A CRUSHING 18-7 aggregate victory handed Solihull Barons the EIHA Midlands Cup after an absorbing two-legged final with Blackburn Hawks.
The Barons were tied at 7-7 going into Sunday’s home leg at Hobs Moat Road, where they cruised to an 11-0 whitewash win to claim silverware after a near-perfect run to the final.
Losing just once in their eight matches in the group stage, Solihull overcame Nottingham Lions 5-1 in January’s semi-final before last weekend’s success.
In Saturday’s first leg at Planet Ice Blackburn Arena, an end-to-end encounter gave little indication of where this year’s Midlands Cup would be heading, with neither side able to be separated by the end of the 60 minutes.
An early score at 2.24 from Blackburn’s Corey Lee was immediately wiped out by Callum Bowley’s strike at 3.49 during a blistering opening.
Solihull then hauled themselves two goals in front when Tom Soar struck during a powerplay (7.57), followed by Niklas Ottosson’s effort less than five minutes later (12.37).
But before Daniel Brittle’s side could get too excited about their position, Lee Pollitt (13.09) and Petr Valusiak (16.38) levelled before the opening period was out.
The second period continued in the same vein, as both teams struggled to pull ahead without being pegged back immediately by their rivals.
Matthew Maurice (23.07) sent the Barons back in front for a second time, although second goals of the night from Pollitt (26.37) and Valusiak (29.59) – either side of an Andrew Whitehouse strike (28.29) – ensured parity heading into the final 20.
The picture remained very much the same in the third period, as a quickfire double from Solihull’s Daniel Mulcahy (41.09) and Soar (41.44) were still not enough to give the visitors an advantage after James Neil (44.46) and Joe Greaves (45.50) levelled the scores.
It set up a winner-takes-all scenario in the second leg a day later, which, judging by the closely-fought nature of the first encounter, took everyone gathered within Hobs Moat Road by surprise.
Taking an early lead through the quick thinking of Marcus Maynard (2.29), a second followed just before the period end from Whitehouse (17.58), at which point the Barons never looked back.
Five goals in the second period all but confirmed the Barons’ status as champions, blitzing their opponents time and again, leaving Blackburn unable to issue a reply.
First, David Rogers added his name to the scoresheet after sweeping home Ottosson’s pass on 22 minutes and 54 seconds, before three goals in the space of 24 seconds gave the hosts an unassailable lead.
Mulcahy netted the first of the quickfire trio (28.15), followed by two from Richard Slater (28.29 and 28.39), to the dismay of the despairing Hawks netminder Harrison Walker.
While the scoring subsided momentarily, Whitehouse fired home his second of the game on 37.42 to put Solihull seven goals to the good heading into the final 20.
Attacking plays and shots continued to be peppered at Walker’s goal after the restart, with an Ottosson far post tap-in (40.47) getting the Barons up and running in the third period.
While a bout of indiscipline saw both sides end the game with nine men, two late goals from Soar (51.44 and 57.39), either side of a Paul Stanley effort (53.16), completed a memorable Midlands Cup campaign.
It proves the Barons first major silverware since lifting the NIHL North Two (Laidler) Division title in 2015, a triumph that will no doubt spur the club on when returning to league action this weekend.
The Barons currently sit third in the Moralee Division, a position they will aim to strengthen when hosting Sutton Sting – who are fourth – on Sunday evening (5.30pm).