In a match billed as a Christmas cracker, the sixty minutes of play certainly lived up to the pre match publicity, as Pirates, minus a number of key players and with several taking to the ice with injuries or illness which might normally have ruled them out of the game, overcame the significant challenge of the Kirkcaldy Kestrels to win a pulsating match 8-5.
The visitors, knowing that a win was crucial to their lingering hopes of retaining their SNL title, had the better of the opening exchanges as Pirates fought to get to grips with their re-jigged lines, and in the 7th minute the latter’s lethal touch in front of goal was illustrated as David Orr pounced on a Miller pass to beat Little for the opener. Within two minutes the lead was doubled as the roles were reversed, and with Pirates scoring a third through Man of the Match Marc Crute on the powerplay with less than 12 minutes on the clock they looked home bankers, but in spite of having several more gilt edged chances they were unable to add to the 3-0 scoreline before the first break.
With the second period underway the visitors had several chances to get themselves back in the games but it wasn’t until after the midway stage that they got on the scoreboard, and within the space of only two minutes they had pulled level through Robertson, Floyd (on the powerplay), and Smith, but coach Ian Turley sensibly called for a time out to settle his troops down and take the sting out of the visitors’ surge, and his strategy paid off as David Orr netted with under two minutes of the period remaining to send his team in with a narrow 4-3 advantage.
Pirates appeared to have learned from their middle session sag as they came out for the final session with all guns blazing, goals from Crute and Wilson pushing their advantage to 6-3 within 3 minutes of the restart before the Kestrels had found their second wind. However, the visitors came back again, and goals from Anderson and Duncan had reduced the deficit to one before the halfway point, with Pirates’ fans again chewing their fingernails in anticipation of a final fraught 10 minutes. Once again, they were the ones cheering as first Miller, netting his second, then Crute, completing his hat trick by skating beyond 3 defenders to score the eighth goal, in the space of two minutes, ensured that the points were staying in Paisley, in spite of Kestrels pulling their netminder with as much as four minutes to go in a brave, but vain, attempt to keep the game alive. With the noise level escalating rapidly in the final few minutes, Pirates safely crossed the finishing line to record another important victory.
Pirates may have played a better quality of hockey in some of their games in recent times, but this display was more about the guts of the players in depleted circumstances, standing up to the significant challenge presented by a very good Kirkcaldy side and showing that in adversity they had the ability to come through. For their part, it’s unlikely that any spectator attending the match left the arena feeling they had not had value for their money.
The players have a well earned 3 week break from matches over the festive period, returning to competitive action, in a break from their normal routine, on Saturday 7 January when they take on table toppers Aberdeen Lynx at Braehead Arena (face off 5.00pm).
Scorers: Crute (3+0), Orr & Miller (both 2+2), Wilson (1+2), Guy (0+2), I. Turley, Thorp, Blair & Hassan (all 0+1)
Penalties: Crute & C Turley (both 4), Guy, I. Turley, Orr, Meechan & Wilson (all 2)
Man of the Match: MARC CRUTE