LONDON, UK – Chelmsford faced a tough opening weekend, London Raiders made their first appearance and a former Chelsea player becomes a hockey fan. Just another week in the NIHL South then.
Romford… sorry London Raiders prepared for their season opener at the Lee Valley Ice Centre without any challenge games this summer to iron out any potential issues.
Perhaps they felt a season opener at home to last season’s bottom club Solent & Gosport Devils could be a relatively easy fixture to ease them into the new campaign without the need for an extra tune up.
“I’m really looking forward to the new season” said Raiders defenseman Jason Buckman in an interview with the Romford Recorder.
“It did feel weird the first couple of training sessions in Lee Valley, but I don’t think it will take the team or the fans long to make it home”
“I think a lot of the other teams will think Raiders won’t be as competitive and I’m pretty happy for us guys to be underestimated going into the season.
“We have no expectations so there is no pressure. Raiders have a team and I think that means a lot more to fans than anything”
Of course it is great news that the Raiders continue to ice a team this season and as stated many times in this column, Lee Valley is a decent facility for any NIHL 1 team.
The Devils of course have no intentions of repeating last season’s struggles and in an extensive interview with the Portsmouth News. Manager Paul Fitzpatrick made relative comparisons between the Devils signing of new import Peter Chrenko with that of Real Madrid’s record busting move for Spurs midfielder Gareth Bale.
‘Peter has been at Gosport in the recreational summer league” said Fitzpatrick.
‘Now he’s joined us and he certainly knows where the goal is. We had to pay £800 as he is registered under Slovakian hockey and has to be registered over here”
‘He’s our big summer signing. They talk about Gareth Bale but we’ve paid £800 for Peter! He will be a good strong addition to the team”
Followers of Invicta Dynamos Coach Kevin Parrish got an early treat on Tuesday as he tweeted a picture of himself and Mo’s players Dan Fudger and Alan Lack in ‘work apparel’ alongside a Dynamos fan they had encountered on the street.
It was hard to decipher who was most pleased with the encounter, with Lack in particular seemingly unable to crack a grin for the camera. Given his male modelling career is on the rise, perhaps the former Bracknell man has already developed his own ‘Blue Steel’ pose and is sticking with it.
Back to business and Parrish admitted in an interview with Kent Sports News, that this could be the year that the Mo’s finally challenge again for the title.
“I want to be challenging every year and I don’t like to put us under any pressure” explained the Mo’s supremo.
“I know deep down, we have got a very good chance. If we keep the boys healthy, fit and in the zone, we could do something”
“We need to keep some of the boys away from the lifestyle of the last few seasons and that’s why nine changes were made”
“We can’t have guys turning up for practice feeling rough from the night before and I know everyone has their life away from hockey, but they’re here to do a job and if they don’t like that, they can go”
“I can’t have any passengers this year and the guys have been told”
There have been rumours in the past that the Dynamos have enjoyed a decent social scene away from the ice rink, but they aren’t the first UK sports team to suffer from a love of the amber nectar and the attractions of the opposite sex.
The fact that one of Gillingham’s premier night clubs is named ‘Bliss’ might or might not be linked to a tribute to former Dynamos forward Joe Bliss and his team mates. Either way Gillingham’s ‘premier party playground’ or other such venues may be seeing a little less of the local ice hockey team this season.
There is nothing that warms the heart more than the Pro Hockey News mail box receiving a nomination for ‘Bruise of the week’, so imagine our delight when a lovely shiner on a Haringey Racers player dropped into the inbox.
Defenseman Alastair Band was the lucky recipient of a shot from Streatham’s Dom Hopkins in last weekend’s two game challenge series between the two clubs. Don’t forget to send all of your bruises (hockey related only please) to the email at the foot of the page.
In recent years we have had Romford forward JJ McGraths mangled thumb, Streatham defenseman Stewart Tait’s black eyes and our personal highlight, Olympic referee Joy Tottman’s ear hanging off after a puck hit it.
On the Isle of Wight, Jeremy Cornish replaced outgoing forward Nat Rose with not one but two new faces to his Wightlink side.
Former Solent & Gosport Devils pair Richard ‘Spell Check Nightmare’ Nembhard and Simon Hobbis were revealed on Thursday, with Hobbis in particular creating small waves due to the fact he had originally signed for the Devils this summer.
“They both trained with us this week and they both will provide the depth we were lacking at both positions” said Cornish in his weekly Coaches Corner feature.
“We now have the ten forwards, six defence and two goalies that I wanted from the start. I’m also going to speak to Scott Carter from the Tigers and see if there are any players that would be interested in training with us and being put on a two-way”
“I have a couple players this season on two-ways with the Basingstoke Bison and I would like to have the same working relationship with the Tigers if possible”
Those of you who read the in-depth interview with Solent’s Alex Murray on Pro Hockey News last week will be aware that a similar relationship in the past between the Tigers and the Raiders on the island can reap dividends so Cornish will be hoping history can be repeated.
In the same interview with Murray, the former Wightlink man highlighted Hobbis (still then announced on the Devils roster) as one to watch in the future, so the Devils are no doubt disappointed with the former Guildford youngster’s decision to switch at this late stage.
Back to London, and after the aforementioned challenge series between Streatham and Haringey, Racers Coach Simon Kears was not too down hearted after his side took the lead in both games but came away defeated.
“Some of our lines played really well together and had some great opportunities that have to be converted into goals” said former GB Junior Kears in an interview with the Tottenham and Wood Green Journal.
“I think that we shocked Streatham and some of the supporters as they thought it was going to be a one-sided affair so that can only be a good thing”
“Streatham haven’t had much time on the ice together since the end of last season so that was probably a factor that helped us”
“We looked very tired by the end and it showed on the ice with a couple of guys picking up light injuries too”
“Overall I was happy with the performance, but we were playing against a good opposition who are well established in the league above. After we conceded one goal we seemed to get a little ragged. I would’ve liked the scoreline to have been a bit closer, but I’m impressed by the heart we showed”
“I think we’ll be more than ready come next Saturday, but I expect every game to be a tough test”
The NIHL South has received alternative news coverage in recent seasons all for the wrong reasons, but this week there was an article that caught the eye and raised a smile.
Given that former publicity has ranged from the multi-year ban handed to a MK Thunder player for sticking an opposition player in the face and then the Daily Star picking up on a linesman flicking the V’s at Romford Raiders fans on the Isle of Wight, it was refreshing to see a thumbs up for hockey from an unlikely source.
Step forward former Chelsea and England under 21 international footballer Michael Duberry, who attended last weekend’s NIHL2 game between Oxford City Stars and Basingstoke Buffalo.
In a gushing article in the Oxford Mail, Duberry was bowled over by the whole experience and was given access to the locker room before the game as part of a VIP visit.
“His manner was calm, but stern, and he was very precise with his demands and instructions” said Duberry when describing Stars Player Coach Darren Elliott’s team talk.
“I was lost trying to stay with the tactics and the terminology, so I just waited for him to finish and joined in with the clapping”
“One player in the dressing room stood out more than any other – and it wasn’t just because of his Errol Flynn-type moustache. He had a presence with what he said and the way he said it”
The man Duberry was describing was of course a face well known to NIHL fans though perhaps not with the weird moustache he now wears.
The man drawing admiration from Duberry, Alan Green is still a big player for the Stars and helped them to a convincing 12-1 win over the Buffalo in front of a good Oxpens Road crowd plus their new famous fan.
The Milton Keynes Ice project continues to rumble on, with the last of the hurdles now reportedly passed and three weeks is the projected date of opening at time of press.
A web page has been set up for fans to donate towards and this can be found HERE , along with further information.
The big match of the evening took place on Ryde as two of last season’s heavyweights, namely Wightlink Raiders and Chelmsford Chieftains went head to head in a cup match.
Wightlink appeared to have dealt an early blow to the Chieftains confidence as they raced to a 3-1 lead at the halfway point in the match, however the visitors skated away with a 5-4 win thanks to a controversial winner that left the home fans seething.
Luke Brittle scored two goals on his competitive debut for Chelmsford with Tibor Schneider, Ross Brears and fellow debutant Daniel Volrab also on the score-sheet. Wightlink’s goals came courtesy of a brace from Craig Tribe and a goal each from new signings Steve Osman and Alex Barker.
Officials Rene Ross and Blaine Evans were kept busy dishing out 40 odd minutes in penalties to Wightlink and 22 to Chelmsford.
In Lee Valley, the London Raiders finally took to the ice for their league opener against the visiting Solent & Gosport Devils. Former Raider Dan Peters was handed a surprise call up and Buckman was made captain by Coach Danny Marshall.
The Raiders fans had plenty to smile about by the end of the game as their team won 6-1, with youngster JJ Pitchley stealing the headlines with a well deserved hat trick
The last time Pitchley iced for the Raiders he was a slender face cage sitting on the bench most of the time, but after a season in the states he has bulked out, has lost the grill and is getting the minutes he needs to develop.
London’s other scorers were Marshall with a brace and Grant Taylor. Devils goal came from new import Peter Chrenko with a nicely finished breakaway.
Despite taking a 3-2 lead at one point Bracknell Hornets could not hold on to shock Wightlink Raiders as the visitors skated off with a 4-3 win from the Hive.
New Raiders signing Steven Osman proved how valuable he will be to his side this season with two goals and both Alex Barker and new import Matthew Vizzari got a goal each.
For Bracknell it was Carl Thompson, Danny Hughes and Harvey Stead with the goals.
A shortbenched Milton Keynes Thunder arrived at Brixton to face Streatham Redskins in the Cup.
It is a well-used cliché but in this case deserved for Thunder when we say that they didn’t give up all game, and had they had a few extra bodies may have grabbed a win.
Redskins Captain Joe Johnston started the season off in style notching four goals for Streatham with Jack Tarczycki, Callum Best, Michal Oravec, Stewart Tait and Eddie Temple getting one each.
For Milton Keynes the star of the show was teenage prospect Bradley Moore who scored a classy hat trick and looked very lively alongside fellow rookie Alex Whyte on the Thunders top line. Milton Keynes other two goals came from Andrew Major with his first senior goal and Maksim Petruks.
After complaining at a lack of lighting in the rink before last weekend’s game against Haringey, Planet Ice decided to not only change all the lightbulbs but also add what can only be described as an indoor version of the sun above the Redskins bench.
Coaching duo Warren Rost and Terry England looked like they were auditioning for X-Factor for most of the game such was the glare of the spotlight.
The most intriguing clash of the evening took place in Silverblades as the resident Invicta Dynamos hosted Chelmsford Chieftains in a cup match.
Despite racing into a 4-0 lead early on Chelmsford were pegged back by the Dynamos who then went on to lead 6-5 before Luke Brittle popped up to score the equaliser with five minutes left.
Chelmsfords other scorers were Gary Clarke with a brace and one goal each for Matt Turner, James Ayling and Darren Brown. Invicta’s goals came from Callum Fowler with two and one each for Danny Hammond, Elliott Knell, Jakub Klima and Alan Lack.
As predicted in the Pro Hockey News season preview, the days of Heineken hockey i.e. goals and more goals, could be back in Gillingham this season and fans should get value for money at the gate.
Saturday 14th September 2013
Wightlink Raiders 4–5 Chelmsford Chieftains (Cup)
London Raiders 6–1 Solent & Gosport Devils
Sunday 15th September 2013
Streatham Redskins 9-5 Milton Keynes Thunder (Cup)
Bracknell Hornets 3-4 Wightlink Raiders
Invicta Dynamos 6-6 Chelmsford Chieftains (Cup)
Contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org