Saturday night saw another IIHL Development Division clash take place. The Kilkenny City Storm were due to host the Whalers at 10:30 p.m. However, as a result of the second IIHL Playoff game running late, the game didn’t start until the time was closer to 11 o’clock. That didn’t bother the teams though as both had come to play. The Storm were looking to regain the top spot from the Dublin Wolves while the Whalers were looking to use their 4 games in hand, which they had on most of their rivals, to their advantage. This would be the stepping stone and move them steadily up the standings. It would also be a huge upset in the IIHL Development Division.
Last time around the Storm easily disposed of the Whalers 11-2. However, both teams have vastly improved since then. The Storm along with the Dublin Wolves are the elite of the IIHL Development Division and they rarely struggle to win. The only defeat the Wolves have is at the hands of the Storm and even that doesn’t go down as a loss, it goes down as a shootout loss. They still get a point for that and are unbeaten after regulation in the league.
For the storm, they won that shootout and they definitely deserved it too. They probably deserved the win in regulation. Their only loss of the season came at the hands of the Wolves when they were beaten 9-2. That was a hard one for the Storm to take as they may look back and see it as the game where the league title slipped from their fingers. However, credit has to be given to the Storm as they’ve done nothing but put pressure on the Dublin outfit. The league lead changes every time one of these two teams plays a game.
The Whalers on the other hand are the dark horses of the IIHL Development Division. Before the game they were sitting in 5th place in the standings with 9 points amidst everyone chasing a playoff position. However, they had a lot of games in hand and were looking very good. They started off the league with that tough loss against Kilkenny, but that was followed by an impressive win against the Dundalk Bulls ‘B’. However, they lacked any consistency as they then fell 3-2 to the Belfast Eagles. That was one of the best games of the season too. This was followed by 2 straight wins against the DkIT Ravens which must have certainly done their confidence the world of good. They’ve taken one of their biggest rivals in 2 games.
As a result of having only played 5 games so far, they sat in a very good position above most of their rivals. They were also a much better outfit than they were earlier on in the season. James “Bart” Gatensby is their best player and was selected to play on the IIHL Development Division All-Stars team in the IIHL Charity Game. His play has improved but so have a lot of their players including Neil Black, Steven Lynch, Captain Gary Harvey as well as young Niall McEvoy. So they were looking at this game to atone for that earlier season loss and they could had to be taken serious too.
The game got off to a late start, however, the Storm were quick off the mark with a goal from Zak Shermer off a feed from Captain Harry Maharaj after only 0:22 gone in the game. The Whalers were caught stunned while the Storm do what they always do, they get their legs going right from the start and keep them going right to the end. However, the Whalers seemed to be a bit settled by this goal and both teams had the run of each other for the next 5 minutes or so. The Whalers even killed off a penalty when Mark Dunne was penalised for hooking. However, the Storm doubled their lead at 5:24 of the game with Richard Bolotniks getting the goal. They added a 3rd at 9:21 through Vlad Nizjolko with Bolotniks getting the assist. The 1st period ended with a 3-0 scoreline as the Whalers were failing to get many good scoring chances. Rebekah Burke turned aside any that had come her way.
The Storm then went on a rampage in the 2nd period scoring 5 unanswered goals. Maharaj, Nizjolko and Shermer each got their second of the night while Peter Belica and William Fay both found the back of the net. Fay’s was probably the pick of them as he took a clever wrist shot from the keepers left-hand side using a defender as a screen He beat the keeper high. The 2nd period ended with the score 8-0 to the Storm. The Whalers did not want a repeat of that first game but it was happening. They came out strong in the 3rd period with a goal from young Niall McEvoy 12 seconds into the period. However, the Storm were quick to respond with Maharaj getting his 3rd of the night and consolidating the victory. That period’s scoring finished 3-2 to the Storm with the Whalers shown their fight right to the end.
It was a fantastic game to watch and despite the 11-2 scoreline it was end-to-end. The Whalers have speed, grit and determination and are building up their hockey sense bit by bit in every game. They are lacking some discipline in their own zone but they are getting better. Offensively, they’re not half bad and are as good as anyone else in the league at putting the puck in the back of the net. The second goal of the night was an absolute gem. After some nice passed in the neutral and offensive zone, Mark Dunne finished off with a wrist shot that rocketed past Burke who was in nets for Kilkenny. The Kilkenny City Storm are obviously more concise in their finishing and more solid defensively. They thoroughly deserve their current lead in the IIHL Development Division.
The next game in the IIHL Development Division is this coming Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. at the Dundalk Ice Dome. The Whalers take on the Dublin Rams ‘B’ and a win is important for both teams as the points are very important now for the playoff hunt. So come along and enjoy the IIHL Development Division.