Saturday was IIHL Playoffs semi-final day. That afternoon saw the Dundalk Bulls inflict another 20 goal romp on an undeserved team. They easily disposed of the Latvian Hawks 26-4 to book their place in the final on Sunday afternoon. They awaited either the Dublin Rams or Flyers I.H.C. who were set to play each other later that evening at 8:00 p.m. Both teams have had as much of each other in the league this season with the Rams winning 2 games and the Flyers winning 1 after a shootout and their final game of the season 2 weeks earlier. They have a huge rivalry as both teams mostly hail from Dublin and are considered the 2 Dublin representatives in the IIHL. They’ve been host to some of the most entertaining games this season in the IIHL and this game had a lot riding on it. Firstly were the bragging rights which have switched every time they’ve played each other. Secondly, a win would mean one more game against the Dundalk Bulls in the IIHL Playoffs Final.
Both teams were at full strength with the each team having a full compliment of players to choose from. The Rams were delighted to have Eric Tobia in nets who certainly makes every team in the league worry about how they will score. They were also very strong in defence with Bret Dilabbio, Brent Trull and Ross O’Driscoll all playing. Up front, they were down both Tomas Burdys and Marek Kovacik but they certainly weren’t lacking. They had an absolute gem of a Canadian 1st line of Brandon Chalazan, Hunter Cape and Matt Hearn. A very young, fast and physical line who are full of skill and spend most of their time on the ice in offence. They weren’t lacking on their 2nd line either with Paul Silney, Andrew Moriarty and Tomas Pajtina forming a skilful line.
The Flyers had 2 extremely strong lines as well. In nets was Dermot Carney who was in fine form and playing some of the best hockey of his life in recent weeks. In front of him was either the combination of Patrick McCabe & Dean Kelly or Will Fitzgerald & Tomas Korina. Korina was certainly a find for the Flyers mid-way through the season and is just getting better every time he plays as he starts to regain his fitness and fight his skating feet. Watch him next season. Up front, their 1st line consisted of Barry Higgins, Emil Kacir and O’Connor Lyne. A line that was going to create both offence and be very physical. The second line consisted of Captain Mike Daciw, IIHL All-Star Dave Donaldson and Team Ireland hopeful Steven Cooper. So the Flyers were certainly up for a good fight and they had the players for it.
The play started off with a fantastic pace and started with the Rams dominating in the Flyers zone. However, the Flyers were physical and cleared their zone when they had the opportunity and after a few minutes settled into the game more. The game then started to open a bit more with both sets of players finishing their checks. It was a fast pace and it was flowing quite well. There weren’t any penalties for the first 7 minutes. Barry Higgins took the 1st penalty of the game for tripping 7:18. The Rams did their best to set up in the Flyers zone but Brent Trull then took a tripping penalty 21 seconds into the power play for the teams to play 4-on-4. Nothing came of the 4-on-4 except for the Flyers to take another penalty with Emil Kacir receiving a 2 plus 2 for high sticking. This put the Flyers down 4-on-3 for a minute or so but they successfully killed the penalty off. Both teams exchanged penalties in the period and neither team was benefitting from them. At one of the rare stages of the game were the teams both had 5 on the ice, the Rams got a scrappy goal from Tomas Pajtina at 13:19. It was against the run of play and neither team deserved to concede a goal. The teams went into the intermission with the score at 1-0 to the Rams. The penalty minutes in that period were 10 minutes apiece and whoever stayed out of the box would get the benefits.
The teams came out in the second period with much of the same happening. The penalty minutes in that period were 16 minutes for the Rams and 12 for the Flyers. Both teams killed off some 5-on-3’s and the goaltenders kept the teams in it. Carney was playing out of his skin while Tobia was like a wall for the Flyers as they couldn’t get anything past him. The only goal in that period came for the Rams at 18:53 of the period with Bret Dilabbio getting the goal. They took this 2-0 lead into the intermission with the Flyers only getting more and more frustrated by Tobia.
The Flyers came out all guns blazing in the 3rd period and did their best to pepper Tobia but he was equal to them all. The Flyers lost Emil Kacir to a10 minute misconduct early in that period and that depleted their offence. It was the Rams who got the 1st goal of that period with Tomas Pajtina getting his 2nd of the night. The Flyers head’s just seemed to drop after that goal. However, this was the time for players to step up and show their leadership qualities. Mike Daciw did just that with a goal at 50:20. The Flyers had a 5-on-3 and took full advantage with Daciw slotting home following Donaldson’s shot from the point. They continued this pressure and kept hounding away at the goal but nothing came. In fact it was the Rams who got their 4th against the run of play with Aaron Murphy sealing the win.
The game finished 4-1 to the Rams but if it had finished 0-0, neither team would have been able to complain. It truly was a close competitive game and once that certainly could have gone either way. The Rams now look forward to the Dundalk Bulls in the final on Sunday. While the Flyers finish their season on a disappointing note. However, they can certainly be delighted with the progress they’ve made as a team and the continuing growth they’ve made as club. I think they will always hold onto their tag as the underdogs in most games they play. However, as they’ve shown throughout this season they thrive on it. Expect them to ruffle even more feathers next season and improve on this season.
The final is now set, Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. will see the Dundalk Bulls host the Dublin Rams as they battle to be called the 2007/2008 IIHL Playoff Champions.