LONDON, UK – The final weekend of NIHL South hockey in 2013 featured only two games and two teams that are unlikely to ever exchange Christmas cards.
Long-time readers will remember an extremely in depth Pro Hockey News preview article published prior to a Play-Off final between Bracknell Hornets and Wightlink Raiders in 2010.
In amongst the well-researched and comprehensive piece was a ‘Coaching Match up’ feature that analysed the influence of Hornets coach Gareth Cox and his opposite number Jeremy Cornish.
Sadly the PHN sources at the time had failed to mention that Cox was stranded in Tenerife and would not be in attendance at the game thanks to the Ash crisis caused by the volcano with the ridiculous long name in Iceland.
The articles irrelevance thanks to Eyjafjallajökull may have left a burn so deep that we are mentioning it now three years down the line, but the main reason Cox is in the NIHL news again is because he returned to the bench last week (we hope).
“I am delighted to have Gareth on board as my bench coach at the Hornets” said current Player Coach Danny Hughes on the return of his former mentor.
“His presence on the bench will not only bolster the players morale it will give me more opportunity to work on my playing side of the game”
“Coxy and I will work on training together and I will give him control of the bench on game days. Current bench coach Bill Webb will continue to work alongside Coxy on game days”
Whilst Cox may have played no part in that 2010 Play-Off final win, his achievements with the Hornets earned him a call up to Coach the English Premier League Bracknell Bees side, where he has been ever since.
‘Whilst being disappointed at being released by the Bees I am delighted that BIHC have given me an immediate return to coaching” said Cox, who was dropped by Bees management despite a recent upturn in fortunes.
“I enjoyed my time with the Bees but that chapter is closed, I can now look forward to working with Danny, the Hornets players and management in making them the best they can be”
London Raiders goalie Euan King was in a confident mood ahead of back to back South East Trophy games against rivals Chelmsford Chieftains.
The poor Raiders and Chieftains players were the only ones in the whole of NIHL 1 to have games in the immediate post-Christmas weekend, which is a bit of a sickener even if you love the game.
“This weekend is another trophy and a chance to get a good start in this competition” said King in an interview with the East London Advertiser.
“Chelmsford are skilled and will be looking for revenge after the previous meeting so we have to be ready from the word go”
“We have taken three points on our travels to the Riverside so we know we can compete, but we need everyone to buy into the game plan, not make silly mistakes and play smart hockey”
One Coach happy with his lot at the end of 2013 was Wightlink Raiders head honcho Jeremy Cornish as he signed off the calendar year with a message on the official Raiders website.
“I always tell the guys there is no sense in giving up our weekends for eight months of the year and not have anything to play for” said Cornish, who spent the festive season up in the North East of England with his family.
“So, it is important that we compete in every game and try our best. I feel for the most part we have done that”
“We have played pretty good for the most part, but our defensive game has let us down at times”
“Both games this weekend we gave up less than 30 shots against and that is our game plan each weekend. We have been scoring more often than we did last year and that’s why we brought in the players we did this summer to help give us a little boost”
Wightlink sit top of the league but both Chelmsford and Invicta are close behind with games in hand.
The Raiders also announced that their first game of 2014 (against London Raiders) would be sponsored by Monster Energy drinks.
The Raiders bar will be selling Monster cocktails before during and after the game and they will also be giving away monster t/shirts and hats with lucky programmes.
It’s not the first time energy drinks companies have tried to get involved with hockey. In 2008 Haringey Greyhounds Coach Lee Mercer was left with his head in his hands when a pair of Red Bull girls walked right by the team bench mid-game oblivious to the fact that they were distracting the players.
When a few of the Greyhounds began taking free samples off the scantily clad ladies, Mercer’s face was that of a resigned man.
Two years ago, the same company sent two more young beauties to Brixton rink in South London to give out samples, that resulted in the best ever attendance of Streatham Redskins players to the pre-game warm up in the ice rink car park.
Those teams that were not in action this weekend, and had not already celebrated Christmas, dusted off their Christmas jumpers and partied hard. One such team were the Invicta Dynamos, who did not let their shock defeat at home to Streatham stop them celebrating another eventful year of Mo’s hockey at Silverblades.
Naturally there is always one player, for whom a tacky jumper is not enough, and with guns like his, why should goalie Chris Douglas keep them covered up. Ladies (and of course our lovely gay readers), this week’s Gunshow picture is a festive treat for you.
Perhaps the EIHA wanted to help their officials get some extra festive cash, or simply wanted to keep London and Chelmsford calm for once, whatever the reason… it was a four man officiating system for this game between the two rivals at Lee Valley.
Matt Thompson and Stephen Matthews are as good as they come in the NIHL, and with an experienced lino team of Phil O’Neill and Nick Stephenson, there was less chance of foul play in the inevitable fighting.
A 4-0 first period blitz from Chelmsford ensured this game was over quite quickly as a contest but to be fair to the Raiders they didn’t fold and ended up losing 5-1.
A brace from Gary Clarke and goals from Matt Turner, Daniel Volrab and James Ayling sealed the points in this Trophy game, with Tom Davis getting the lone goal for the home side.
The officials were not short of work, with the home side in particular amassing a raft of minor penalties, however the fighting didn’t occur till late on.
Raiders Grant Taylor taking exception to Chieftains defenseman John Connolly and both ended up dropping the gloves with only five minutes remaining.
The return leg took place at the Riverside in Chelmsford and London came out with all guns blazing, taking a 2-0 lead at one stage.
It didn’t last unfortunately for Danny Marshall and the travelling support, as Chelmsford recovered to take a 5-3 win.
Gary Clarke was on target with two goals for Chelmsford with Ross Brears, Daniel Volrab and Grant Bartlett also on target. Billy Phillips maintained his position as the league’s top goal scoring defenseman with a brace and Grant Taylor was also on target for London.
A final glance at the league table makes interesting reading at both ends and one thing is for sure, the title could go to either Essex, Kent or the Isle of Wight.
All that is left to do is wish all our readers a Happy New Year and let’s hope for an exciting second half of the season in the NIHL South.
Saturday 28th December 2013
London Raiders 1-5 Chelmsford Chieftains (South East Trophy)
Sunday 29th December 2013
Chelmsford Chieftains 5-3 London Raiders (South East Trophy)
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