BLACKBURN Hawks’ coach Jared Owen has hailed his side’s “fight” and “character” after picking up maximum points in a fiery weekend double header against bitter rivals Trafford Metros.
Hawks built on their opening day draw against Sheffield in the English National Ice Hockey League North One with two battling 4-3 wins over Trafford on Saturday and Sunday.
The returning Dan Mackriel, who only signed forms on Thursday, starred with two goals in Sunday’s home match, with new skipper Chris Arnone hitting a late winner in a tempestuous affair at Trafford on Saturday.
Owen said: “It was a great weekend, we could not have asked for better. On Saturday, we were five guys short because of injury and work commitments. It was a physical game and we came out on top.
“On Sunday we had extra bodies and they were short. We scored very early on and probably thought it was going to be easy.
“We gave away a few penalties and made it harder than we should have done. But we turned it round when we needed to.
“They are always fiery matches when we play Trafford, the guys are always up for it. Trafford beat us in the head-to-head last season and we already have more points against them this season.
“The one thing I have picked up on is what a close knit squad it is, even though it is a new group.
“All the lads are sticking up for each other and have got each others back. If something happens, they are all there to help their team.”
Jordan Bannon and Matt Viney were among the scorers on Saturday night, with Arnone hitting the winner, as the Hawks came out on top in a bad tempered affair.
On Sunday evening at the Blackburn Arena, Mackriel gave the hosts the perfect start with a goal from an acute angle after Craig Rogers’ strike had been saved.
The Metros were able to gain a foothold in the game when Mackriel sat out a two-minute penalty for hooking, and with the powerplay entering it's final 10 seconds, they shot low past Danny Brittle in the Hawks goal.
Early in the second period, Bob Streetly did well to keep the puck in the offensive zone, and fired a shot at goal.
Jordan Bannon’s presence was sufficient to distract the Trafford netminder to allow the faintest of touches to sneak in at the far post.
The visitors quickly restored parity, before San Dunford pounced to give the Hawks the lead once more, but a mistake from Arnone allowed Trafford to level again.
Mackriel scored the decisive strike towards the end of an eventful period as they saw out a tense final 20 minutes.
“It was good to have Dan Mackriel back,” said Owen. “He is a great lad and has added quality, although you could see he was a little rusty having not played competitively for 15 months.
“His return has been a real boost for the guys. He is good to have in the dressing room and is vocal around the place. The other guys can talk to him and listen to him.”