LONDON, UK – Whilst the rest of the league could relax with a weekend off, four teams had a semi on and had to finish the job to move one step closer to cup glory. Add in some blood, a massive bruise and a luxury holiday home and you have another week of news from the National Ice Hockey League South.
The cup competition can sometimes be ignored in its early stages, however by semi-final time, everyone realises that it is a chance to grab some silverware.
Nowhere more so than Streatham, where the Redskins ramped up the publicity ahead of their two legged semi against Invicta Dynamos with plenty of press coverage and social media bothering.
“Some of the guys have been playing here for a while and we have seen the ups and mainly the downs” said goalie Will Sanderson in an interview with the South London Press.
“I really like the fact that they and I are involved in what has been a really good season for the club, and it would be amazing if we could achieve something special”
“In the old Streatham rink we had small crowds but they made lots of noise and created a brilliant atmosphere. At Brixton we had bigger crowds but the acoustics were not great”
“Since we moved to the new rink in Streatham we are getting the best crowds I have seen at Streatham and the atmosphere really does hit you on the ice”
“We will need to be at the top of our game to beat Invicta but if the rink is rocking as it has been in some games this season, I think any away side will find that hard to deal with”
The Dynamos were of course in confident mood ahead of the fixture, but had a couple of injury issues to deal with following the previous weekend’s fixtures against Cardiff and Milton Keynes.
“We’ve got a final to play for and we’ll be giving it our best” said Invicta Coach Kevin Parrish in an interview with Kent Online.
“Streatham are our big rivals and they took the points off us in the league before Christmas, which left a sour taste”
“It’s going to be tough, especially with goalie Chris Douglas still out injured but hopefully Davey Jackson can step up to the plate like he did last weekend”
The other semi-final pitted Chelmsford against Wightlink Raiders, with the latter stuttering in form lately.
“Over the years, fans have said we need scoring and we addressed that issue” said Raiders Coach Jeremy Cornish in his weekly press release.
“But as a coach I preferred having guys that wanted to prevent goals. I do think we have those guys on our team, but I’m not sure everyone is buying in to our style of hockey”
“We have a very exciting weekend of hockey coming up, the League Cup semi-final against Chelmsford. We will be looking at our defensive game this week in training and I’m hoping another video session can answer some of the questions”
“If we play the way I know we can, we can be optimistic about bringing home some silverware this year. We are still in contention for three trophies and it’s my job to prepare the team accordingly”
The Freezing the Puck website gave NIHL fans a flurry of player interviews to read with Chelmsford’s Julian Smith, Solent & Gosport Devils goalie Chico Cole and Streatham’s Harrison Lillis all sharing their thoughts on various issues.
Smith had no mention about the upcoming cup semi-final but instead shared his thoughts on who had impressed him so far in 2013/14.
“The league has improved again this year and has some very strong teams” explained the big blue liner.
“Invicta are proving to be a force and playing well. A few players spring to mind, even with such a busy personal life juggling busy jobs of dolphin shaving and caring for people in the community Ryan Giles still manages to play well, and Huska is still playing like a 25 year old even at the age of 38”
Smith’s interview with Freezing the Puck website wasn’t the only big news coming out of the Riverside last week, as forward Michael Ranby celebrated his birthday and the club advertised their ‘Holiday Home’ to rent in Cyprus.
Chelmsford are the only UK club to have a holiday home for rent that we are aware of and with a description of ‘Elegant and Stylish’ let’s all assume that no hockey players have ever stayed within its walls.
A brief browse of the gallery of pictures showed no Chelmsford Chieftains branding in any part of the property, not even a tiled mosaic of Tibor Schneider’s face on the floor of the outdoor pool.
Pro Hockey News did Chelmsford the favour of contacting some high profile London architects to suggest branded improvements and they suggested a Dwayne Newman ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign on the front door, a fruit bowl with ‘Clarke’s Apples’ carved on the outside and the ultimate in Chieftains merchandise, namely a Danny Wright branded quilt and pillow case set.
Bruise of the week came via the Bracknell Hornets this week, as Richard Wojciack’s leg turned black after he took a puck from Invicta’s Callum Fowler. We have seen some bruises over the last few seasons but this one is up there with the very best, so well done Mr Wojciack.
Determined not to be outdone in the gore stakes, Haringey Racers forward Mason Webster had his eye brow split open during a game with Cardiff. Apologies to anyone who is reading this article over breakfast.
With all of the other teams getting a weekend off, the four semi-finalists went head to head in London and the Isle of Wight.
Streatham managed to stage a late comeback to tie 4-4 with Invicta Dynamos in front of an 800+ crowd in South London.
Danny Hammond, Elliott Knell, Juraj Huska and Callum Fowler got the goals for the Dynamos. A brace from Sean Scarbrough and a goal each for Joe Allen and Dom Hopkins sealed a point for Streatham; however they were rocked by an injury to captain Joe Johnston who left the game midway through the first period.
The second leg was made even tougher for the Redskins as Michal Oravec was handed a match penalty (and therefore suspension) after his hit on Shaun Yardley behind the net, left the former London Raiders man, lying injured on the ice.
There was a long delay whilst Yardley was attended to, and an ambulance was called, but thankfully he was released from hospital later that night. There cannot be any worse sight in hockey than a player being stretchered off on a spine board, but thankfully both teams have excellent and diligent medics in Tanya Romans and Erin Rose.
On the island it was an identical score line as Wightlink and Chelmsford cancelled each other out with a 4-4 tie.
Wightlink actually had a 4-2 lead before conceding two late goals, with the home sides efforts coming from Matthew Vizzari, Craig Tribe, Damon Larter and Steven Osman.
Chelmsford scorers were Daniel Volrab with two and Luke Brittle and Gary Clarke with the others.
In NIHL 2, Haringey recorded a league record attendance as they beat Cardiff 10-2 in front of 792 fans at Alexandra Palace. Sean Martin was the hero of the hour for the Racers as he scored a hat trick.
A combined crowd of over 1600 fans for third tier hockey night in London may sound small to those outside the UK, but it is a remarkable achievement for two clubs that have been on hard times in recent years and only managed a resurgence through the acts of volunteers.
Chelmsford made no mistake at home to Wightlink in the second leg as they made home advantage count in a 3-1 win to secure their place in the final.
It took an empty net goal from Matt Turner to seal the win for Chelmsford in the final minute of play to make it two goals for him on the night. Gary Clarke got the other for the home side and Jeremy Cornish got the goal for Wightlink.
If the game at the Riverside was exciting it is doubtful it was in the same league to the game that happened in Kent at the same time.
In front of a huge crowd at Silverblades Invicta and Streatham battled out an incredible 9-9 draw, made even more dramatic as Streatham had been 9-4 down at one stage and got a last minute equaliser.
The game went to sudden death overtime and then penalty shots, with Streatham goalie Aaron Taylor making himself the hero as he saved from Arran Strawson to win the game for the Londoners.
Sean Scarbrough had been the man on form for the Redskins with four goals and Steven Fisher, Liam Rasmussen, Dom Hopkins, Joe Allen and Callum Best were also on target.
Andy Smith hit a hat trick for Invicta, Juraj Huska got two and there were lone goals for Callum Fowler, Elliott Knell and Marek Nahlik.
Arran Strawson and Jamie McIlroy dropped the gloves midway through the second period to add to the headlines.
It is no exaggeration to say that for the Streatham fans in the corner of the rink there has probably been no greater night in many years for them, and the victory was even more surprising given the lack of Captain Joe Johnston and suspended import Michal Oravec.
The final will now be contested between Streatham and Chelmsford over two legs at the end of the regular season.
Saturday 1st March 2014
Streatham Redskins 4-4 Invicta Dynamos (Cup Semi-final leg 1)
Wightlink Raiders 4-4 Chelmsford Chieftains (Cup Semi-final leg 1)
Sunday 2nd March 2014
Invicta Dynamos 9-9 Streatham Redskins (Streatham win on Penalties)
Chelmsford Chieftains 3-1 Wightlink Raiders (Chelmsford win 7-5 on aggregate)
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