Metros 3 - 4 Whitley Warriors(Saturday 17th March)
Billingham Stars 2 - 2 Metros (Sunday 18th March)
With three games left for both last weekend's opposition teams, the Billingham Stars topped the league by three points from Whitley Warriors. Results between these two meant that they should they finish equal on points, the Stars would be champions for 2011 -12. The stage was set for some tense progress reporting around the rinks in Altrincham, Sheffield, Whitley Bay and in Billingham!
Trafford was always playing catch-up in this game, but always seemed capable of pulling the Warriors back. The Metros fell behind when they left one of the ENL All-Star players, Whitley's DJ Good, alone in the slot after twelve minutes. DJ doesn't scorn such chances and gave Metros netminder and Man of the Match, Dave Clancy, no chance. Three minutes later, in the Metros one and only power-play of the game, John Murray equalised from close in taking helpers from Sean Day and Max Drakeley. Whilst the Warriors out-shot the Metros 16 - 8 in the period, the play didn't seem to be so one-sided.
A boarding infringement against the Metros gave the Warriors their second and final power-play of the game. With a man up Jamie Tinsley scored the first of his two of the game with assists going to Good and All-star nominee Kevin Bucas. With a minute to go in the period Metros own All-star nominations: Jamie Rogerson and Max Drakeley combined, with a clearance from Clancy, to release Rogerson down the right wing. This was a high-light reel goal as Rogerson stick-handled his way along, out-muscling a couple of Warriors in the Mets' end to find himself seriously bothered by a Whitley defenceman entering the visitor's zone, he released an unstoppable thunderbolt from the blue line as he fell. Two all at the end of the period and Billingham's fingers were well and truly crossed.
Tinsley got his second with just over six minutes of the third period gone. Five minutes later an aberration behind the Mets' goal gave sniper and another All-Star name, Dean Holland, the Warriors' fourth goal. This turned out to be just a goal too far for the Mets. With four minutes left Max Drakeley got one of his trademark goals from between the circles after work by Day and Murray. Despite considerable pressure, and a few scares in their own end, the Mets couldn't solve the Richie Lawson problem in the Whitley net. Clancy was pulled for the final seven seconds but in vain.
The game had been played with pace and skill and was really well controlled and allowed to roll by referee Blaine Evans: he called just three minor penalties all game. The players responded in kind with a cracking game which was appreciated by all in the Dome.
Mets Stats: Max Drakeley 1 + 1, John Murray 1 + 1, Sean Day 0 + 2, Jamie Rogerson 1 + 0, Dave Clancy 0 + 1, Jared Dickinson 0 + 1.
Nets: Dave Clancy: 59.53 minutes: 16 + 14 + 11 = 41 /4 (90.24%)
(Empty Net: 7 seconds. 0 shots)
Whitley's hoped for upset in Sheffield failed to materialise: as the Stars beat the Spartans by 4 -1. The stage was set for the Metros to visit Teesside and cause their own upset the following day.
A large noisy crowd gathered at the Forum, clearly in expectation of a home win. Billingham Stars started rather cautiously. Indeed the Mets recorded the first shot on goal, whilst the home team had to wait for over four minutes before troubling the goal judge in front of the cafe. The Trafford team was, as the previous day, working hard and limiting the Stars' opportunities to take hold of the game. The first period ended goal-less.
At 23.37, the Star's went man-down for a slashing minor. The face-off was taken in the Star's left circle. In what was a clearly pre-planned play. Jamie Rogerson's face-off win was pulled straight back to Max Drakeley in the centre of the blue-line whose one-time slapshot rocketed in to the back of the Star's net. A classic shot where the whole play was accomplished before, it seemed, anyone-else moved. Trafford went two goals up at thirty four minutes through a passing move on the right of the Star's zone involving That Man Drakeley and Jason Pirie giving John Murray, close in on the left of the net, a gap through which he found the back of the net. Two nil to the Mets. That wasn't in the script! At 37.25 a scramble in front Trafford netminder and Man of the Match, Tom McDonald enabled the Stars' Adam Robinson to score. The relief in the Forum was palpable.
The Mets led into the start of the third period but conceded a powerplay through a hooking infringement at 45.35. It took just twelve seconds of well-worked powerplay for Richie Thornton to equalise from the left of the Mets' net. Two all and Billingham had regained belief. The Mets' net lived a charmed life on a couple of occasions, but they defended with real heart and skill which allowed Trafford to push for their own winner. Neither team could break through and a draw seemed a fair result for another fine hockey game which kept everyone on the edge of their seats for the whole 60 minutes.
It was a privilege to be there as the hooter went and the Stars' players celebrated their league title. Well done and congratulations to them. And to both them and Whitley for making the season so interesting with the owner championship title in doubt until the end of the penultimate weekend of the season.
Mets' stats: Max Drakeley 1 + 1, John Murray 1 + 0, Jason Pirie 0 + 1, Jamie Rogerson 0 + 1.
Nets: Tom McDonald (60 mins): 11 + 15 + 14 = 40 / 2 (95.00%)