LONDON, UK – The NIHL South is back with a bang as the majority of teams faced off on opening weekend looking to make the best possible start. Add in a four on four tournament and some snazzy new jerseys and the NIHL had truly returned.
Ever wonder where the summer went? Who cares! Hockey is back and the players, fans and officials of NIHL South were as enthusiastic as Usain Bolt in a room full of Swedish volleyball players.
Chelmsford Coach Gary Clarke told of his relief after new imports Julius Sinkovic and Tibor Schneider both impressed during a pre-season friendly win over Sutton Sting.
“You could say it’s a relief, it’s always a worry,” he admitted in an interview with This is Total Essex website.
“You’re limited to two overseas players so you’ve got to make sure that they’re right. I thought they both had what I wanted but before you actually see them on the ice you never really know. So to see them in the flesh is good”
Invicta Coach Kevin Parrish was in an upbeat mood during his interview with Kent Online as he prepared for a busy weekend of a 4 on 4 tournament on Saturday followed by a home game with MK Thunder on Sunday.
“Last year was one of the worst I have experienced in my time here but I feel a lot happier now than I did at this stage 12 months ago” said Parrish, who has recruited strongly this summer.
“This time everything is in place and a lot more stuff is being done by other people behind the scenes. Now my job is to put a winning team on the ice again”
Down in South London, Streatham Redskins Coach Barry Spours told the Streatham Guardian that people needed to be patient with the Skins this season despite a host of new faces joining the club.
“All the teams in our league have improved. I’m quietly confident but we need to be realistic” explained Spours, who brought back Slovak Tomas Valko as a last minute solution to his vacant slot.
“The league is as strong as ever. Chelmsford will do well, Wightlink will be a threat as always and Romford look a solid outfit”
“We’re aiming for the top half and would consider it to be a successful season if we can finish in fifth”
Elsewhere, Wightlink Coach Jeremy Cornish was like a kid at Christmas as he posted pictures of his teams new kit delivery online, whilst the Romford Raiders players got excited over branded polo shirts on Twitter.
Cardiff made a late player announcement prior to their challenge match against the Elite League side at the weekend as they revealed that US import Sean Scarborough would be icing at the Big Blue Tent this season.
Scarborough has been plying his trade in Australia with Canberra and Adelaide in recent seasons and has impressive statistics. The Californian replaces the departed Cameron Birrell who has returned to South Africa.
“To say I’m pleased to be able to bring a player of Sean’s quality here to Cardiff is a massive understatement” explained Cardiff Coach Mark Cuddihy.
“I have been talking to Sean on and off thought the summer, he sent me videos of himself playing and they are very impressive”
“I’m sure he’s going to be one of the quickest players here and has a very good eye for the net. Ally Band contacted me out of the blue and asked if I had been speaking to him, when I told Ally yes, he was full of praise for Sean having played with him in Oz”
Sydney born Band is also a new face to the club after coming out of the world’s shortest ever retirement having spent last season with Bristol Pitbulls and Invicta Dynamos.
During the summer we also spoke to Romford’s Jason Buckman, Solent’s Kris Abbott, Milton Keynes Coach Simon Howard, Streatham’s Joe Johnston, Cardiff’s Gareth Dixon, Invicta’s Peter Vaisanen and Kevin Parrish, Wightlink’s Jeremy Cornish and Bracknell’s Grant Rounding. Check out the Hockey UK archives on this website if you missed them.
Milton Keynes Thunder and Bracknell Hornets were the first two lucky teams to start the league off, with a fixture at the Thunderdome.
Both sides featured a host of new faces, but it was Bracknell that came out on top with a solid 5-2 road win. Peter Jasik hit a hat trick for the Hornets on his league debut with Tony Barclay and Carl Thompson getting the other goals. For Milton Keynes Jamie Randall and Connor Goode got the goals.
The Oliveira Annual Tournament took place in Basingstoke with Invicta and Wightlink representing the NIHL along with EPL sides Basingstoke and Bracknell. All four sides played at half strength in the four on four format with Invicta losing out in the final to the host side.
Streatham and Romford faced off at Rom Valley Way in front of a decent crowd. We (Streatham) unveiled our new jerseys and I have to say they are class.
None of the crowd could complain they did not get their monies worth as the two teams showed skill, drama, intensity and aggression. Romford won 7-6 with both Matt Turner and JJ McGrath hitting a brace and Danny Marshall, Juraj Huska and Billy Phillips all getting goals.
For Streatham, Liam Rasmussen got two goals and Joe Allen scored past his former club. Streatham’s other goals came from Chris Rasmussen, Rupe Quiney and Tomas Valko.
The gloves came off in the second as Joe Allen squared up with Shaun Wallis after Rupe Quiney and Ryan Giles had also danced centre ice.
Romford took a while to get into their stride but they have a very good team and deserved to win given the chances they created.
One thing I would say is that the EIHA are playing a dangerous game sending only a two man system to these types of games and someone is going to get seriously hurt and/or we will start to see bench clearances due to officials being unable to deal with too many things going on at once.
Invicta followed up their positive showing in the 4 on 4 tournament the previous day with a straightforward 7-2 win over Milton Keynes Thunder.
The Thunder’s defensive game could only hold out so long against the Mo’s who romped home in the third. Justin Noble hit two for the Mo’s with Callum Fowler, Peter Vaisanen, Andy Smith, Nicky Lewis and Joe Bliss also on the score sheet.
Harrison Goode and Maksims Petruks were on target for Milton Keynes.
The final game of the night saw new boys Solent & Gosport get a not so warm welcome to the league as they were thrashed 10-1 by the Wightlink Raiders.
Wightlink would not have been distracted by the smaller ice pad considering theirs is also quite small so there was no real advantage for the home team, whose scorer was Greg Wyatt.
Robbie Brown got a hat trick on his return to the club for the Raiders and Niall Bound got a brace. Raiders other scorers were Jiri Hanzal, Richard Facey, Craig Tribe and Jeremy Cornish.
So the league champions get off to a winning start and there will also be smiles amongst fans of Bracknell, Invicta and Wightlink this week.
If nothing else we can all agree that it’s good to be back for another season of NIHL South hockey. One final point of note is that Chelmsford Chieftains beat the EPL Telford Tigers 4-3 in a friendly at the Riverside to show that the NIHL is not as shabby as some would think.
Saturday September 1st 2012
Milton Keynes Thunder 2-5 Bracknell Hornets
Sunday September 2nd 2012
Invicta Dynamos 7 -2 Milton Keynes Thunder
Romford Raiders 7 -6 Streatham Redskins
Solent & Gosport Devils 1-10 Wightlink Raiders
Pro Hockey News published a full guide to all of the teams in the league on Wednesday so check it out here:
As ever all feedback and comments are welcome.
Contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org