NIHL Feature – Solway Sharks Coach Martin Grubb reflects on a hugely successful campaign

DURHAM, UK – Pro Hockey News recently got the opportunity to speak to Martin Grubb the coach of the Solway Sharks the NIHL North Division 1 Champions and League Cup winners about the Sharks successful campaign and also about his involvement with the Great Britain under 18 side.

Martin firstly talked about the most satisfying aspects of Solway’s first season in NIHL North Division 1 and which of his players had impressed him the most over the course of the campaign.

“Obviously winning the league and cup double was a pleasing aspect of our season and the level of consistency that we showed to go 35 games unbeaten was a tremendous effort and it is credit to the players.

“It is also very pleasing to watch players progress as the season goes on and to see the younger players develop. It is a big part of my job to develop players and enhance their ability to play at a higher level and I think our players have been fantastic all season.

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“It is always difficult to single out players as we have had a great year as a team and they all deserve credit. I try to build my teams with a solid core and Gary Russell provides that in goal. He is a quality goalie and gives us a chance to win every night.

“Craig Mitchell and John Connolly showed their experience and composure all year and were vital in our defensive record. Nathan Salem was a standout performer in the whole league and he was recognised with the PHN Player of the Year Award and he played really well with Adam Reynolds and Mark Gallagher. Steven Moore was also a standout and was our energy guy and ended up a key player and impressed me more every week.”

 Grubb then went onto comment on which of his charges had shown the most improvement during the 2012/13 term and also speak about the impressive youngsters in Sharks squad.

“I think Steven Moore has been outstanding this year and has improved with every game and he become key for us in all situations. He and Ross Murray were our main penalty killers and done a great job together.

“Also James Wallace and Declan Balmer were 2 young defensemen who improved as the year progressed. Both are big guys who skate well and use their size to their advantage and I think they improved as the year progressed. Declan played well in the EPL for Peterborough Phantoms as well which shows his potential.”

Martin was voted Coach of the Year in the PHN awards with Sharks forward Nathan Salem picking up the Player of the Year accolade. He spoke about how he felt on receiving the award and about his hopes for possible expansion of the awards in the years to come.

 “It is always a great honour to pick up any award but even more so when it is voted for by the players and coaches from other clubs. It shows that the job you are doing is respected by them and the hockey media so both Nathan and I were delighted to be recognised. It is great recognition for me personally and also for everyone here at Solway for the hard work we put in and the support the club give me to do my job.

 “There may be the opportunity for a best goalie award and I would like to see a Young Player of the Year Award to recognise the youth development that teams do in bringing through these young players and encourage more teams to do that.

Martin then turned his attentions to Solway’s Play Off series against Blackburn and the factors that played a part in Sharks disappointing exit from the competition at the semi final stage of proceedings.

 “The playoffs were obviously a massive disappointment for us as we felt we had a good chance of at least making the final. We knew Blackburn were going to be a very difficult game and when we lost our goalie (Gary Russell) to new job commitments the week before we knew we would need to play really well to advance.

“The Hawks played really well both nights and in Blackburn they were outstanding and deserve tremendous credit for the way they played and went on to win the final and I send congratulations to Jared Owen (Blackburn Hawks coach) and his team.

“I think the time between the regular season and playoffs needs to be looked at and for me I would prefer a playoff final weekend that is so popular in the other leagues in the UK and can be set out to clubs at the start of the season.

As well as coaching Solway Sharks in NIHL North Division 1 Martin is also involved in the coaching set up for the GB under 18’s. He spoke about the time he spends in his role with the national team and how the youngsters fared when they travelled to Estonia for the under 18 World Championships at the end of the 2012/13 campaign.

“I was added as an Assistant Coach in the GB under 18 team this year and have enjoyed that role immensely. I really enjoy working with that age group and playing my part in developing the players that will be the future of our sport for many years to come.

“My main responsibility was the forwards and we had a really talented group of players and the majority of these players will hopefully be ready to make an impact in the professional game soon.

“Estonia was a great experience for the team and for me personally and although we were pleased to stay in our group I personally felt we should of won a medal at least. The players and staff were disappointed that we lost our last game as a win would of given us a silver medal.

“Although it is disappointing and tough for young players to take it is a learning curve for them and one that they will learn from. As a member of the GB coaching team we have a huge responsibility at under 18 level to develop the players as best as we can and ensure that we are feeding the under 20 and senior program for the future.”

Many thanks to Martin for taking the time out to speak about his experiences of the 2012/13 season in both of his coaching roles.

Images courtesy of Colin Edwards – www.cjephotos.co.uk

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