Dragons Grab A Lifeline
On Sunday, the Dragons played their final home game of the season, hosting League Champions Solway Sharks, who had made the long journey down from Dumfries. The talented and dominant Scottish guests had swept all before and brought a full squad to finish their season in style.
The time for pondering permutations had passed. The other teams in the struggle at the bottom of the Moralee Division 1 League had played their hands and the Dragons knew exactly what they needed to do to secure survival in the League. 4 points from their last two games saw the Dragons safe, 3 points got them into the relegation play off versus local second division outfit Widnes Wild. Anything less and the Dragons were done.
All eyes and ears were on the NIHL Radio and Twitter feeds as Telford and Sutton hoped the Dragons got nothing from this game and were doomed to relegation and a swift return to the second division.
The Den was absolutely rammed. The Dragons supporters packed every nook and cranny of the Deeside arena and crossed everything they could, more in hope than in expectation that their team could get a result. The Dragons would have to rip up the form book to get anything out of the game. Player coach Scott McKenzie had called upon his troops to believe, failure was not an option.
The Den showed its class and paid due respect to the visiting League Champions, as the Cambria Marching Band of pipes and drums blasted out Flower of Scotland before face off. At 5.45pm all the talking and hype were done. No more flashing lights, Facebook posts or stirring speeches. The Dragons stood toe to toe, centre ice, ready to fight for their lives.
The first 20 minute period seemed to be over in half that time. The Dragons played with the speed and passion that seemed to state we will be the masters of our own destiny. The Sharks were restricted to only 9 shots on net and the Dragons defence put their bodies on the line, whilst the forwards probed and prodded the Sharks net. In the eighth minute, following a flowing passage of passing, Slovakian sensation #21 Supa fired home to give the home team the lead and the period ended with the Dragons 1 up. So far so good.
The period break came just at the right time for the Sharks. Proud League Champions don’t travel to lay down and die. From the puck drop of the second period, the visitors played 16 minutes of the best, high intensity hockey seen so far, at the Den this season. The scores were level after only 29 seconds and the Sharks added 3 more unanswered goals to rack up a 4-1 lead. Each goal seem to build pressure on the Dragons bench and the home teams legs felt heavier and heavier. The Dragons looked like they would be swept away and their survival hopes dumped in the trash, as predicted by some.
But incidents change games and in the 38th minute Solway were called for a Boarding penalty. From this Captain #5 Parsons pulled back a power play goal and there was a real momentum shift. The Dragons had stopped the rot and despite a poor second period were still hanging on by their finger nails.
Starting the final period, there was a steely determination in the Dragons eyes. The crowd seemed to dare not speak aloud any thoughts of hope, but it was the business end of the game, the business end of the season and the Dragons team still had belief. To a man, the team stood up to be counted and sustained spells of pressure were spent in the Sharks zone. On exactly 44 minutes #21 Supa was pinned in the Solway corner, 35 seconds and 5 or 6 ridiculous dangles later the Slovakian magician had smashed the puck into the roof of the Sharks net and that’s when the place went mad!!
Surely the Dragons couldn’t pull of the most unlikely fairy tale come back in the most high pressure of games? But that seemed to be their belief and they set about pinning the Sharks in their own half. Wave after wave of Dragons attackers threw themselves in to the battle, but with the final buzzer approaching, the League Champions stood resolute.
When this game is spoken about over the Summer break and in years to come, people will say “that I was there”.
In the penultimate minute our saviour stepped forward to somehow force the puck into the Sharks net amongst an almighty tussle in front of goal. Local lad, locker room joker, fans favourite and the most unlikely hero #18 Ryan Jones secured the draw and possibly the most crucial point in Dragons history. The noise at the final buzzer could be heard in Sutton, Telford and Widnes.
Fans were invited to meet their favourite players on the pad after the game. Some people on the ice thought it was all over – it isn’t, not yet!
Man of Match #7 Alex Parry.