Murrayfield Racers kept their unbeaten run in the Scottish National League alive – but only just – with a 4-3 win over Paisley Pirates in a real swash-buckler at a loud Murrayfield ice rink last night.
Racers, led by a hat-trick from captain Joel Gautschi, edged the first game of the season between the two sides, and Racers director of hockey, Tony Hand, was full of praise for both teams as his troops “dug deep” for the win.
Hand said: “That was one of the best games of the season. It’s the first time I’ve seen Paisley but they look a really good team. We missed quite a few chances that maybe on another night we would have taken, but the fans created a great atmosphere and we really had to dig deep.
“That was the type of game the fans love to see. My vision for this league is that we have games like that all the time, it was good hockey and exciting to watch. Hats off to Paisley, they had us under a lot of pressure at times and were really well organised.”
Racers looked strong in the opening exchanges, forcing Pirates goalie, and man-of-the-match, John Russell, into a string of early saves, and took the lead inside five minutes with a short-handed goal from Gautschi. Pirates, after weathering an early storm, would have been disappointed to lose a goal with the extra man, but made a much better job of their next power-play, equalising in the seventh minute through former Racers forward Daniel Abercrombie. Racers enjoyed a power-play goal of their own in the 13th minute, Gautschi with a coolly-taken wrap-around finish after tenacious work on the back boards by line-mate Callum Boyd.
Racers out-shot Pirates 20 to eight in the second period, but Paisley who drew level through Michael Dobson, before Boyd put Racers 3-2 up on the half-hour, scything his way through the Pirates defence with a great burst of speed before slotting the puck beyond Russell.
Just two minutes into the third period, Paisley drew level for a third time, through a second goal of the game for Abercrombie, and out-shot Racers ten to seven in the final frame, but Gautschi, with a shot through a sea of legs that somehow squeezed past Russell, grabbed the winner for Racers with ten minutes to play.