On Saturday evening, it was neither the IIHL nor the IIHL Recreational Division matches which had everyone cheering, jeering, and biting their nails. Instead, it was a friendly match between the Dundalk Bulls Ladies and the Scottish Ladies Team that proved to have the biggest crowd and the most exciting plays. Despite the fact that the Bulls Ladies suffered a 9-2 loss in their first match against the Scots back in November in Irvine, Scotland, on Saturday night the two teams faced off for what would turn out to be a much closer, and thrilling game of women’s ice hockey.
In the first period, the Bulls Ladies came out strong, dominating play in both ends, and had many solid chances on net, but Scottish goaltender Sarah Gibson stood tall, stopping 2-on-1’s, breakaways, rebounds and other point-blank shots in front of her net. The Bulls Ladies played quite strong in their own end, and the Scots were only able to manage a few shots on goal. Neither team was able to find the back of the net, and the first period ended nil all.
In the second period, things got a little more heated. The Bulls Ladies found themselves under a bit more pressure from the Scots when they were assessed a few minor penalties, and the strong passing and skating skills of Scottish forwards Eleanor Maitland and Ashley Crosbie gave the Scots a few good chances on net. Gibson was again called upon to make a number of key saves. The Scots definitely stepped up their play in this period, but the Bulls Ladies were able to come out unscathed, and the second period also ended nil all.
The atmosphere in the rink was electric between the 2nd and 3rd period, as the Irish and Scottish flags were being waved proudly in the stands, and the supporters from each club were gearing up for a nail-biting third period. Both teams had chances at each end, and the Scots were able to find the back of the net first, 14 minutes into the 3rd period, in a perfect 2-on-1 play where Maitland scored a beautiful goal off a pass by Crosbie, beating the Bulls Ladies’ keeper. The Bulls Ladies did not panic, and came back even stronger after this goal, even the score just two minutes later when Jana Gerkena gave Lorna Hoey a quick pass off the faceoff, and Hoey fired it in the back of the net past Gibson on the glove side. This fired up the crowd and the Bulls’ bench, and the Bulls Ladies continued their offensive onslaught, but were stopped by the outstanding goalkeeping of Gibson. Just two minutes after the Bulls’ goal, the Scots were able to take the lead again when a Bulls’ slap shot from the point was blocked, and the Scots flew down the ice quickly to set up their offense. Some quick passing got the better of the Bulls, and Crosbie was left alone in front of the net, and was able to fire a one timer past the Bulls Ladies’ keeper. There was now only a minute and a half left for the Bulls Ladies to try and even the score, but they were unable to do so and the game ended 2-1 for the Scottish Ladies. Player of the game awards were given to Seánna Conway from the Bulls and to Eleanor Maitland from the Scots, even though most would agree that Sarah Gibson of the Scottish Ladies was the deciding factor in the Scottish victory.
Sunday morning’s game, although both teams were tired from a late night and an early morning, was just as close. The Scots turned up their offense during this game, and the Bulls found themselves in the penalty box a number of times. They had many solid chances to score, but were unable to put the puck past the Bulls Ladies’ goaltender. Again, Scottish keeper Gibson was on fire, and frustrated the Bulls Ladies so much that Jana Gerkena was awarded a 10 minute misconduct for slamming her stick after another thwarted scoring chance. However, the hard work eventually paid off, and the Bulls Ladies were able to score the lone goal of the game 7 minutes into the 3rd period. Youngster and up and coming Bulls Ladies star Caoimhe Lynch was able to find a loose puck which Gibson thought she had covered, and tap it into the back of the net. Finally, relentless shooting and crashing the net had paid off for our Bulls Ladies They had to play defence the rest of the game to protect their lead. At one point, the Scots thought they had tied it, when a beautiful shot to the high blocker side flew past the Bulls Ladies’ goalie and into the top corner of the net, but Referee Willy Fay had made a great offside call and therefore, there was no goal. A close call, but a good one. With only a few seconds left in the period, the Scots gave everything they had to score, but were unable to “put the biscuit in the basket”. Despite being screened during the last few seconds of play, the Bulls Ladies’ keeper was able to make one last quick butterfly save to hold onto the win for the Bulls Ladies.
While the Scots may have been disappointed with the outcome, it was an exciting and evenly matched game. Anyone who was there would agree that a great rivalry has been established with these two teams, and any future match-ups will be full of end-to-end chances and edge-of-your-seat action. The two teams went upstairs after their match to socialize and relax after two very emotional and tiring matches. They will meet again in May, so hopefully the amazing support that was shown for women’s ice hockey this past weekend will be even better next time around.
Sat 28th Feb @ 10:00pm – Dundalk Bulls Ladies v Scottish Ladies Team (Dundalk Ice Dome)
Final Score: 1 – 2 (0 – 0, 0 – 0, 1 – 2)
SOG: 22 – 24 (10 – 5, 5 – 8, 7 – 11)
PIM: 10 – 6 (0 – 2, 8 – 0, 2 – 4)
Saves: Conway (22/24) – Gibson (21/22)
Sun 1st Mar @ 8:30am – Dundalk Bulls Ladies v Scottish Ladies Team (Dundalk Ice Dome)
Final Score: 1 – 0 (0 – 0, 0 – 0, 1 – 0)
SOG: 17 – 20 (7 – 2, 2 – 7, 8 – 11)
PIM: 22 – 8 (2 – 2, 8 – 0, 12 – 6)
Saves: Conway (20/20) – Gibson (16/17)
*Photograph courtesy of www.derektuitephotography.ie