Tuesday’s Inline Hockey Night at Kings Sports Centre had a quiet air about it before Cayman Hot Sauce Flames battled the Mepco High Rollers.
After the puck dropped, that would change as Jean-Louis Beaudet caught up and stripped Mepco’s Ryan Pull from behind on a clean breakaway. Mepco must have then realized this wasn’t going to be a gratuitous game, or at least Chris Creighton did. He would stick check the Flames’ Jagger Hope to send Scott Somerville on his way for the game-opening goal.
Somerville was finding line chemistry with Pull from early on with crisp passing and the two would be rewarded four minutes later with Somerville producing a behind the back pass to the front of the net for Pull, pushing Mepco up by two goals. The Flames were already on their heels, being unable to contain the Mepco forwards with goalie Jeremy Olynik having to make two and three stops of the puck before any of his team-mates would intervene.
It looked like it was going to be a long night for Olynik, who seemed to be defending his net pretty much for the most part on his own. Pull would score two more before Mepco’s Darryl Hather moved the puck up rink, from his own, fought off Hot Sauce forwards and fired a wrist shot that beat a frustrated Olynik to make it 5-0 Mepco at the half.
Hope, another young league stalwart at just 15, would produce his best shot tally to date with an impressive nine shots on goal and one assist against Mepco goalie Andrew Finlason.
Nevertheless, Mepco’s Creighton, from deep in his end, would work his way up rink unimpeded to make it 6-0 with 23 minutes to go. The High Rollers would find space for creative passing to stall the Flames. Though Hot Sauce’s Beaudet would eventually get a goal, assisted by team-mate Anton, the Flames registered only a modest 36 shots on goal. Mepco’s Patrick Agemian took the shot block title for the night and quite likely the season, throwing himself without any regard.
The aggressive momentum created almost came to haunt Mepco late with Somerville getting tangled with Anton along the boards with Beaudet coming to the rescue. Somerville and Beaudet would each receive a two penalty for roughing but that wouldn’t change a night of disappointment for the Flames, who were on the back end of a 9-3 result. The Three Stars were Ryan Pull, Andrew Finlason (a .917 save percentage) and Jagger Hope.
The second encounter would see the Deloitte Sharks and Burger King Gamebirds decide the league table leaders. Burger King, for the first time this season, had a full roster and Deloitte were a little outmanned. Deloitte’s short bench wasn’t a deterrent for Dan Etherington to expend strong bursts of speed, coupled with gritty determination, in the opening minutes to set the tone.
Burger King’s Curtis Appleyard responded with a breakaway inside three minutes for a potential score opener but a weak shot was steered away easily by goalie Scott Hughes. It was all Deloitte for the first 12 minutes with Joe Derksen strong on the puck, Rob Rintoul’s superb puck protection and Tim Derksen with a post from a Joe Jewitt pass.
Gamebirds goalie Randy Cannon looked strong and in control with his stops, even following a Rintoul goal from a Claude Plamondon pass to open the scoring. Burger King have never let being on the backside of the scoreboard affect their game, as Eric Mildenberger would go half rink to even things up unassisted.
Rintoul, usually the creator of good things for the Sharks, would have a pass easily intercepted by Gamebirds’ Pete Holowchuk, who sent Appleyard on his way to put the Gamebirds up 2-1. Though Rintoul took a tripping penalty a minute later, Deloitte would stand strong with a well-executed penalty kill to stay within one at the half.
Gamebirds’ Ken Ritchie, often unnoticed, has flurries of inspiration and perhaps ignited his team. He would play strong along the boards, fighting off Deloitte players, with his effort leading to a face-off inside Deloitte’s end. Mildenberger would win it straight back to Holowchuk for a flubbed shot on goal and trajectory problems for goalie Hughes.
Following two team time-outs, with only two goals between them, Gamebirds goalie Cannon was looking sharp with a quick glove to deny Etherington in tight. Etherington had hoped to bring Deloitte within one and the Sharks proceeded to apply relentless pressure in the Gamebirds’ end.
However, they couldn’t get the goal to make things easier for them with only seven minutes remaining. Appleyard would get the game-winning goal from a deflected Rich Hastings’ slap pass, in spite of Plamondon’s first score of the season. Rintoul’s goal with 44 seconds left caused Deloitte to pull their goalie for a man advantage.
It wouldn’t be enough to thwart Burger King’s efforts as the 4-3 win put the Gamebirds atop the table. The Three Stars were Randy Cannon (.930 save percentage), Curtis Appleyard and Eric Mildenberger.