The Aspray Chester Deeside Dragons made their long awaited homecoming this weekend, with exactly 1000 days since their last home game (a 3-2 win over the Widnes Wild), and they did it in style, with an exciting 5-3 win over the Nottingham Lions (4-10-0, 8pts).
The last time these two teams faced each other was at Nottingham, and the Lions came away with the win (7-5).
The Lions opened the scoring near the end of the first period, Kieran Gibbs making it 1-0, but it wasn’t long before the Dragons answered back, as Andy McKinney scored his first goal in a Deeside jersey since the 2006-07 season to tie the game (assists to Ross Kennedy and Mike Jones).
From there, Deeside came out in the second period with a vengeance, scoring two quick power play goals on Tristan Grimshaw’s double minor for high-sticking (Kennedy from McKinney and James Parsons; Alex Parry from McKinney and MJ Clancy). The lead was cut to one as former Dragon James Shaw scored to make it 3-2 shortly after, before Tom Dermott tied the game at 3 on a power play goal of his own.
The third period was all to play for, and it took until the final three minutes of regulation for the Dragons to break through, as Parry scored his second of the game shorthanded, and Matt Wainwright put the game to bed with an empty netter.
The game had it all; goals, fights, excitement, last-minute heroics. However, something that has plagued the Dragons all season continued on Saturday; they took twelve minor penalties. The penalty kill was superb, only allowing one goal, but it’s definitely something for Mike Clancy’s coaching squad to keep an eye on.
All in all, it was a very triumphant homecoming for the Dragons, and they took that energy up to Billingham for their next game, an away match against the Stars (11-6-0, 24pts). This was the first match of the season between these two teams.
This game saw the Dragons debut of newest netminder Matt Croyle, and was the first game without forward MJ Clancy, who is sidelined with an upper body injury sustained in Saturday’s game.
Sunday’s game had even more excitement than Saturday’s, as the Stars would go on to take it 7-6 in overtime.
The Dragons came out strong again, speeding to a 2-0 lead with goals from Jared Dickinson and Petr Valusiak, before the Stars answered back with one of their own. The Dragons made it 3-1 not long after, with Kennedy’s second goal in as many games. The Stars scored their first powerplay goal to make it 3-2 before the first intermission, and then made it 3-3 five minutes into the second period with another PP goal.
Lewis Otley scored two goals in the second to make it 5-3 Dragons, his first and second goals as a Dragon (even if the second one might have been scored with one too many men on the ice…), but the Stars kept fighting, pulling back to 5-4 with a delayed penalty goal.
The Dragons had another strong third period, adding another goal to make it 6-4, but penalties made it tough to build on that lead, and the Stars would go on to score twice with the goalie pulled at the end of the game, with the tying goal coming only 9 seconds before the end of regulation. the comeback was completed in overtime, as the Stars scored the game winner with 1:02 left in extra time, sending the Dragons home with just one of a possible two points.
Despite the loss, there were lots of positives to take from this game, and taking a point from the third best team in the league is something for this team to be proud of, having not taken the ice in over a month prior to Saturday’s game.
The Aspray Chester Deeside Dragons return to the Den on December 17th for a game vs local rivals the Blackburn Hawks. Tickets are available to buy online at aura.wales/deeside-ice-arena