Sunday afternoon in the IIHL, it was the Belfast City Bruins v Dublin Rams at the Dundalk Ice Dome. It was a great game and finished off what was a full weekend of action for both the Rams and the IIHL. The Rams had played the Flyers I.H.C. the night before and lost 9-5. After that was the IIHL Development Division game between the Belfast Eagles and Kilkenny City Storm. Sunday’s game finished off a weekend full of great action. The Rams skated to a 7-4 victory but both teams had an equal measure of each other.
For the Bruins it was nice to see them have a full compliment of players. They welcomed back James Brannigan on defence who hasn’t been seen for most of the season. An excellent defensive defenseman who is very physical and plays a simple game. He kept the Rams’ players away from the Bruins’ goal for most of the game. The Rams welcomed back Marek Kovacik who they were missing the night before. Marek’s a proven goal scorer and is such a big man, he causes nothing but problems in front of the opposition’s net. Despite only having 12 and 13 skaters respectively, both teams had strong teams. The game got off to a great start. Both teams were skating hard and rolling the 2 and a half lines they had very nicely. Players were finishing their hits and playing physical without being dirty. There were only 2 minor penalties in the 1st period with the each team getting one.
After only 2:40 of the game played, the Bruins’ Philip McMaster took a tripping penalty. The Rams had a powerplay and converted after 37 seconds left with Aaron Cuskeran getting the goal. The Rams then got a second with Daniel Fernick getting the goal off a feed from Tomas Pactina. The Rams then found themselves down a man after Marek Kovacik received an interference penalty. The Rams were able to kill this penalty off but the Bruins then got a goal 30 seconds later through Gareth Martin. The score was now 2-1. The play was frantic now and end-to-end. The Rams then pulled their 2 goal lead back with some fantastic passing between their players. Tomas Burdys finished off the tic tac toe from the slot with the assists going to Tomas Pactina and Marek Kovacik. The Rams then had further chances with Kovacik slipping the puck right past the Bruins’ goal. He then threw his stick across the ice in anger and received a 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The 1st period finished with the score 3-1 in favour of the Rams. It was a great period of hockey and a great advertisement for the IIHL. One could only hope that it would continue in the 2nd period. That it did too. Both teams came out and continued were they left off. The play was similar to the 1st with both teams having equal possession and equal chances. However, the Rams were more clinical in their finishing and really played well together in the opposition’s zone. They got their 4th goal of the evening through Arsenas Zikas off a feed from Tomas Pactina. This was the Rams’ second powerplay goal. They then got their 5th with Marek Kovacik atoning for his earlier misconduct. They got a 6th with Kovacik getting his 2nd of the night.
The Rams now had a 6-1 lead and the Bruins looked as though they were down and out. However, after Steven Hamill received a hooking penalty late in the period, the Bruins decided to give it their all. They weren’t happy at all with the Referee’s call and Gareth Martin decided to take it upon himself to get justice for his team. Directly from the ensuing faceoff in the Bruins’ zone, Martin chipped the puck over the blue line. He then won a foot race against the Rams’ defenseman. He made no mistakes about the finish as he deked Sean Gibson and slide the puck into the open side of the net. A fantastic individual goal and possibly one of the best goals of the season. Pure speed and is an example of the type of play Team Ireland will be looking for from him this April at the World Championships.
The Bruins went into the intermission down 4 goals and a minute to kill off in a minor penalty. The teams came out in the 3rd period a bit more physical and racked up more penalties between them in that period than they did in the rest of the game. The penalties in that period were 16 minutes to the Bruins and 10 to the Rams. However, it was still a fantastic period of hockey and exactly in line with the 2 that preceded it. The Bruins got an early one back with Gareth Martin getting his 3rd goal of the night. Michael Wandschura and Steven Hamill picked up the assists. They then pulled to within 2 goals of the Rams with another goal from Gareth Martin with just over 4 minutes left to play. Martin was in fine form and was without a doubt the best player in the game. His speed is phenomenal and he showed everyone exactly why he will be one of the National Squad’s leading stars in April. However, the Bruins were unable to continue their fight back and the Rams got a 7th goal through Tomas Pactina.
The game finished 7-4 to the Rams and it was a great contest. They were even in every department. The Bruins outshot the Rams 32-26 but Gibson was extremely solid for the Rams and kept his team in it. The penalty minutes were also even with the Bruins having 22 and the Rams 24. Really there was little between these 2 teams. Let’s hope the next game between these 2 teams is just as entertaining. They play each other next Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Dundalk Ice Dome.