Aberdeen Lynx are in pole position to go through after a confident 6-2 win over Paisley Pirates in their Scottish Cup semi-final first leg.
A small brawl between the two teams during the warm-up had both sets of players – and fans – fired up for what was always going to be a tough encounter.
But a stunning team performance from the Lynx in front of a packed Aberdeen crowd showed they had the quality to more than match one of the league’s strongest teams.
Before the game, coach Owen Reynolds said the Lynx needed to take the “attitude and character” his side had displayed in the last few games of the league into this game.
And hat-trick hero Jordan Leyden was proud of how they were able to match Paisley’s intensity. He said: “We always know what Paisley will bring, they are a tight, hard-working group that can and will battle the whole game. We knew we had to match their intensity and hope that our quality would shine through.
“Everything went pretty much to plan apart from a couple of lapses in concentration, but we kept up the pressure and intensity all the way to the end.
“We seemed to just all click and, when it clicks the way it did on Saturday, we see the results.”
The Lynx took the lead early in the first period through LEYDEN, picking up a long pass from Mark Laing and scooping the puck past Pirates net-minder John Russell.
Mark LAING doubled his side’s lead on the 25-minute mark with a well-taken shot straight from a face-off, before Paisley’s Ryan SARGINSON pulled one back.
LEYDEN grabbed his second of the night just 30 seconds later with Christian JOHNSON making it 4-1 in the closing minutes of the second with a stunning hit from just inside the blue line. But the Pirates proved why they’re one of the strongest teams in the league as Marc CRUTE grabbed one back for his side.
The Lynx looked close to making it 5-2 on the powerplay – after Crute had been sent from the ice for 2+10 for a check to the head. However, Paisley were able to hold the line.
In the end, though, Aberdeen’s only import, Mikvlas NOVOTNY, forced his way through with help from man of the match Mark Laing to get the fifth.
LEYDEN then completed his hat-trick – taking advantage of the extra man after Paisley captain Chris Turley had been sent off the ice for holding – to make it 6-2 on the final buzzer.