NIHL: Dragons hold D1 status with phenomenal finish to season

April 3, 2017

Two weeks from the end of the NIHL North season, Deeside Dragons were in a bit of a spot.  Bottom of the D1 table, three points adrift with games against the teams first and third in the table.

Since then, the Dragons staged a late comeback at home to League champions Solway Sharks – coming from 1-4 to tie 4-4 a keep their season alive with a valuable point.

On Saturday they headed to Blackburn Arena to play the Hawks knowing only a win would be good enough to give them a chance of survival.

Player coach Scott McKenzie (hat-trick) and James Parsons (2) lead the way as Dragons recorded a remarkable 8-6 victory in a see-saw encounter.

That meant the bottom three teams in NIHL N1 – Sutton Sting, Telford Tigers and the Dragons – all finished the season on 21 points.  The head to head between the three sides over the season put Telford to the bottom of the pile, with Deeside facing a playoff against N2 runners up Widnes.  Sutton Sting were reprieved in sixth place.

NIHL North 1 has been so ridiculously competitive that the bottom three sides were just three points back of a playoff place!

Sunday’s promotion/relegation playoff took place at Blackburn with vocal support for both sides in the stands.  Three times the Dragons edged ahead – Bannon (2) and Supa on target.  Three times the Wild came back – Caunce, Manning and Hughes the scorers.

A feisty affair resulted in over 100 PIMS between the sides, and only a stellar display from Matthew Croyle in the Widnes net prevented Dragons from taking the game in normal time – the Wild goalie stopping 15 shots in the third period alone.

Three on three sudden death overtime saw chances at both ends and then, with less than two minutes remaining, Widnes’ Stuart Brittle was binned for slashing after Dragons goalie Denis Bell had covered the puck and Brittle went in with his stick.

The resulting four on three on the massive Blackburn ice saw Dragons move the puck around before McKenzie set up Parsons in front to fire the winner, timed at 64.09.

For the Dragons it truly had been a great escape.

Photo credit: PSD Images

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