PAISLEY PIRATES 2 KIRKCALDY KESTRELS 2
Pirates sneaked through to the SNL playoff final after drawing 2-2 with hosts Kestrels during a nailbiting 60 minutes, before scraping through 2-1 in the resultant penalty shoot out, with netminder Graeme Meechan the hero of the hour with a string of stops during regular play, followed by two penalty saves after Liam Riddell and Marc Crute had converted in the sudden death shoot out.
Kestrels came out flying and were ahead in under ninety seconds as Hill fired home. They could have been further ahead in the opening session as Pirates were clearly struggling to find any rhythm and Meechan made several good stops to keep the score at 1-0.They slowly found their feet and were level at the halfway point, as while on the powerplay Hassan took a pass from Jordan and fired a beauty past Little to tie the scores. Both teams continued to press but, in all honesty, the Kestrels were having the better of it and would have felt slightly disappointed to go in at the break tied at 1-1.
Both teams continued to swop penalties at regular intervals, but while Pirates were defending numerical disadvantages in some comfort, with Meechan in outstanding form, they were failing to take advantage of their own powerplays at the other end, and with neither team being able to break the deadlock they headed for their respective dressing rooms with the scores still tied, and the prospect of a tense third period looming large, Pirates having had another lucky escape with a Kestrels “goal” being wiped out towards the end of the session.
Into the third session, and Pirates continued to live dangerously, with a shot from the hosts coming back off a post with Meechan beaten, and with their inability to take advantage of more numerical advantages they were made to pay after 45 minutes, as while being on the offensive on the powerplay they carelessly gave away the puck and Anderson skated through to put Kestrels in front once again with a shorthanded effort. Coach Ian Turley immediately called a time out to settle his troops, and the move worked as they took control for almost the first time and levelled at the halfway point, as Guy fired home from the blue line to level the scores for a second time.
The goal signalled a frantic final ten minutes, as both teams went for the winner, with Pirates being caught on the break a number of times, only for Meechan to bale his team out with a string of saves, the best being a double stop when Kestrels had broken two on one from the other end. With thirty seconds left, and fingernails well and truly bitten, the Kestrels saw a shot rebound off Meechan’s bar, perhaps a precursor for what was to come.
On to penalties, and Liam Riddell coolly netted with all the calmness of a veteran, Kestrels equalised, Marc Crute then followed his team mate’s example by beating Little with ease, before Meechan produced another critical stop by blocking Anderson’s effort. Chris Wilson missed the chance of winning it for Pirates by seeing his shout rebound from Little’s pads, before Meechan won the tie for his team by turning away Floyd’s effort and racing towards his bench, to be engulfed by his team mates.
PAISLEY PIRATES 3 DUNDEE COMETS 4
Pirates were unable to resist a strong Comets fightback after leading 3-1 in the first period, and thus their unwanted lack of success in the playoffs continues, with the Comets lifting the trophy.
After their poor showing the previous night, Pirates came out with a purpose and after both Miller and Thorp had come close they took the lead in the 9th minute when Wilson and Miller combined to put Orr through and he wasted no time in dispatching the puck behind Michie for the opener. It got even better for them as within a minute the lead had doubled, as Jordan fired home from the blue line through a ruck of players to make it 2-0. Comets hauled themselves back into contention after thirteen minutes as Hamilton got the better of Meechan to halve the deficit, but with Pirates looking rampant at this stage they immediately broke to the other end, Johnstone finding the net to make it 3-1, a lead which they retained until the first interval, to send them in with a lead which their play merited.
Comets needed a quick goal at the start of the second session to break Pirates’ momentum and give themselves a foothold in the match, and they got it with less than two minutes on the clock as Gordon fired home to make it a one goal game. Comets appeared to take energy from that strike and with Pirates taking several penalties during the session, the former had the opportunity to get themselves right back in contention and equalised after 36 minutes with Whitelaw scoring on the powerplay. The warning signals were flashing for Pirates but their passes were not quite so accurate, players were perhaps trying to do too much on their own on occasions, and Michie was not quite as busy between the posts for Comets as he might have been, so at 3-3 going into the final session their opponents continued to gather momentum.
Pirates were unable to capitalise on an early powerplay at the beginning of the final session and on forty eight minutes they had a narrow escape as Dolan was sent clean through on Meechan but overshot the target and the chance was lost, much to the vocal delight of the Pirates’ fans. However, the Comets’ veteran forward had the last laugh as within two minutes a rebound had fallen beautifully for him and he wasted no time in tucking home what proved to be the game winning goal. Pirates continued to push forward, even pulling Meechan in the last minute for the extra skater, but in spite of their manful efforts they just didn’t have enough on the night, and suffered the ultimate disappointment in having to watch Comets step forward to lift a trophy which could so easily have been theirs.
The two sides meet again in two weeks in the Scottish Cup Final, again in Kirkcaldy.