Match report by Ashley Willitt
On Saturday night the Bees welcomed the Hull Pirates to town in what would be a great advert for the sport and for the team in their last game of the season.
Starting netminders were Matt Smital for the Bees and Ashley Smith for the Pirates and officiating the game were referee Kevin Ward and linesmen Ali MacPhee and Andrew Cook.
The Bees started the game quite lively and it was clear to see they meant business and were determined not to disappoint their loyal fans. It took the home team less than a minute and a half into the game to open the scoring after Alex Barker had gone one-on-one with Smith only to be denied by the young Brit goalie. Barker was not to be denied a second time tho, as some great work by Shaun Thompson aided by the skill of Luca Basic, Barker roofed home an effort with the Pirates goaltender out of position to make it 1-0.
Olegs Lascenko was also keen to prove his worth on the night, as he shrugged off a challenge from Luke Boothroyd to make a great play to Danny Ingoldsby who was denied by a superb stop by Smith. However it wasn’t long before the Bees pressure doubled their lead and this time it was Lascenko who was tee’d up and smashed a perfectly timed slap-shot past the helpless Smith.
It wasn’t all Bracknell tho, as the Hull Pirates, with Andrej Themar at the centre of almost every meaningful attack, kept Matt Smital on his toes. It was even more evident when the Bees were forced to take a couple of penalties in quick succession and found themselves 3 against 5 for almost a minute. The resulting penalty kill came to nothing more other than some great goalkeeping by Smital, however two minutes later Themar burst through the Bees defence and buried a chance, top shelf.
The Pirates drew level with only seconds left of the period after some sustained pressure on the Bees net turning the game on its head from the initial ten minutes where the Bees seemed in full control.
The second period started as the first had ended, with Hull the better side. However after a few chances for the Pirates it was the Bees who had the first relevant attack and broke the Pirates defence with Shaun Thompson slipping in between to defenders and wristing a shot past Smith restoring the Bees lead. Hull came back only minutes later to score yet again, as after some poor line changes the Bees defence was non-existent. Pirates forward Andrew Hirst received a pass from Ugnius Cizas, made a simple move on Smital and slotted home to level the tie at 3-3. The Bees were handed a chance to gain the lead once more as Hirst was called for hooking. Before the play was stopped and with the Bees attacking the net, Nathen Salem of the Pirates was also punished for hooking, giving the Bees a full 2 minute 5-on-3 power-play. With time expiring on the penalty clock Bracknell made it 4-3 through Shaun Thompson just as both Hull players exited the box.
Bracknell changed goalies half way through the game in a move that was clearly premeditated, as Smital had performed admirably through the game. Other than exchanging a few penalties, nothing more came of the second period, with both teams having efforts well denied by respective goaltenders.
The third period started brightly for the Pirates and the Bees defence had no answer for Themar, as once again he was fouled on his way to the net, giving the Pirates another power-play opportunity. The Bees defence held firm until another penalty was given, this time for delay of game against captain Matt Foord. This time the Pirates were able to move the puck around the net with speed and ease and set up Finnish forward Tommi Laine, who blasted it beyond the reach of Alex Mettam. At 4-4 it was still the Bees who looked the busier right to the end, but if not for the heroics of Ashley Smith in the Pirates net they would have ended the game in regulation, but the buzzer sounded and into overtime we went.
The overtime period started with the Pirates on the offensive and it took just sxiteen seconds before Shaun Thompson was assessed an interference penalty, giving the Pirates an extra skater. Hull had several great chances to win the game and even had two shots hit the bar. With the Bracknell returning to full strength, the Bees player/coach Lukas Smital found himself on a breakaway just into the Pirates ice where he was unceremoniously taken down. Referee ward called for a penalty shot and the Bees fans held their breath as the former AHL and ECHL star sped towards the young Hull netminder. Smital made a move left, then right, but was unable to control the puck and it slid harmlessly away from net before getting a shot off, much to the delight of the small but vocal band of away fans.
However, with just 1 minute 20 left, some great attacking play by the Bees lead to a save by Smith. The rebound was spilt in front and passed straight to Barker who made no mistake by slotting home the winner much to the delight of the players and fans alike.
A fantastic end to the game and nothing more than the team deserved after all their efforts this season.
Period scores: 2-2; 2-1; 0–1; 1-0
Bees scorers: S.Thompson & Barker 2+1; Lascenko 1+0; Basi 0+3; C.Thompson, Galazzi, Foord, Stead & Gaborcik 0+1
Pirates scorers: Hirst 2+0; Laine & Themar 1+1; Cizas, Bonner & Salem 0+2
Bees PIMS: 16 (S.Thompson, Foord & Grinell-Parke 4; C.Thompson & Tetlow 2)
Pirates PIMS: 8 (Haywood 4; Hirst & Salem 2)
Shots on Bees (M.Smital & Mettam): 20 (15, 5, 0, 0) & 14 (0, 6, 6, 2)
Shots on Pirates (Smith): 37 (10, 13, 12, 2)