x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Camels get first swipe at the Vipers

The Dubai side make the most of advantage and absence of the rival side's captain to go one up in the best-of-three finals over Al Ain.

DUBAI // Home advantage suited the Dubai Camels last night, as they defeated the Al Ain Vipers 5-3 in the opening game of the best-of-three Emirates Ice hockey League finals at Dubai's Al Nasr Leisureland rink. Having fallen behind to a power-play goal from Kevin Emore early on, the Camels - who stayed 1-0 down throughout a tetchy first 15 minutes - upped the tempo in the second period. A goal from Kyle Hyland, a fine strike by assistant captain Jamie Nelson and a Mack Irving shot swung the balance the way of the hosts, before the Vipers' Mike Merriman finished off a flowing move to bring the underdogs back to within one. With Vipers goaltender Michael Jabri-Pickett repelling frequent Camels attacks, his opposite number Christian Montpetit, who excelled throughout, was floored twice - once when he took a puck straight to the helmet and again when he collided with a teammate - as the country's top two teams tussled for ascendency.

A stop-and-start game was marred by both teams' indiscipline as numerous players were sin-binned for misconduct. The ultra-competitive encounter threatened to boil over on the narrow playing surface, before Hyland scored his second goal, the Camels fourth, moments into the final period. Camels captain Ron Murphy's slap-shot past Jabri-Picket made it five. "They got a good goal in the first period, but we battled hard and got our rewards," said Murphy. "They were playing catch-up and we overpowered them and kept rolling." The visitors badly missed captain Ahmed Hennawi, who sat out the game for personal reasons, and although Brian Slattery netted a late consolation, the Vipers will need to win Monday's second leg to take the series to a deciding match in Abu Dhabi on March 3. emegson@thenational.ae