Minutes after Murrayfield Racers were presented with the Scottish National League trophy, following their 8-1 home win over Kilmarnock Thunder tonight, club director Willie Dunn declared that winning the league title in their debut season was only the start of a long journey for the club, and then proclaimed: “But tonight, we’re going to party!”
Racers’ comfortable victory, through doubles from Martin Cingel, Ross Borwick and Michael Ireland, plus markers from Callum Boyd and Lewis Young, saw them finish their 16-game league season undefeated, winning 14 matches and drawing two.
“We’re over the moon” said Dunn: “At the start of the season we managed to have one full practice and some of the players didn’t even know each other’s names, and here we are at the end of the league campaign going undefeated.”
Racers spent last summer recruiting a solid squad, drawing on the vast Elite League experience of Cingel, Boyd and Richard Hartmann amongst others, and Dunn continued: “Some people thought it would be easy for us, but it was not. We’ve had some really tough games and the guys have really dug deep when they’ve had to and got us the results. And tonight they’ve been rewarded with the trophy and their medals.”
In a busy season, Racers also participated in the UK-wide National Ice Hockey League North Cup, a step up in class the club struggled with at times, however it may be an indication of where their future ambitions lie.
Dunn said: “At the start of the season we held a meeting with the fans and told them we were going on a journey, and this year would be just the start. We will reassess where we are going forward, but tonight we’re going to party.”
The league may be wrapped up, but in a season that could well stretch on into May with two cup finals and the play-off’s still to fight for, amid the celebrations, Racers director of hockey Tony Hand warned of tougher challenges ahead.
“With all due respect to Kilmarnock, they were the weakest team in the league this year, and we weren’t at our best tonight, we certainly took our foot off the gas, that wasn’t our normal team out there.
“Tonight’s performance may not have been great, but the boys have been working hard and, over the course of the year, they’ve been fantastic and I’ve told them that.
“I thought Kilmarnock have some good young players and they worked really hard, but if we want to win cup and play-off finals we need to play a lot better than that – but when the guys have had to be at their best they’ve delivered and hopefully that can continue.”
It certainly was a strange game at Murrayfield last night, devoid of atmosphere despite the large crowd, almost as if fans and players alike were waiting for the final whistle, but all that changed once the trophy presentation began, for which the Kilmarnock players sportingly stayed on the ice.
With the party already in full-swing in the Racers dressing room, a jubilant Boyd, said: “It’s been an awesome first season. It wasn’t an easy ride, we’ve had plenty tough battles, but to go undefeated throughout the whole league season, you can’t ask for better than that, or have a better bunch of guys to play alongside.
“Everything just clicked, it’s class to play in a team where everyone is working hard and enjoying themselves.
“That’s us got our first trophy but the plan is to keep the ball rolling, and to do our best to see what else we can achieve.”