Metros 4 - 2 Billingham Stars
Last weekend, the Mets faced the first and second placed teams in the ENL North Division One. Billingham Stars have been carrying all before them for most of the season, having gone unbeaten in their first 15 league fixtures. However, in their past few games they have faltered just slightly: the teams just above us, Blackburn and Telford, have both beaten the Stars in recent weeks. It was up to us to carry on the the good work (or so second placed Whitley Bay were to tell us).
The game, in the Dome, was a superb spectacle. The Billingham team was at full strength and played as a first placed team meaning to keep their status. The Mets weren't to be over-awed and came out and played as they can. In this frame of mind they are a team in every sense of the word and match for anyone. Inside eight minutes the home side was up by two through Max Drakeley who slid the puck into the Stars' net from a very acute angle (assists to Sean Day and Jake Nurse) and Joe Greaves whacking in from the left-hand circle (assisted by Jamie Rogerson and Andy Dunn).
The Billingham coaches seemed to have uttered some wise words during the break. The Stars came out forcing Trafford to hold on during some pressured attacking until what could have been a disastrous thirty-fifth minute: the Stars scored twice through Udell and Davies to come back. The teams left the ice facing a third period tied at two-all.
Despite the push for a win by both sides there were no penalties the third period. In fact, the game had been remarkably penalty-free. The occasional firm words from referee Blaine Evans doing the job of minor penalties and keeping things running with as much five-on-five as this match deserved. With three minutes left Jared Dickinson took full advantage of a rebound from the keeper's pad deftly placing the puck into the top right corner. That set up a fairly frantic final three minutes. The Stars withdrew their keeper with forty seconds left and laid siege to Paul Maudsley's goal. Mets' MoM, John Murray was outstanding during this time blocking some serious attempts on goal at no small cost to his person. With just three seconds remaining, Sean Day lifted a speculative clearance off the plexi to relieve the Mets' lines only for (most) people's astonishment to see it bounce and slide agonisingly slowly, for both teams, towards, and into, the Billingham net. A jubilant Metros team left the ice looking forward to the trip up the A1 the following day.
Whitley Warriors 4 - 3 Metros
Despite the doom laden forecasts in the media the trip to Whitley Bay to face the second placed team, was remarkably trouble free. Sunshine all the way from the top of the M62. Whitley were delighted with our result the previous day which would give them the chance to close to three points of the Stars with a win today. The Mets weren't keen on complying with that scenario and were looking, after dimming the Stars, to take the scalp of the Warriors as well.
It was another rip-roaring game with what nails were left after Saturday, well and truly chewed by the end of Sunday. The Mets went ahead on five minutes with a really nice piece of work by Tom Revesz. He was released by Marc Etherington, taking the puck down the left-hand boards and cutting in to the goal-line. He appeared to be shaping to cross into the slot, the Warriors bought the deception (as I did!) but, instead, slid the puck behind the keeper. Warriors MoM, DJ Good had a big influence on the outcome of the game as he equalised from the right-hand circle after 10 minutes. Good was to assist their second and third goals.
Straight from the off in the second period the Mets moved on the Warriors goal. Jamie Rogerson picked up a lose puck just after a minute to put the Mets ahead. After equalising through Tinsley at 32.31, there was a frantic rush of scoring in just over 30 seconds: Warriors drew ahead courtesy of another Tinsley marker at 37.47. 16 seconds later Kippin could to have put the game to bed at 4 -2 but the Mets refused to be bowed and only fifteen more seconds Jake Nurse from line mates John Murray and Sean Day made it 4 - 3 to the Warriors. A hit just following his shot put Jake out of the game with what has proved to be medial collateral ligament damage. Sounds nasty, and could be season ending for Jake, but the hospital view is that with tender loving care, a following wind and no silly stuff like ice hockey, he may be clear to play for the home game against Sheffield at the end of the month followed by another trip to Whitley to face the Warriors!
The third period was another session of attack and defence for both teams as Whitley sought to cement their win and the Mets searched for a chink in the Whitley armour to at least draw. Despite the Warriors being assessed two minor penalties, the Mets couldn't breach the defence and Whitely moved to 3 points of arch-rivals Billinghan Stars. Paul Maudsley had another game where some of his saves kept us in contention in the game. He deservedly got MoM in this, his final game for this year.
These two games marked the end of Paul Maudsley's first season in the Mets' net. Paul is off travelling the world and is due back sometime in June. He's already looking forward to being a significant part of the Metros team for next season. The success of the side, so far, this season has been, in no small part, to his outstanding netminding.
To partner our long-standing keeper and coach, Tom McDonald for the remaining eight games of the regular season, as some people will know, we welcome back a Devonshire Road favourite, Dave Clancy. Dave comes to us from Blackburn after a session at Flintshire. Not only does he bring a wealth of experience and skill he's a great bloke to have around the team. We al hope he enjoys his time at the Dome and look forward to him being part of the team where he belongs for a good few years yet.