PP1 (Power Play Line 1), with Camilleri (assisted by Brown and Owen) put the Hounds back in front at 50:34. The Ice Hawks still didn’t ease off the pressure and just minutes later, were disallowed a goal which came from a shot from the blue line, which possibly could have seemed to have passed clean through the netting at the back right of the Hounds goal.
Failing to be claim the goal, the Ice Hawks seemed to lose a little heart and the only real successful break out they managed following the shot, was heroically skated down by David Owen (usually a stranger to defence) and with Ben Brown’s (unassisted) goal at 53:19, it seemed as though the game was over for the visitors. With less than half a minute left on the clock, the Hounds gained possession and Owen (having glanced up at the clock), wheeled the back into his own zone with the puck and with a cheeky smile on his face, ran down the clock and lead the team to yet another Southern Conference victory. Owen went on to pick up the Man of the Match award, which was no doubt a reflection of presence and leadership on the ice, rather than his usual dominance on the scoreboard. Thomas Ucen picked up the accolade for the visitors.
With a final score line of 6-4, the Cardiff Ice Hounds extend their lead over the third placed Ice Hawks, pretty much ensuring that – going into the last three games of the regular competition – that the Southern Conference title is surely going to be a two horse race, between themselves and the Bracknell Blizzards. Bracknell currently sit at the top of the Conference table, but the Ice Hounds are level on points and still carry a game in hand on them. Having only been beaten this season by Bracknell, the up and coming matches against Medway Madness (away) and Guildford Smoke (home) will be crucial for the Ice Hounds. Guildford faced fellow Cardiff team, Cardiff Eagles on Sunday with a final score of 3-5 in favour of the Smoke.
The Cardiff Ice Hounds face Guildford Smoke in their penultimate home fixture on the 26th June 2010. Face-off is at 4:30pm. Entry to the game is free and all are welcome to come along and support their local team.
This is a guest post from Lucas Howell, club secretary with Cardiff Ice Hounds