PIRATES IN FINAL-BUT ONLY JUST!
PAISLEY PIRATES 2 KIRKCALDY KESTRELS 2
(Pirates win 2-1 on penalty shots to reach playoff final)
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.
Pirates will play a lot better than they did in this game and lose, and will hope that they recover their mojo by 6.30pm on Sunday night