The IIHL Development Division Playoffs Final took place on Sunday night and as I already explained in my game report of the 2nd semi-final, the Kilkenny City Storm would not be playing in it. The Dublin Wolves were all set to take on the Storm but at the last minute it would be the Whalers. The game was set for a face-off at 9:30 p.m. but the ice was ready early and so were the teams. The game therefore started about 5 minutes early. In the regular season, the Whalers ran the Wolves very close in their first encounter in which the Wolves won 8-5. In the second game though, the Wolves went into that extra gear and demolished a short benched Whalers team 12-2. However, the Whalers are best known for their never say die attitude and were definitely going to take full advantage of what was a second chance.
The Wolves were without a doubt the favourites despite being down even more players than the previous night. They had 11 players and a goalkeeper. In fact their goalkeeper was Chris Darragh who was a player the previous. Bill Arsenault wasn’t present and neither was Richard Phillipe. However, they still had that extremely strong 1st line of Bnocko, Lalani and Killen who had combined for 11 points the previous night. The Whalers had the same team as the previous night and they must have been thinking that this was there best opportunity to defeat the Wolves.
The game got under way and the Wolves found themselves up by a goal after only 4 minutes of the 1st period. The goal came from none other than Roman Bnocko after he, Aly-Khan Lalani and Ross Killen all combined to give their team the lead. 4 minutes later, the first line once again proved to be the most offensive line in the playoffs. Lalani scored the goal with the assist going to Killen. The Wolves really did control things in the opening period as they outshot their opponents 7-2. However, they were only up by one goal as the Whalers did manage to pull one back through Niall McEvoy. McEvoy who is only new to the game and playing just over a year really stepped up to the plate for his team in these playoffs as a lot was expected of him.
With the score 2-1 going into the 2nd period, the Wolves really looked to further their lead and Lalani got his 2nd of the night just 58 seconds into the period. His 2 linemates each then added a goal for the Wolves to take a 5-1 lead. However, the Whalers replied with a goal from James Gatensby to bring them back to within 3. However, Peter Ting then got his team’s sixth goal of the night with Robbie Byrne picking up the assist. The Whalers then made things interesting as they went on to score 2 unanswered goals in the final 5 minutes of the 2nd period. Nathan Boal got the first of these with a slapshot which took a couple of deflections. James Gatensby then got the second and the score was 6-4 with things getting very interesting coming into the 3rd period.
The Wolves were quick off the mark and got another goal from Roman Bnocko. This goal was on the powerplay and things were a bit tighter and more competitive than the score line suggested. The Whalers gave as good as they got and the action was end-to-end. The Whalers were quick to counter and created some really good scoring opportunities and if it wasn’t for some extremely good saves from Chris Darragh they may have scored more. Roman Bnocko added 2 more for the Wolves in the last 10 minutes along with David Clarke and Alvise Calamai. All credit to the Whalers though as they managed to pull one back through Mark Dunne to make the final score 11-5.
The Dublin Wolves were crowned the 2007/2008 IIHL Development Division Playoffs Champions. They completed the double just like the Dundalk Bulls in the IIHL. They also set a standard that all other teams will aspire to better and they gave us some excellent moments throughout the entire season. For the Whalers, they can keep their heads up as they did themselves and everyone proud by giving the Wolves an extremely good game and battled hard.