LONDON, UK – League leaders Romford suffer defeat in South London at the hands of Streatham, Wightlink enforcer Jeremy Cornish commits to pink and snow plays havoc with the fixture list.
As the UK prepared for four inches of apocalyptic snow, the NIHL South was not short of news during the week leading up to the fixtures at the weekend.
Down on the South coast, two clubs separated by only a stretch of water contemplated the transfer deadline with differing ambitions.
On the mainland, Solent & Gosport Devils went public to voice their frustration at a lack of finance and the perennial issue of ITC cards.
Having added former Lee Valley and Streatham Hungarian forward Gyorti Kovacs at the end of last year, the Devils have been looking to add to their squad to escape relegation.
‘We have two Slovakians training with us but we can’t afford to register them to play” explained manager Paul Fitzpatrick in an interview with Portsmouth News.
‘They are top-class players and would improve our squad but they are registered with the Slovak Ice Hockey Association. We would have to pay £800 to release them and then a further £100 to register them over here – that’s £900 per player’
‘It’s money for old rope, really, and we just can’t afford it. It’s frustrating because they are really good players, a forward and a defender. They are both living in Gosport – one has been here 10 years – and they want to stay in Gosport’
‘They don’t want to play anywhere else, they just want to be Devils players but at the moment they are just training with us and playing for the recreational side where they don’t have to be registered’
There is no question that operating an ice hockey club at any level is an expensive business but not one league in the UK has a level playing field and there will always be team’s with bigger budgets than others.
For reasons you will discover as you read on, there is room for another personal anecdote this week and I have to say that the situation Solent find themselves in is not too dissimilar to the one I encountered in the English Premier League with Haringey in 2002.
An amateur team trying to compete against the big boys namely Swindon, Romford, Chelmsford and Isle of Wight (sound familiar?), with little funds available to make the changes needed to improve.
There are two ways you can approach the situation and that is to feel sorry for yourself and hide behind the fact you are at a disadvantage from the start, or you can give everything you have and just enjoy competing in a decent league (which I suspect the majority of Devils players are doing).
I always mention a game I played in Romford on Boxing Day that season when I travelled down on the morning from my family home in County Durham. I paid about £60 in petrol to get there, drove for five hours and then snapped my only two sticks in the warm up.
The cheapest stick in the Romford shop was about £100 and I didn’t have enough money to buy one and when I asked the team to help no one would. One of my team mates offered to sell me his spare stick and I went out onto the ice in front of the partisan crowd to be part of a team that got pumped by 16 goals to 4 (or something similar).
To put the icing on the cake I managed to volley the puck into the goal during the game with a tremendous effort using my right skate and saw my ‘goal’ disallowed, only for the ever helpful game announcer to shout ‘Wrong game mate’.
If there is a point to this (other than to whinge about my own bad luck a decade ago), it is to say that the Devils are not the first team to find themselves in this kind of situation and they certainly have enough games between now and the end of the season to pull themselves above Milton Keynes (also an amateur side) if results go their way.
If Solent & Gosport were frustrated, their local rivals Wightlink Raiders were the opposite as they reflected on an impressive two legged South East Trophy win over Chelmsford Chieftains the week before.
“We have had a drop in form for the last couple weeks and I’m hoping it gives our guys a lift for the second half of the season” explained Raiders Player Coach Jeremy Cornish, who will be wearing a pair of pink gloves in the upcoming Breast Cancer awareness game and will auction them afterwards.
“We have a good team and when we take pride in defence we can score the goals we need in order to win”
“I feel we have the best goalie and defence core in the league and what we lack in offense we need to make sure we play tight in our own zone”
Just when Wightlink fans thought life could not get any better, their Coach snapped up highly rated forward James Smith from the Basingstoke Bison.
The speedy Smith joins a batch of fellow Scots in the NIHL South including Streatham’s buckfast guzzling Jamie McIllroy and Shaun Smith plus Chelmsford’s Mike McKay.
Whilst Smith was preparing to play his first game in the bright lights of NIHL South, one long-time member announced he had played his last.
Popular Chelmsford Chieftains defenseman Danny Cox announced that he would be hanging up his skates with immediate effect.
“After 17 years I have decided to retire from Hockey. This year if all goes to plan will see massive changes in my life and in the coming months my future has to take priority over everything else” announced Cox via his Facebook page.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my team mates, coaches, the fans and management at Chelmsford for the last three years”
“We won back-to-back playoff championships, something that will live with me forever, and I know the guys are more than capable of doing the same again this year. I would also like to thank everyone at my previous senior clubs Romford and Haringey, not forgetting my junior team Lee Valley”
I played alongside Coxy in his first senior year with Haringey in 2005/06 and he was a really likeable kid who everyone warmed to. He was also tough without being an idiot which is also an attractive quality in any player.
He then went on to play for both Chelmsford and Romford in the EPL before dropping back to what was then the ENL with Chelmsford again.
Like Invicta’s Anthony Lennon before him, Coxy is still relatively young at 27 so let’s hope this retirement is not a permanent one from the game.
In Streatham, Captain Joe Johnston was the feature of a full page interview with the South London Press as he reflected in the team’s upturn in form recently.
“It was absolutely brilliant at Brixton last Sunday” admitted Johnston, who played a big part in the Redskins 8-4 win over Invicta.
“It was a vintage night and had everything with a bit of controversy, some fighting and some great goals”
“Romford this weekend is probably the toughest fixture we could have to try and continue our winning streak at home in the league. Five weeks ago you would not have given us a chance against them, but you never know because we are such a different team now”
The most pleasing aspect of the win over Invicta was that so many new fans were there to see it after a marketing drive by the Redskins saw the crowd boosted by three times the regular gate, also helped by a fantastic away support for the Dynamos.
“It was one of the best games I have played in for years – the place was absolutely packed. There were a lot of new faces and people are waking up and realising that this is happening just around the corner” Johnston continued.
So with the BBC weather centre predicting a whiteout weekend with snow clouds heading everywhere in the UK, the weekend fixtures were thrown into doubt as early as Friday afternoon.
Bracknell Hornets braved the choppy grey waters of the Solent to visit a Wightlink side who were themselves buzzing with confidence.
Jeremy Cornish’s men skated away with a convincing 8-2 win with new signing James Smith making a good impression.
Cornish himself bagged a brace as did Nathan Taylor and Jiri Hanzal whilst Craig Tribe and Robbie Brown scored one each. Tom Fisher and Nick Minhinnick scored for the Hornets.
The shock of the weekend was undoubtedly in Brixton as league leaders Romford suffered a rare defeat at the hands of Streatham Redskins.
We (Streatham) are now in top form at home and it was a strange game I thought.
The Raiders came out in the first period and looked the real deal. It was probably the best I have seen anyone play at Brixton this season and we were very lucky to be only 2-0 down at the break, but we showed exactly how far we have come as a team from the second period onwards and in the end we won the game 4-2 in front of another big crowd.
Jakub Klima, Joe Johnston, Liam Rasmussen and Joe Allen got the goals for Streatham, with Frankie Harvey and AJ Smith on target for Romford.
Redskins Coach Warren Rost deserves a lot of credit for the recent upturn in form and I know he would not appreciate me dissecting the reasons why we are playing so much better, but all I will say is that these results are no fluke and the team is playing with a lot of belief at the minute. As a reasonably long serving member of the club now, it is really heartening to see and be part of.
The BBC weather men were the only smug people around on Sunday as their predictions came to pass. Rom Valley Way, the Riverside in Chelmsford and Planet Ice Gosport all fell silent as games across the league were postponed due to the snow.
The weekend results leave the top of the table a little more competitive but at the bottom it now clearly looks like a two team fight to avoid relegation with the out of form Milton Keynes Thunder looking over their shoulder at Solent & Gosport below.
Saturday 19th January 2013
Streatham Redskins 4-2 Romford Raiders
Wightlink Raiders 8-2 Bracknell Hornets
Sunday 20th January 2013
Chelmsford Chieftains P-P Wightlink Raiders
Romford Raiders P-P Invicta Dynamos (Cup)
Solent & Gosport Devils P-P Milton Keynes Thunder
As mentioned in the Round-up of week 18, to donate to Romford’s David Oliver and Ryan Giles in their good healthy work for Cancer Research please use the following links:
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