It’s been 50 years since the Dragons were founded, and this weekend, the Aspray Chester Deeside Dragons briefly rebranded to the Flintshire Freeze for a retro weekend that doubled as a double derby with the Blackburn Hawks. The Freeze were undefeated, winning 7-5 and 6-3, with two hat tricks, two goalie MVPs courtesy of 16 year old Ollie Booth and Jace Gledhill, and four big points as the Dragons continue to bear down on the league leading Billingham Stars.
The Freeze were without number one goaltender Matt Croyle this weekend, so turned to their young duo of GB prospects, OIllie Booth and Jace Gledhill, to hold down the fort. The Freeze came into this game on a four game point streak, having gone 3-0-1 in the month of December. Their last game was an 8-2 victory over the Nottingham Lions.
The Blackburn Hawks have been a strong team all season, and last time these teams faced off, it was a 9-3 Dragons loss in Blackburn, and a 6-3 Dragons loss at the Den. Their most recent game was a 4-2 win over the Whitley Warriors. On Saturday’s game they were without young star Jacob Lutwyche, but he returned for Sunday’s game. The Hawks also welcomed back Lee Pollitt, making his return to Blackburn after spending the beginning of the season with the Hull Seahawks in the National League.
It was a strong start for the Freeze on Saturday in Blackburn, as they stormed out to a 2-0 lead on goals from Jared Dickinson and James Parsons. Ollie Booth, playing in his first full game for the Freeze, was perfect with 14 saves on 14 shots in the first period. Parsons added a second goal early in the second period, before the Hawks finally broke through on Booth with a goal from Adam Barnes. The two teams traded power play goals (Andy McKinney, who paid tribute to his late father, a former Freeze player, after his tally, and James Royds) to make it 4-2 Freeze going into the third.
Blackburn pushed hard in the final period, scoring back to back goals 29 seconds apart (James Riddoch and Barnes’ second of the game) to tie the game at 4, before Barnes’ hat trick goal put the Hawks ahead 5-4 with just over 6 minutes remaining in the period. The Freeze didn’t panic though, and Brodie Jesson tied the game 37 seconds later, before Chris Jones made it 6-5 21 seconds after that. That would end up being the game-winner, as despite a late push from the Hawks, and a badly timed penalty from the Freeze with only ten seconds left, Dickinson got a short handed empty netter with 8 seconds left to secure the 7-5 victory for the Freeze, their first win since 2012.
MVP for the Freeze was Ollie Booth, who made 34 saves and was instrumental in keeping the team in it after the late go-ahead goal from Barnes.
The Freeze were back at the Den bright and early on Sunday for a rematch against Blackburn, who had their missing star, Jacob Lutwyche, back on the roster for the match-up. In goal for the Freeze was Jace Gledhill, looking to turn in a performance as good as teammate Ollie Booth.
Andy McKinney continued his strong play from the night before, opening the scoring in front of a packed Den. The Freeze penalty kill has been strong all season, and it shone last night, though the Freeze did concede the tying goal only seconds after their second penalty of the period expired. Not to be outdone, McKinney scored his second of the game, and third of the weekend, to give the Freeze a 2-1 lead going into the second period.
Despite McKinney’s two goal performance, the highlight of the opening period was Gledhill’s spectacular penalty shot save, and in the second period, McKinney showed them how it was done, scoring his hat trick goal on a penalty shot to give the Freeze a 3-1 lead.
Adam Barnes scored his fourth of the weekend to cut the lead to 1, and the two teams went into the final period with the Freeze up 3-2, though not for lack of trying on the part of the Hawks, as the Dragons took four minor penalties in that period, and Gledhill made 13 of 14 saves, including another exceptional one on what the entire building thought was a wide open net and a sure goal for Blackburn.
Just like Saturday, the Hawks pushed back to start the third, and tied the game at 3 on a breakaway by Lutwyche that Gledhill could do nothing about. But today’s hero would be Jakub Hajek, who scored how own hat trick in under 3 minutes of play, the first one coming with less than 4 minutes left in the third to put the Freeze ahead by 1, and adding two more in quick succession to give the Freeze a 6-3 win.
Gledhill would get MVP honours, with 27 saves on 30 shots, and the Freeze would be victorious.
Make sure to check out the Freeze jersey auction currently running! Own a piece of Deeside hockey history, and be in with a chance of winning the Freeze jersey, short covers, and socks of your favourite Dragon! Bidding closes on Friday, so get your bids in now!
The Dragons return, and they’re travelling back to Blackburn on Saturday January 13th for the first Deeside-Blackburn leg of the M56 Cup, before returning home on Sunday to face the Widnes Wild for the first time this season at the Den. Tickets are on sale SOON, we are expecting big crowds, so buy in advance!