GOSPORT, UK – After gaining promotion to NIHL 1, the Solent & Gosport Devils enter a whole new phase in their history and Captain Kris Abbott maintains they will do everything they can to give a good account of themselves.
Located on the South Coast of England across the water from the famous naval port of Portsmouth, Gosport’s ice rink has been home to a small ice hockey club for a number of years.
Despite a long standing junior development scheme, the senior side have traditionally struggled to compete above the lowest tier of league hockey, however in recent years the squad has improved and developed to a point where the only way is up.
“The last four years have seen the team finally build to a point where we feel ready to move up” explained 29 year old Abbott, who has also iced with Oxford City Stars and Bracknell over his career.
“We are under no illusions that it will be a tough season but after putting in so much effort to get promotion, we owe it to ourselves to give NIHL 1 a shot and give our junior players something higher to aspire to”
“A lot of the teams in the league will not be used to playing down here on our reduced size ice and that gives us a great advantage. No one likes coming to Gosport and we have now built up a good fan base that makes it an intimidating place to come”
“To prepare for our away games the club has also arranged ice in Basingstoke so we are preparing as best we can for the upcoming season”
Abbott has been in great goal scoring form himself in recent seasons alongside fellow line mate Craig Wheedon and former Basingstoke man Drew Campbell. Abbott hit 24 goals in 20 games in 2011/12 finishing as fourth top scorer in the league.
After playing in ED1 under James Cameron at Oxford and then Kevin King in Bracknell, the Gosport native took some time away from the game on doctors advice before returning to ice with his hometown team in 2006/07.
“In previous years it is no secret that we have struggled to hold the team together” admitted Abbott, who also trained with the Bracknell Bees in the Superleague during his time at the Hive.
“But things have changed now and we have shown recently that we have the numbers and quality to compete. We are a small club we don’t have the sponsorship behind us like a lot of the teams in the league”
“We all know what to expect when we travel to away games and the commitment that will need from all of us and we are training hard, preparing like never before”
Head Coach and solid defenseman Will Francis will be relying on his free scoring forwards to produce in a tougher competition, whilst hoping net minding trio Aaron Taylor, Christian Cole and Martin Clayton all step up to the plate.
In defence the pairing of Andrew Goddard and Jamie Fitzpatrick will be relied on heavily to patrol the blue line and players like former Basingstoke man Greg Wyatt, former Wightlink Raiders utility player Kevin Tanner and former Streatham forward Kent Johnson will all be required to use their past experience at this level to good effect.
The Devils open their season with an interesting local derby clash with Jeremy Cornish’s Wightlink Raiders side on the 2nd September and then follow it up with a tough road trip to Romford Raiders a week later.
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