OUTSTANDING, breathtaking and phenomenal – just three superlatives used by fans to celebrate one of the most memorable weekends in Blackburn Hawks history.
On paper, it was a daunting double header, against undoubtedly the two strongest teams in the English National Ice Hockey League, Solway Sharks and Billingham Stars.
Youngster Jordan Bannon was the hat-trick hero in the cup clash against the Scottish side, as Hawks consolidated second spot with a wonderful 3-2 away win And netminder Danny Brittle was the star of the show on Sunday, as Hawks defeated the runaway league leaders 3-1 in front of their jubilant home fans.
Solway had gone into Saturday’s game having won 20 of their 21 fixtures in all competitions this season.
However, they met a Hawks side in fine form.
Solway led 1-0 at the end of the first period, but Bannon scored his first of the game just moments after the restart on a powerplay.
After some exhilarating end-to-end action, Bannon fired home his second with a screamer of a slap-shot into the top right-hand corner and the youngster grabbed his third of the game with a similar strike in the final period.
The Sharks weren’t prepared to lose without a fight and went on an all-out attack. As tensions between the two teams rose, Adam Reynolds pulled one back, but Brittle made a series of superb saves – including a brilliant penalty block – to secure the spoils for the victorious visitors.
After such an energy-sapping display, the visit of table-topping Billingham, who had won 15 and drawn four of their 20 league games going into the contest, was never going to be easy. But again Hawks rose to the challenge.
Rick Hughes fired the hosts in front after six minutes and Hawks doubled their lead on the quarter-hour mark, when Chris Arnone pulled the puck back for Tom King to fire home.
Two minutes later and the Hawks were in dreamland when player-coach Jared Owen added goal number three from an acute angle.
The second period began with a rejuvenated Stars side pressing for a way back into the match, although they were repeatedly thwarted by a resolute ‘white wall’ and a netminder who was once again in exceptional form between the pipes.
Both sides picked up countless penalties, as the period ended goalless.
On 52 minutes, Brittle was finally beaten, as Anthony Price found a way past him to set up a nervous finale, but Hawks dug deep and ran down the clock, before receiving a standing ovation from the home fans.