LONDON, UK – Streatham Redskins compete in the National Ice Hockey League South Cup Final this weekend, in what will be one of the biggest hockey games the capital has seen since the Superleague’s London Knights turned their lights off back in 2003.
The sparkling new Streatham Ice Arena is set for its first sell-out event as the resident Redskins face Chelmsford Chieftains on Saturday in the first leg of the final. The anticipated four figure crowd marks the turning of a page in Streatham hockey history, a long and fabled timeline stretching back to 1932.
The challenge could not be greater for Streatham Coach Warren Rost and his side as they are pitched against a Chelmsford side that have already won the league and South East Trophy this season.
Coached by influential former GB junior international Gary Clarke, Chelmsford have swept all before them this season with three strong lines of talent including Clarke himself.
Known for a fast paced, passing style of hockey, the Essex side have won five of the six meetings between the two teams in all competitions this year.
Streatham most definitely start the game as the underdogs however after a semi-final win over Invicta Dynamos, that saw the Londoners claw back from the dead at 9-4 down to tie in regulation and win on penalty shots, confidence is high that another shock can be made.
The game has received widespread media coverage and has really captured the imagination of hockey fans, especially in Streatham, where a thirty year wait for a trophy could finally be ended.
Signed from Cardiff in the summer, Fisher has led the team in scoring for most of the season with his finishing skills second to none on the roster. An ability to cope under pressure, Fisher has popped up with numerous game winning goals over the campaign and buried penalty shots against Invicta and Wightlink with the pressure on. The 28 year old is part of the Redskins first line alongside speedy American winger Sean Scarbrough and Joe Allen.
The veteran blueliner is in his second season at the club and provides a solid and large obstacle for opposition forwards to try and get round. Positionally sound and possessing a bullet of a slapshot, Schneider is equally as affective on the opposing sides blue line as he is on his own. One part of the meanest defence in the league, the 36 year old has formed an effective shield for the Essex side along with John Connolly, Alex Green, Julian Smith, Alex Staples and Danny Wright.
Brought in from Invicta during the off-season, Best brings the flair to the Redskins attacking play. All about the dangles and saucer passes, the former Bracknell and Guildford youngster is happiest picking up pucks deep and carving out opportunities for both himself and his line mates. A good work rate makes him a standout player for Streatham despite his lower goal return in comparison to some of his team mates. Now playing alongside Redskins Captain Joe Johnston and the equally silky Michal Oravec, Rost will be hoping Best shows up to play at his potential.
Easily the most experienced and successful British player in either line up, Clarke is in his final season of hockey and is desperate to end on a high. The 35 year old has shown his usually deadly eye for goal this season with his usual excellent movement in the end zone and quick thinking giving him the edge on opposition players. Since joining Chelmsford in 2011 from Milton Keynes Lightning, Clarke has delivered trophy after trophy to the Riverside, and constantly featured near the top of the league scoring charts.
One of the most experienced blue liners in the Redskins line up and certainly the biggest. Hopkins is Streatham’s ‘go-to’ guy for special teams and is a permanent fixture on the first line. A cannon of a shot from the point makes Hopkins a high scoring defenseman in comparison with his team mates, and his experience is often vital in nervy situations. A calm head and cool temperament make him a similar type of player to Chelmsford’s Schneider, however when the 33 year old former Dundee and Guildford star lines up a hit, the whole Arena feels it. Hopkins will rack up the minutes again in the final and will be integral to Streatham’s chances of success.
The 31 year old Czech has a superb pedigree having been drafted by the Dallas Stars and representing his country at junior level. A strong goal output has largely gone under the radar for Volrab this season whose skills simply blend into an already strong line-up. Local stars Ross Brears and Matt Turner are also a key threat however Volrab has come up big in the games when it has mattered most and is likely to be a key guy again for the final. Often paired with Clarke on the second line, Volrab first came to the UK in 2011 when he was signed by Basingstoke Bison in the EPL.
The first leg of the National Ice Hockey League South Cup Final takes place at Streatham Arena, London on Saturday 29th March with a 5.30 face off.
The second leg will take place at the Riverside Ice Centre in Chelmsford on Sunday 30th March with a 6.30 face off. Both games are likely to be have four figure crowds in attendance so fans are advised to try and purchase tickets in advance where possible.
Photos thanks to Tim Bowers, Rick Webb and Nicky Craft.
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