Solway Sharks suffer semi-final heartbreak against Widnes Wild

Solway Sharks suffered heartbreak in a thriller of a Moralee Cup semi-final against Widnes Wild.

By Andrew Glen
Thursday, 16th December 2021, 2:15 pm

The sides were tied 3-3 after the first leg at Dumfries but the Lancashire side edged the second leg 5-4 the following night to take their place in the final.

Sharks were favourites to progress, but in the first match they struggled to find top gear.

The first period was a cagy affair with both teams having chances, but Widnes who took the lead through Vlads Vulkanovs when the Latvian showed great skills to turn on a sixpence to beat the Sharks defender and place a backhand shot past Calum Hepburn.

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With a penalty against the Sharks at the end of the first, the Dumfries team faced an awkward start to the second period but they managed to kill the penalty well and Lewis Huston equalised soon after the penalty expired.

The goal gave the Sharks some momentum, but poor finishing prevented them from taking a lead and it was the English team that scored next as Joe Greaves put away the chance when clean through.

However, the Sharks answered quickly after an amazing goal line scramble which saw four Wild players sprawled on the ice Scott Henderson levelled for the Sharks.

The third period saw more chances for the Sharks go begging through a combination of great saves from Harrison Walker and poor finishing from Solway.

Sharks took the lead on a power play with Scott Crane bagging a good goal, but Sharks couldn't hold out for just over a minute as Vulkanovs claimed his second of the match.

The return leg was just as tight as the first match.

The first period was the best for Sharks, despite going behind to an early Vulkanovs goal.

They bounced back quickly through two goals from Huston and one from fan favourite Peto Gapa to lead 3-1 at the end of the first. But this was as good as it was to get.

Widnes shot out of the blocks at the start of the second and scored through Richard Haggar within a minute of the puck being dropped.

They quickly got a man advantage as Callum Boyd was penalized for holding and on the power play tied the game up through Vulkanovs.

The teams were extremely competitive and a number of penalties were dished out by the officials but it wasn’t until the Sharks picked up their second five-minute major of the match, Boyd for charging, that the scoring continued with Greaves putting Widnes in front.

Worse was to follow for the Sharks when Kell Beattie was called for tripping and was given another five-minute major.

This meant that it was 5 on 3 for more than three minutes but the second period ended with the Wild still only leading 4-3.

The Sharks contained Wild for the remainder of the powerplay, but shortly after the man advantage expired Matthew Barlow scored what would be the decisive goal for the home side.

Sharks pushed hard to get back into the match and there was a glimmer of hope when Huston scored his second with less than two minutes left.

Hepburn was pulled from his netminding duties to give Sharks an extra attacker, but despite a desperate finish Sharks couldn’t tie the game to take it to overtime.