Metros 4 - 4 Sheffield Spartans. (Saturday)
Whitley Warriors 5 - 2 Metros. (Sunday)
To maintain the push for a play-off spot, the Metros needed all the points from the weekend's games: they were seven points behind and three games in hand over fourth placed Telford Titans. Whilst we were busy, the Titans were without games so it was an ideal opportunity to close the gap. As always happens as the season runs down, injuries and prior commitments meant that the Metros were without several players for Saturday's game: Simon Mills (broken arm), Jake Nurse (knee), Dan Etherington (lower body) plus Tom Revesz and Jared Dickinson. However, coaches Paul Bayliss and Kev Cassidy were pleased to give Phoenix U18 Cade King a chance on the Mets' blue-line. And he took it with both skates, having outstanding games, getting assists in both matches. Saturday's game produced another crop of injuries: John Murray (back), Marc Etherington (concussion symptoms), Jason Pirie (groin strain) and Andy Dunn (shoulder). Although Tom Revesz returned. missing such influential players on a trip to Whitley Bay meant a great deal of skating for the remaining members of the team.
Saturday's match against Sheffield was important for both sides: Sheffield needed the points to clear some head-room above Nottingham and Coventry who are in the frame for the relegation play-off spot and the Mets, as has been said, needed the win to maintain their cause for a play-off spot. A tight, tense match was easily predicted. And so it proved. Sheffield had the best of the early part of the first period, going ahead after seven minutes when the Mets' defence had been pulled to the left of the ice leaving Chris Wilcox to score with keeper Clancy screened by a defenceman. Trafford started to build their own offence culminating in Jamie Rogerson coming from behind the net putting the puck over the keeper's blocker from an oblique angle, assists going to Alex Pugh and Cade King.
The Mets took the lead, on the power-play at 27 minutes, with Sean Day tipping the puck from close in after work by Scott Robson and a mazy skate from Marc Etherington. Sheffield weren't to be bowed and came back with two goals in three minutes leaving the ice leading 3 to 2.
After seven minutes of the third, the Mets equalised with a power-play goal via Dave Clancy feeding Sean Day on the right with Jamie Rogerson providing the final shot. Six minutes later Rogerson completed his MoM winning hat-trick, assisted, again by Day plus Andy Dunn. The influential Ollie Barron made it a tied game a couple of minutes later leaving a tense final four minutes as both teams tried hard for the game winner. The Spartans fell foul of a couple of minor penalties in the last ninety seconds giving the home team and crowd and exciting time as they laid siege to Andrew Bagshaw's net. Despite some scares the defence held firm. Both teams left the ice ruminating on what might, just, have been. A great game for the neutrals, if there were any, and a good advert for what ENL hockey can produce.
Mets' stats: Jamie Rogerson 3 + 0, Sean Day 1 + 2, and 0 + 1 for: Dave Clancy, Andy Dunn, Marc Etherington, Cade King Alex Pugh and Scott Robson.
Shots on Clancy: 18, 13, 13 = 44 (90.91%)
After being two experienced defencemen on Saturday, the Mets set off for Whitley Bay with the blue-line down by two more experienced d-men. With the Warriors in rampant form and determined to chase down their north-eastern rivals, the Billingham Stars, and take top spot in the ENL North, the prospects didn't look rosy. As ever, the team, which seems to reserve its best performances for the stronger sides, didn't surrender territory and was giving as good as it got until a few minutes of disarray at the start of the third period which put the game out of reach.
Straight from the face-off the puck, sticks and feet became entangled and a tripping penalty was called at 4 seconds. With nerves and bus legs still a little jangling the Warriors scored at 1.24 (Callum Watson). Whitley conceded several minor penalties during the first which didn't help their cause. What it did do was allow the Metros to make progress down the ice and start to have belief in their abilities to take the game to the home team.
The match continued with attacks swinging from end to end until the half-way point in the game when Whitley scored again through Dean Holland. That could have been that with such a short-handed Metros team but they are made of sterner stuff and came back three minutes later: Joe Greaves fed Sean Day with Jamie Rogerson putting heart into the Mets from close in.
The third period started very badly for the Mets. Defensively they gave their goaltender and, deservedly, Metros' Man of the Match, Tom McDonald little help whilst the Warriors ran in three goals in under five minutes. The team could have fallen apart but they managed to settle and start to get their belief back. Trafford needed a score in the next few minutes but were unable to find a way passed Richard Lawson in the home net until, on the power-play with three minutes left Cade King passed to Jamie Rogerson who returned the assisting favour to scorer Sean Day. Three more goals was too much to ask. To their credit, the Warriors didn't ease off after going 5 - 1 ahead, indeed, they seemed to try harder as they peppered the Mets' net with 22 shots: twice as many as in period two. In winning the game the Warriors closed the gap behind Billingham to two points. Next Sunday's match at Hillheads between the two could be the championship decider. However, the Mets still have a big say in that fate: on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of March we play Whitley (home) and Billingham (away). The end of this season is not for the faint-hearted.
Mets' stats: Sean Day 1 + 1, Jamie Rogerson 1 + 1, Joe Greaves 0 +1, Cade King 0 + 1.
Shots on McDonald: 15, 10, 22 =- 47 (89.36%)