‘Rays silence Thunder
Solway Stingrays hosted nearest rivals Kilmarnock Thunder in their final home conference game of the preseason Stuart Robertson Cup on Sunday night.
Having been comprehensively beaten by Thunder in the away fixture five weeks ago, the Stingrays were eager to show how much the last month or so has brought in terms of fitness, sharpness and further additions to the squad.
The game started very positively for the Stingrays who immediately put pressure on former Solway Sharks goalie Malcolm Anderson in the Thunder net, until Stingray’s captain Mark Duffy and Gary Carruth both took penalties, presenting Thunder the opportunity to apply pressure with a five-onthree powerplay advantage.
The Stingray’s penalty kill units, anchored by some good saves by their own former Shark goalie Chris Rae, worked well to ensure that the advantage gave Thunder no reward, before allowing the game to get back to even numbers.
The Stingrays swiftly resumed their control of the puck and dictated the pace of the play.
The pressure paid dividends as Stingray’s Jamie Kerr picked out Kieran Hair on the outside right of the Thunder zone. Hair in turn zipping the puck to fellow youngster Ruairi Lockerbie who had found space in the high slot, and he dispatched a well-executed snap shot into the net to open the scoring.
Stingrays went on to spend good phases of play in the Thunder zone but couldn’t find a way past an inspired Anderson in net. A slashing call against Stingray’s Ben Coughtrie allowed Thunder another chance to crowd the Stingray’s net and some neat passing from Chris McCormick and Elliot Young allowed Ewan Anderson a back post tap in to tie the game at one apiece going into the first break.
A more focused and determined Stingrays team took to the ice for period two.
Lockerbie and Luke Houston worked the puck to Stevie Adams, the Ulsterman showing composure to strike home and retake the lead for the home team.
This opened the floodgates as the Stingrays play became far smoother and the chemistry within the lines and odd power play unit began to click. A fiveon-three powerplay gave the Stingrays a chance to take advantage of their momentum.
Kerr’s low driven passcome shot was cutely controlled by Gordon Horne and he drew Anderson out of the net before slotting past him for a 3-1 Stingrays lead.
Horne then became provider, a good powerplay spell seeing him ping the puck to Houston who had sneaked in at the back post to one time the puck home giving the Stingrays a healthy 4-1 lead heading into the final period.
Chris Rae gave way to Grant Scott in the Stingrays goal for the last period, and with the home team’s momentum continuing from the off the Horne, Lockerbie and Adam’s line combined again with the latter slotting Stingray’s fifth goal. Another five-on-three powerplay saw Horne pick up his third assist of the night when he sent Adams into the slot, and his backhand found the net under the arm of Anderson.
A sporadic Thunder counter saw a loose puck shot from the slot midway through the period. With Stingray’s Arran Shankland, Kerr and goalie Scott sprawling to successfully block, an awkward tweak to Scott’s ankle saw him escorted from the ice.
Chris Rae was recalled between the pipes for the last half of the period.
Horne, for his fifth point of the night notched another goal when a good flowing counter saw Houston and Adams move the puck well to Horne who again waited for Anderson to commit before making the game 7-1. The Stingrays played out the rest of the game in what proved to be another step towards better things to come.
Man of the Match went to Malcolm Anderson of the Thunder and Jay Maxwell of the Stingrays. Solway Stingrays are back on home ice this Sunday when they face the Dundee Comets. Face off is 5.30pm.
Jay Maxwell, Stingrays