ALTRINCHAM ACES 1 - 3 SHEFFIELD SCIMITARS 9 FEBRUARY 2003
A third game between the two sides in fairly quick succession with the Aces needing a win to stop Sheffield taking the Northern Cup.
Sheffield were immediately on top with the Aces having to chase the puck and taking a couple of minutes to get their first attack of the match. Russ Richardson forced the first good save of the night from Sheffield goalie, Matt Darlow on the first powerplay before Danny Higgin had to stop Carl Ashton in front. The first goal of the game came at 13.42. Jason Hewitt had held back Neil Hardy and with Referee Aaltonen (from Finland via mid Wales) signalling a delayed penalty, the puck somehow got to Keith Leyland to put it in. Aces were struggling to create quality chances. Greg Allen was stopped in front after a one two between him and Tim Dempsey and had another chance saved after a quick change of direction and shot. On Sheffield's next attack with a goal looking likely, Tim Dempsey took the goal off its mooring and with the apparent effort used, there didn't seem to be much doubt it was deliberate. That meant a penalty shot and Les Millie got Danny to commit before slotting it home. Before the interval, Neil Abel started a fight with Russ and despite Abel dropping his gloves and Russ not responding, it was surprising to see both receive a minor penalty.
Aces started the second period better, Tim having a high shot saved. Danny needed to make a diving save before Jason hit Darlow on the helmet with a shot from the point. Danny denied Hardy on a Sheffield 3 on 1. Greg and Billy set up a good chance but Greg couldn't quite direct it on net and then Jason was stopped in front. Danny made a good save to deny Hardy on a powerplay chance and the last major action of the period was an altercation between Nick Crawley and Gavin Farrand that saw both receive a minor. More of an end to end period but Sheffield perhaps creating more dangerous chances.
A tense start to the third period with the Aces really needing the next goal. Steve Daly launched himself at Farrand but struggled to land a punch on his taller opponent and received 2+2 for his efforts. With Sheffield taking a minor, 4 on 4 play saw John Ross send the puck in from the side for Dean Smith to clip it past Danny. 3-0 was a mountain of a deficit but Sheffield would take more penalties in the rest of the match. An effort from Greg hit the post when it looked like it was in and Tim had a great chance on a 5 on 3 powerplay. Then, at last, the Aces opened their account with Russ firing a low shot from the point into the far corner. With the Aces laying siege on the powerplay, Billy shot over the net from in front but Sheffield were still doing well to deny quality chances. Aces pulled Danny for the extra attacker with 1.54 left. An effort from Jason slid by the keeper and the net before Sheffield received a late minor for too many men. If it had been considered deliberate, Aces could have had a penalty shot but it was more a clumsy changeover. A couple of long range efforts evaded the empty Aces net and the game ended 1-3.
Aces had lost to the better team on the night and need to find ways of penetrating the Sheffield team defence more regularly in time for the playoffs.
0-1 13.42 Leyland from Hardy
0-2 18.18 Millie PS
0-3 48.07 Smith from Ross
1-3 54.03 R Richardson from Price and Crawley
Tim Dempsey, Greg Allen,
Russ Richardson 1+0, Steve Michie,
Brian Worrall, Nick Crawley 0+1, Jason Hewitt, Simon Mills,
Arran Richardson, Stephen Elliott, Billy Price 0+1, Luke Stretton, Steve Daly,
Phil Verstappen, Danny Higgin (45s, 3g, 93.33%)(MoM),
SOG 36-45 PIMS 32-38