NIHL South Round-up week 31

LONDON, UK – Sticks were taped, skates sharpened and players and fans across the NIHL South looked forward to the time of the season that hockey truly comes alive. Yep… it is Play-Off time.

There will be a number of questions posed over the summer as to how the NIHL 1 South will look in 2013/14, but at least Romford look like they are hoping to continue despite the closure of their Rom Valley Way home.

Streatham fans hit the island in Play-Off mode

Streatham fans hit the island in Play-Off mode

Fresh from lifting the NIHL Cup, the happy Raiders camp had more good news for their fans as Manager Mick Cahill made a public statement on the future of the club.

“Without wishing to tempt fate, I am happy to announce that if we qualify for the NIHL play-offs final, Romford Raiders will play their home leg at Lee Valley Ice Centre, subject to the resolution of some outstanding security issues” said the Raiders Manager on the club website.

“Although Romford’s place in the final is hypothetical at the moment and will depend on the talents of Bracknell, Wightlink and Streatham, the dates of the final are not and will definitely take place over the weekend of April 20th and 21st, the weekend after Rom Valley Way closes its doors to hockey”

“If Raiders do qualify for the play-off final, the date for Romford’s home leg will be dependent on several factors but is most likely to be Saturday April 20th. Nothing is certain of course and what actually happens will be revealed as the Play-Offs unfold”

Lee Valley Ice Centre

Lee Valley Ice Centre

“The Raiders organisation would like to sincerely thank the management at Lee Valley and the EIHA for their goodwill in making this possible. All we have to do now is get there”

“As for season 2013/14, we can say that negotiations continue and although not completed, are at an advanced and positive stage”

“Our residence at any new home still has to be ratified by the EIHA but the League Management Committee is fully up to speed with the latest developments and has been tremendously supportive. As soon as we have something definite to announce, we will”

With most pundits predicting a season of Raiders hockey at the Lea Bridge Road facility, I would suspect there are plenty of bridges still to cross for Mr Cahill and team owner Ollie Olliver in their quest to find the team a temporary home.

British hockey is predictably unpredictable and with Lee Valley Lions and their long standing guardian Eddie Joseph firmly entrenched in their home, not to mention the junior club and of course the recreational teams that have been long standing customers of the facility, getting ice time is not always as simple as it may appear to outsiders.

Of course hockey teams are not the be all and end all of ice rink revenue streams and indeed Lee Valley has a long history of promoting figure skating. Perhaps the Romford representatives may think of wearing sequins and driving into the car park of Lee Valley with the windows down and the bolero playing at full blast, to try and make friends quickly.

Personally I really like Lee Valley as a rink to play on. It has good ice, a hanging scoreboard (rarity in these parts), plexi glass all around it and a pleasant atmosphere. I play there quite regularly during the summer and it was the venue for one of the most bizarre car break ins of all time.

Romford look to the future

Romford look to the future

Let me start off by saying that an old Ford Fiesta full of sandwich cartons and empty Capri Sun pouches would not strike me as an obvious target, but some of East London’s finest car thieves obviously identified it as the real deal from all the other automobiles in the Lee Valley Ice Centre car park.

Not only did they only smash the small triangle window near the rear door, but they left hundreds of pounds worth of sticks, my iPod and various pristine condition Sunderland football programmes and instead made off with a pack of CD’s.

They then locked the doors and ran off into the night, no doubt then throwing themselves in front of the midnight train to Norwich after realising they had not only the Greatest Hits of The Smiths in their possession but also a couple of Radiohead singles.

For the record I am no fan of Radiohead.

One team that certainly do not listen to the wrist slitting guitar strummers are the Streatham Redskins. In a rare interview, Head Coach Warren Rost spoke to the matchday programme to sum up his feelings on where the club is at.

“It’s a good time to be involved with the Club” said Rost, who was a Streatham junior himself as a youngster.

“Barry (Spours Redskins GM) has worked hard over the last few seasons, on and off the ice, to get us to this position.  We have a solid economic foundation, which is at least as important as anything we do on the ice”

Klima and Hanzal go head to head (Nicky Craft)

Klima and Hanzal go head to head (Nicky Craft)

“We have three solid lines and players in the squad to replace them when needed.  We have a number of players who are coming up through the U18 team who have a shot of playing for the Redskins in the next couple of seasons. Oh and a new rink… The future really is bright”

Streatham had a Play-Off Quarter final against Wightlink to look forward to in the upcoming weekend and their coach Jeremy Cornish gave an interesting interview with Hockey fighting website hockeyfights.com

“I have been with the Raiders for four seasons now and I have enjoyed every minute of it, we have two very committed owners and both are a pleasure to work for” said Cornish in an interview that highlighted a number of his career fights.

“The league is third tier of Pro-Hockey in this Country and it may be a long way from the Elite League, but the standard grows every season. Playing in this league gives me the opportunity to have fun and play hockey, there are no actual tough guys of the standard that I used to fight in the EIHL, so there is no pressure to have to fill that role anymore”

“I really enjoy coaching the team and when you are a player you always think about what you would do different if you were the coach and this job gives me the opportunity to build a team and see how they compete against others in the league”

Cornish lets loose (Nicky Craft)

Cornish lets loose (Nicky Craft)

The You Tube links at the bottom of the piece feature two NIHL related fights, including the one in Cardiff from a few years ago and the one more recently where Cornish went on a one man wrecking ball mission against Romford Raiders and their defenseman Billy Phillips.

The 3rd Annual Pro Hockey News NIHL South Awards were announced to the usual debate during the week.

We are the only outlet to really do any kind of awards for the league so it is always great to see so many players and coaches get back to us quickly with their award nominations.

For those who missed it, Streatham’s Jakub Klima won Player of the Year with Gary Clarke picking up Coach of the Year.

Two lines of All-Stars were announced and it was good to see a good spread of teams’ represented.

In the past these awards would have picked themselves with only a handful of standout players in the league but the debates that have taken place post announcement, show that it is no longer cut and dried and this is a big positive.

Cardiff NIHL Devils v Invicta Dynamos

Invicta beat Cardiff (Tim Bowers)

Invicta beat Cardiff (Tim Bowers)

Invicta fans must have wondered if their season was over with just 23 minutes gone in Wales as Cardiff opened up a 5-1 lead on their Kent rivals.

The final score of 6-4 in the first leg was therefore in reality a good result for the Dynamos as they limited the damage and put themselves in a good position for the following day.

Rupe Quiney was the story of Saturday as he competed in the Elite league Play-Offs in Nottingham earlier in the day and then drove down to Cardiff and scored as well. Devils other goals came from Steven Fisher, Steve Osman, Louis Lockwood and Jason Stone.

For Invicta Andy Smith scored twice with Justin Noble also on target.

In the second leg it was close up until the halfway stage, but then the Dynamos pulled away and won comfortably.

An incredible five goal display from Andy Smith helped the Mo’s to a 9-4 win on the night with Nicky Lewis, Jack Tarczycki, Peter Vaisanen and Callum Fowler also on target .

Captain for the night Sean Scarbrough scored two for the Devils with Jason Stone and Steven Fisher also on target.

Bracknell Hornets v Romford Raiders

Bracknell enjoy last taste of the season (Kevin Slyfield)

Bracknell enjoy last taste of the season (Kevin Slyfield)

Romford made life easy for themselves with an 8-4 win in Bracknell on Saturday thanks mainly to a six goal display from Juraj Huska. The other scorers for Romford were Billy Phillips returning from his ban and also AJ Smith.

Bracknell goals came from Carl Thompson, Ryan Webb, Luke Reynolds and Peter Jasik.

It was a fixture that has been tough for the Raiders in the league with Bracknell proving to be a banana skin on more than one occasion.

The Raiders made sure of progress through to the semi-final stage as they beat the battling Hornets in Romford 6-3 on the Sunday evening.

Juraj Huska was on target again with two goals, with the others coming from AJ Smith, Danny Marshall, Grant Taylor and Frankie Harvey.

For Bracknell, Danny Hughes scored with the other goals coming from Nick Minhinnick and Mike Plenty.

The results meant that Bracknell’s season is over until next year but they can obviously proud of their efforts over the whole campaign again.

Wightlink Raiders v Streatham Redskins

Season over for Skins (Rick Webb)

Season over for Skins (Rick Webb)

Streatham faced a Wightlink side that had beaten them on six occasions already this season, so the size of the task was there for all to see.

The Saturday fixture saw Wightlink skate off with a 7-3 win on home ice with the Redskins putting up a better display than perhaps the score line would suggest.

Geordie Nathan Taylor scored two for the Raiders with James Smith, Jiri Hanzal, Richard Facey, Craig Tribe and Robbie Brown also on target.

Streatham’s goals came from Michal Oravec with two to his name and a lone goal from Russ Stevens.

On Sunday Streatham came out all guns blazing and managed to beat the Raiders for the first time since the club were brought back in 2004. Sadly the 4-3 win was not enough for us to advance but Brixton was bouncing at the end regardless as the fans made plenty of noise.

Streatham goals came from Jakub Klima, Michal Oravec, Evander Grinnell and Joe Johnston.

Wightlink scorers were Craig Tribe, James Smith and Robbie Brown and the island side progressed 10-7 on aggregate.

I can’t lie. I was welling up at the end and I certainly wasn’t the only one, but we gave it everything we had and Wightlink are the ones who continue their season next weekend, not us.

Milton Keynes Thunder v Chelmsford Chieftains

Sinkovic on target to sink Thunder

Sinkovic on target to sink Thunder

Just like the Wightlink and Streatham series, this clash was a tale of two games. The Thunder gave themselves little hope of advancing to the next stage as they went down 7-1 in the first leg on home ice.

Chelmsford ran riot with two goals from Player Coach Gary Clarke and one each for Danny Hammond, Ross Brears, Darren Brown, James Ayling and Julius Sinkovic.

For Milton Keynes Maksims Petruks was on target.

The return leg on Sunday was a reward for all the work the Thunder players and officials have put in this season as they grabbed a 3-2 win on the night.

Although it was obviously not enough to help them go through to the next stage, the goals from the Goode brothers, Connor and Harrison plus a lone marker for Nidal Phillips gave the Thunder contingent a happy ending to a tough season.

Julius Sinkovic and Michael Ranby got the goals for Chelmsford with the latter ejected from the game.

Play-Off Quarter Finals

Saturday 6 April 2013 – Leg 1

Wightlink Raiders 7-3 Streatham Redskins

Milton Keynes Thunder 1-7 Chelmsford Chieftains

Cardiff NIHL Devils 6-4 Invicta Dynamos

Bracknell Hornets 4-8 Romford Raiders

Sunday 7 April 2013 – Leg 2

Streatham Redskins 4-3 Wightlink Raiders (Wightlink advance)

Chelmsford Chieftains 2-3 MK Thunder (Chelmsford advance)

Romford Raiders 6-3 Bracknell Hornets (Romford advance)

Invicta Dynamos 9-4 Cardiff NIHL Devils (Invicta advance)

To see the final league table please visit the link below:

http://www.eiha.co.uk/Leagues/NationalSouth1.aspx

Contact the author david.carr@prohockeynews.com

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