The crowd took their seats but how long they remained in them would be a question answered passively and then abruptly as Tuesday’s Inline Hockey League tailored into the night.
Passive was the tone set with Cayman Hot Sauces Flames getting the first game under way with the Deloitte Sharks. When Jean Louis Beaudet cut through the middle and found Flames team-mate Mike Bowden for a well-aimed shot high, Deloitte weren’t about to be deterred.
Continuing with a slower, thoughtful tempo to take advantage of errors, Deloitte’s Rob Rintoul tallied the score from a forced Flames turnover. Rintoul has been a consistent force for Deloitte and the numbers show. Second in goals scored, assists and points show why Deloitte covet him as their valued player.
Even though the tempo quickened midway through the first half, it would be another 10 minutes before Deloitte’s Dan Etherington scored following a rebound from a Dave Champoux shot.
The Flames’ Jason Windsor, no stranger to up tempo hockey, began to find ways through the Sharks defence. He would be instrumental in tying things up just before the half as he found Jagger Hope, who moved it nicely onto Beaudet to make it 2-2.
Deloitte’s Wayne Griffith spoiled an elevated Flames going into the half. With 30 seconds to go, he conjured a goal via a Tim Courtis assist.
In the second half, Deloitte’s Etherington, through Rintoul and Tim Derksen, got another goal. However, Etherington would manhandle Beaudet a little too much and receive a two minute holding penalty. The advantage was short lived when, a minute later, Bowden got a holding infraction. It created a wide-open, 3-on-3 rink which neither team cashed in on.
From there, Etherington would execute a stretch pass to team-mate Rintoul, who didn’t miss going high corner and then had an unassisted highlight effort from end to end. The Flames hadn’t waved the white flag just yet, as Windsor found the back of the net high corner and dished to Rob Seward, who turned a cross crease pass into a goal.
With 1.40 left, the Flames would have been right back in it had a controversial ‘no goal’ been called when the puck deflected off of Hope’s skate. Pulling the goalie would be to no avail for the Flames as Deloitte came out on top 6-4. Three Stars: Dan Etherington, Rob Rintoul, Mike Bowden.
The Burger King Gamebirds and Mepco High Rollers got off to a fast start. Although the Gamebirds were giving away lose pucks, Rich Hastings established a presence against the Rollers forwards. Persistence paid off 10 minutes into the game with a season-opening goal for Fareed Hosein, pressuring the net following a Hastings shot.
Hosein has been effective through his limited appearances and with a 33.3 shot percentage as well as skates just getting warmed up, it will be interesting tracking his tallies the remainder of the season.
Mepco’s chances were limited but they were good as Brendan Rainonen spotted team-mate Chris Creighton for a breakaway chance; only to be denied by Gamebirds goalie Randy Cannon. Cannon couldn’t stop Mepco’s Ryan Pull, however, a minute later to make it 1-1.
Only the players know what was said during the intermission, but whatever it was the Rollers were inspired. Mepco’s Andrew Finlason was making significant saves and his forwards were working hard on the fore check. They were also working hard on the back check and were rewarded when Pull stripped Ken Ritchie deep in Mepco’s zone and scored for a 2-1 lead.
Things also began working for the Gamebirds with Curtis Appleyard beginning to find his way through the Mepco defence and Eric Mildenberger hitting the crossbar. However, Burger King were not getting the bounces.
Mepco’s Jamie Lyon got back on the roster following a lengthy injury and didn’t waste much time getting his skates under him evidenced by his hectic pace. Lyon’s work ethic paid dividends when stripping the puck from Ritchie and carrying it for a goal on his opening night. He would also register an assist.
It was time for the Gamebirds to claim the game back and they began with Hastings threading the puck up the boards to Appleyard, putting it in the back of the net with a low hard shot. Those types of shots would fool Finlason as Mildenberger put another past him, assisted by a Brendon Malice pass around the boards. With five minutes to go it was anyone’s game at 3-3.
As usual, late, reckless penalties are often game deciders and it would be no different on this occasion. Following a heightened conflict between Malice and Mepco’s Daryll Hather, Malice got a five minute major penalty with just over four minutes to go so his game would end.
Four on three for the game’s duration was hard enough for Burger King but they were doomed with an additional two minute penalty through Appleyard’s objections to Malice’s to give Mepco a 4-on-2 advantage. The Gamebirds kept Mepco at bay for two minutes before Brad Kirby tapped it in the game-winning goal.
Mepco secured the game with thirty seconds left, through an empty net goal by Scott Somerville, to make Mepco 5-3 winners. Three Stars: Ryan Pull, Jamie Lyon, Rich Hastings.