LONDON, UK – Lee Valley Lions Head Coach Gary Dodds faces an emotional weekend as North London rivals Haringey Racers face off against his side for the first time this season.
A mid table placing would suggest a run of the mill season for most teams, however for the Lee Valley Lions it marks an upturn in fortunes following over one calendar year without a win between 2012/13 & 2013/14.
Since that much heralded win over Wightlink Tigers in October, the Lions have enjoyed some memorable victories including a 3-2 shock win over last years league leaders Oxford City Stars and a three game winning streak over December and January.
“Confidence and belief play a big part” admits Lions Coach Gary Dodds.
“We have systems and plays in place which last year we only maintained 20% of the game”
“With the new players picked up this year everyone is beginning to maintain a higher % commitment to the systems, this has showed when playing the bigger teams this season rewarding us with a couple of good results”
“We are not there yet though, but the team now have confidence and belief in themselves”
Lee Valley face a Haringey Racers team that are only one place above them in the league in sixth position, despite early season promise that suggested they (the Racers) may have challenged for league honours this year.
Haringey parted company with Head Coach Simon Kears in November and have won only once in their last seven games.
Dodd’s has a fair amount of affection for the Alexandra Palace based outfit, who he played for in two separate spells encompassing ten seasons.
“It’s fantastic for them to be back in the league” said Dodds, who first iced for Haringey in 1996.
“Peacock’s (Dave Richard’s Junior) done a great job and been very unselfish with his inheritance to get a team back at the Palace and ensuring that he has a handful of old faces back in the team”
“There is a lot of history already at the Palace and having the team back means the “Ally Pally” Racers/Greyhounds legacy can continue”
“My playing career has been mainly split between Haringey and Invicta and when playing either team it’s emotional, although as the years get on I recognise less players that I served with”
Dodds has been restricted to bench duties this season following an operation that inserted a cartilage implant eighteen months ago. Like most players, Dodds is frustrated that he cannot ice, but believes the team benefits from a bench presence.
“It’s tough, especially as I still have the desire and ability to play” said the Gillingham born winger.
“The knee is still weak and I have been on the ice in kit a couple of times and feel rusty but hope to make a full recovery by the end of the season”
“Who knows what I may do after that point, but I guess it’s best for the team to have a dedicated coach on the bench who is watching every player and can give immediate feedback when they come back to the bench rather than wait till the end of the period. So all is good”
Lee Valley have been boosted by the return of former junior Nick Alley, who also iced for Haringey before moving north to play for Trafford Metros in 2009, whilst studying in Manchester.
The links between the two clubs are many, and Haringey have a number of former Lions on the roster including Lee Mercer, Alastair Band and Dave Richards Junior himself among others.
The last time the clubs met was in the 2007/8 season when the Greyhounds edged a league game at the Lee Valley Ice Centre with a 5-4 win.
From the rosters that day, only Joe Berry, George Alley, Romanos Fedotovas, James Hatfull, George Alley and James Scott Joseph still ice on the Lee Valley team.
Gary Dodds played for Haringey in that game and only Ricky Rutherford and former Fife Flyer Lee Mercer can still be seen on the roster today for the club.
Since that season a lot has changed for both teams, but local pride will still be at stake when the two clash on Saturday.
Romanos Fedotovas #19
The Lithuanian utility player has been the top scorer for the Lions this season with 11 goals in 13 appearances. Capable of playing in defence or as a forward, ‘Vas’ has the ability to carve open defences with his close puck control and smooth skating ability.
Nick Alley #23
The 23 year old Londoner is another who can play in defence or upfront and offers a steady presence to the side when he ices. Formerly a junior at Haringey, Nick did not play last season and has suffered from injury issues in the past.
James Hatfull #14
Team Captain and long term servant of the club, defenseman Hatfull brings experience to the blue line. Another Lions player who has iced for Haringey in the past, the 36 year old is now in his eighth season with the East London club.
Drew Campbell #23
Racers top scorer and a real threat in the final third of the ice, the former Basingstoke Buffalo sniper has proven to be a key signing. Born in Brantford Ontario, Campbell is a consistent scorer at this level and was league top scorer last season.
Jack Cooper #14
Young prospect on the blue line who has put in some assured performances beyond his years. The 17 year old was a highly rated junior at Romford and is now getting the chance to show what he can do at senior level.
Ricky Rutherford #16
Speedy winger who was with the club during their time in the English Premier League, Rutherford returned to North London this year after spells with Bracknell Hornets and Wightlink Tigers. The 25 year old alternate captain is an influential figure at the club.
Lee Valley Lions play Haringey Racers this Saturday at Lee Valley Ice Centre with a 17.15 face off.
Contact the author email@example.com