LONDON, UK – With a cup final and some unfinished business in the league to attend to, there was plenty to look forward to in NIHL South this weekend.
Chelmsford Chieftains and their fans spent the early part of the week recovering from an alcohol fuelled evening of celebration the previous Sunday, when they had lifted the league title in front of watching visitors Wightlink Raiders.
As befits any title win in the lower tiers of UK ice hockey the inevitable questions are not long coming for those who are unfamiliar with how hockey in this country operates.
Chieftains Player Coach Gary Clarke was left with the familiar question to answer of whether winning the league sets up his team for a return to the English Premier League and of course if the long term aim is the Elite League.
“They (Elite & EPL) are all based on higher crowds, based on the size of the arenas if nothing else, and the wages they can offer is a lot higher, so for us to step it up another notch is very difficult” said Clarke in an interview with This is Total Essex website.
“We have to live within our means and make sure that whatever league we are in we can compete at the top. Going forward, I see us playing in the same league next year and hopefully we’ll be playing for all pieces of silverware again”
“What I’m proud of more than anything is that I’m pretty confident that our wage bill is only the third or fourth highest in the league, that in itself is a very good achievement, but more importantly a lot – I’d say probably 60 per cent – of our players are local lads”
“They’re Chelmsford through and through, they came through the development system and now they’re playing senior hockey for the club. It’s always the aim to try and keep as many of the local guys on the ice at Riverside as possible”
Clarke knows full well the rigours of the league above having been a key player in it for many years with the MK Lightning and also the Guildford Flames. He more than anyone at the club, will know the full financial commitment the Chieftains would need to step up a level.
Down the A12, Chelmsford’s rivals Romford were looking ahead to a two legged cup final against a team that humiliated them on their last visit to Rom Valley Way a couple of weeks ago.
“Marsh won’t let us forget that last Chelmsford game, we’re still pretty fresh from that pasting” said starting goalie Shane Kemp in an interview with the Romford Recorder.
“We’ll definitely use it to motivate. To lose like that in front of our own fans doesn’t go down well with anyone and we feel that we owe them one”
“It was a painful loss and it definitely hurt losing by such a margin. We’re out for revenge – we’re out to rectify”
The days leading up to the cup final were marred from a Romford perspective as the club were hit by a suspended £500 fine.
“The conclusions of the League Management Committee (LMC) are that there will need to be additional actions to those that have already been undertaken regarding security” explained the EIHA statement published on their website.
“The punishment is a suspended £500 fine for failure to control crowds. This would be imposed in addition to any other sanctions if there is another incident”
“The LMC acknowledge the efforts Romford have already made to address this problem. Our decision is based not just on this one incident, but the overall situation during this season”
Talking of punishment, Streatham Captain Joe Johnston was in a less than cheery mood following the Redskins zero point weekend, including a sub-zero visit to the Thunder dome.
“Speaking of Milton Keynes, it may well be the coldest rink in the league, maybe the country, possibly the world” said Johnston in an interview with the Redskins match day programme.
“Anyone who was there last Sunday will know what I mean. It didn’t help having soaking wet kit from the night before and I have to say that it was probably the coldest I’ve ever been in an ice rink”
“I was so cold at one point I decided the only way to try and warm up was to do some naked press ups in the middle of the changing room. Not the prettiest vision I grant you but it helped nonetheless”
“Given the result of the game though it will not be a regular pre game ritual that’s for sure, something I’m sure most of the boys are happy about”
“The delights of the MK changing rooms didn’t stop there either as we were treated to ice cold showers after for good measure. In fact I don’t remember ever having a warm shower in Milton Keynes. Here’s hoping the big refurbishment that rink is getting will at least stretch to some hot water next time we’re back there”
Indeed Johnston can be thankful that he missed last season’s trip to MK as the Redskins were forced to watch an 18 stone Rastafarian wearing pink rubber gloves scrub himself clean whilst the team prepared for the game.
MK cannot be blamed for the uninvited guest however, as he was in fact the Streatham bus driver for that game.
This column does sometimes get accused of a Streatham bias with the content included but this week’s round-up cannot go by without the inclusion of the look a like feature in the Redskins programme. It does deserve a wider audience.
With midweek games normally the preserve of those higher leagues mentioned earlier in the article, it was a sign of top commitment as Bracknell Hornets hosted Cardiff NIHL Devils on Thursday night with the visiting Welsh side skating off with a 5-4 win.
Sean Scarbrough capped a fantastic league campaign as he notched a hat trick for Cardiff with James Warman and Jordan Powell also on target.
Pro Hockey News kicked off a new feature during the week called ‘Secrets of the Room’ featuring Tom Davis of Romford, Jakub Klima of Streatham and Paul Gore of MK Thunder all dishing the dirt on their team mates. If you missed it make sure you have a read of it and look out for another one to be published this week featuring Bracknell Hornets star Tom Fisher, Solent & Gosport youngster George Norcliffe and veteran Cardiff forward Alan Armour.
Romford gained sweet revenge over Chelmsford in the first leg of the cup final as they despatched their not so dearest rivals 8-3 in front of a happier home crowd.
Danny Marshall and Juraj Huska both hit a brace each for Romford, with David Oliver, Ryan Giles and Matt Turner. Chelmsford’s goals all came from Julius Sinkovic with a hat trick.
Romford sealed their first major trophy of the season as they lost 5-4 on the night but won 12-8 on aggregate to get their hands on the cup.
A Danny Marshall hat trick and a lone goal from Shaun Yardley were enough to push Romford across the line, whilst Chelmsford goals came via a hat trick from Danny Hammond and one each for Julius Sinkovic and Gary Clarke.
The NIHL Cup may not be the most illustrious of honours won by the boys in blue and gold over the years but after the league heartbreak of a couple of weeks ago what better way to bounce back than to celebrate a trophy on the ice of your deadly rivals.
One sour note in the game involved the ejection of Andrius Kaminskas for a check to the head, which may see him banned as a result. Michael Ranby and Ryan Giles both dropped the gloves to add another talking point to the game.
Solent & Gosport Devils finished the season on a high as they beat Milton Keynes Thunder 6-2 in Gosport.
Whilst the result means nothing in terms of league placings, the Devils were undoubtedly delighted to finish a difficult season with a smile.
Kent Johnson scored two goals for the Devils with George Norcliffe, Kris Abbott, Will Francis and Mitchell Murray also on target. Harrison Goode scored for the Thunder.
The result is not the greatest momentum builder for the Thunder ahead of their Play Off clash with Chelmsford next week, however for the bottom placed Devils it gives them something to savour over the summer.
I don’t mind admitting I had my doubts whether the Devils would complete the season given their past showings at this level, but to their credit they have stuck with the task and in virtually all fixtures iced a decent sized squad.
It is not easy playing on a struggling team as a player and motivating yourself to play two road games in one weekend, especially in some fixtures where you know you are likely to get a pasting.
The players and officials deserve a lot of credit for giving NIHL 1 a go, and more importantly seeing it out till the end, so perhaps few would grudge the South Coast team a morale boosting win in front of their home fans at the end.
Streatham prepared for next week’s Play-Off Quarter final with Wightlink Raiders in the best possible way as we survived a Bracknell Hornets fightback to win 7-4 in Brixton.
Leading 4-1 at one stage, Streatham looked to be in cruise control until a Peter Jasik and Danny Hughes inspired fightback pulled the visitors level at 4-4.
Jakub Klima put in a man of the match performance with some quality goals, including a lovely deke around Chris Douglas, whilst Slovak Michal Oravec proved his worth with two goals as well. Dom Hopkins and Liam Rasmussen were also on target.
The third Pro Hockey News Annual NIHL South awards will be announced later this week, so make sure you keep an eye out to see who will be awarded Player of the Year, Coach of the Year and who makes the All-Star team.
Thursday 28 March 2013
Bracknell Hornets 4-5 Cardiff NIHL Devils
Saturday 30 March 2013
Romford Raiders 8-3 Chelmsford Chieftains (Cup Final 1st leg)
Sunday 31 March 2013
Chelmsford Chieftains 5-4 Romford Raiders (Cup Final 2nd leg – Romford win)
Solent & Gosport Devils 6-2 Milton Keynes Thunder
Streatham Redskins 7-4 Bracknell Hornets
To see the final league table please visit the link below:
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