It has been a fantastic week or so for the IIHA and Irish Ice Hockey. Last week, Irish Ice Hockey and the IIHA’s Irish Ice Hockey League (IIHL) made the front page on www.iihf.com. For those who don’t know, www.iihf.comis the homepage for the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). It’s hockey central for international ice hockey. Later on that week on Saturday, the final games took place in the IIHL in what was a double header of games in the Dundalk Ice Dome. Following the second of which, the Dundalk Bulls were crowned the first ever IIHL Champions. An IIHL Development Division game topped off that night in what was a fantastic Saturday. Then on Sunday, just to finish off the week with good spirits, the IIHL Charity Game took place where the Flyers I.H.C. took on the IIHL Development Division All-Stars. And now this weekend, we see the IIHL come to a total close with the playoffs. Things are going very well indeed as the IIHA and its members unite together in making Ice Hockey in Ireland something special.
“Ireland united in hockey” was the headline and below that was a photograph of Belfast Giants & Team Ireland forward Mark Morrison in action against New Zealand at the 2007 IIHF World Championship Division III. What followed was an extremely well written piece by Bill Meltzer in which he discussed how hockey is uniting people despite religious or political beliefs, the astounding success of the IIHL and IIHL Development Division, as well as the National Squad’s upcoming quest in the 2008 IIHF World Championship Division II A in Romania. He highlights everything that has been a success and when you read it, you think yes there have been numerous problems and little hitches in both league. However, on a whole, they are just little hitches that all leagues and national associations have experience but things are going well for Irish Ice Hockey. Things are going well. So this article which involves an interview with IIHL League Chairman Mick Higgins just makes you think that everyone involved is doing something special here in Ireland. It reminds you that everyone is united in the common goal of playing ice hockey and everyone is doing their best to make that experience a memorable one for everyone.
That article just got things rolling towards Saturday and the anticipated double header in the IIHL. At 4:30 p.m. the Belfast City Bruins were host to the Dublin Rams. It was the Bruins 14th game of the season and the Rams 16th (last) of the season. The week previous, these 2 teams had come together in what was a fantastic game that finished 7-4 to the Rams. This time around the Bruins would be out for revenge and look to finish with an even more respectable points total in the IIHL Standings. While the Rams were looking to close the gap between them and the Bulls to make the league standings look as competitive as the games have been over the last few weeks. The Rams were at pretty much full strength while the Bruins barely had 2 lines. The Rams dominated early finishing the 1st period 3-0 on their way to a 12-3 victory. Credit has to be given to the Bruins though as they battled to the end despite being obviously short-benched.
This game was only the warm-up to the main event that evening as the Dundalk Bulls were to host the Latvian Hawks later that evening. Following this game the Bulls were due to be crowned the IIHL Champions but a game was to be played first! That game didn’t disappoint either as the Bulls came up against some fantastic goaltending in the shape of Janis Klavins. The Bulls out shot the Hawks 26-10 in the 1st period but the score remained 1-1 going into the intermission. Need I say anymore! The Bulls, however, where out to impress all of their fans who had come out to cheer them on and romped to a 6-3 lead after the 2nd period. This was on their way to a 10-4 victory and an example as to why they were about to be crowned IIHL Champions. Immediately following the game, the Bulls’ players and management were presented with their medals by IIHA president Cliff Saunders, IIHA Director of Player Operations Moira Lyne, IIHA Referee-in-Chief and interim Vice-President William Fay while Mick Higgins made the announcements. Kenny Redmond then hoisted the Cup to the delight of the Dundalk Bulls’ fans. It was a fantastic occasion and a well deserved one for the Dundalk Bulls. Following that, the IIHL Development Division game between the Dundalk Bulls ‘B’ and the Belfast Eagles took place. The night certainly belonged to the Dundalk Bulls ice hockey club as the Bulls ‘B’ marched onto a 4-2 victory and joined their ‘A’ team compatriots upstairs for the party that was only getting started. A fantastic Saturday and things couldn’t have been any better.
On Sunday, a fantastic week was just topped off in what was probably the best way to do so. The IIHL Charity Game took place Sunday evening at 10:00 p.m. The Flyers I.H.C. played the IIHL Development Division All-Stars. The All-Stars were the best players from each team in the IIHL Development Division and each team was represented. Here is a list of each of the players chosen to represent their team against the Flyers:
Seanna Conway (Dundalk Bulls Ladies) – Goalkeeper
Riley Gatensby (Whalers) – Goalkeeper
David Clark (Dublin Wolves)
Tom Gustafssan (Dundalk Bulls ‘B’)
Roman Bnocko (Dublin Wolves)
James Gattensby (Whalers)
Andrew Guest (DkIT Ravens)
Juris Lansbergs (Latvian Hawks ‘B’)
Paul Cummins (Kilkenny City Storm)
Michael Rogan (DkIT Ravens)
James Gallinger (Dublin Rams ‘B’)
Steven Irvine (Belfast Eagles)
Paul Maginnes (Belfast Eagles)
Dagmar Palascakova (Dundalk Bulls Ladies)
Miroslav Husar (Dundalk Bulls ‘B’)
Harry Maharaj (Kilkenny City Storm)
The game was an astounding success and delivered exactly what it was intended to do. It was meant to be pure fun for both sets of players while rewarding the All-Stars for their hard work all season and at the same time given the Flyers a game that they could play in good spirits and not worry about having to win. That’s how it was played too. The All-Stars did themselves very proud too as they skated to a well deserved victory with the final score 5-3. Following the game, both teams took part in a shootout with the Flyers winning 2-1. This was in an attempt to increase the amount being donated to charity as a set amount would be donated to charity for every goal scored.
It has been a truly fantastic week for Ice Hockey here in Ireland and with the IIHL Playoffs taking place this Saturday and Sunday in Dundalk Ice Dome things are just getting better. This will prove to be a great weekend of action as anything can happen and nobody is guaranteed anything. Also, this will set the stage for Team Ireland as it is a chance for any Team Ireland hopefuls to impress one last time before the team is selected for the 2008 IIHF World Championship Division II A in Romania. As well as that, it will be the last time a lot of guys play competitive hockey this season so they will all be out to do their best and make it as enjoyable as possible. So expect a great weekend of action in Dundalk. The schedule for the playoffs is:
Saturday @ 4:30 p.m. – Dundalk Bulls v Latvian Hawks
Saturday @ 8:00 p.m. – Dublin Rams v Flyers I.H.C.The final will take place on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. with the winners of the 2 games facing off against each other. All of these games take place in Dundalk Ice Dome.