LONDON, UK – Whilst the league teams prepare for the upcoming 2013/14 season in the UK, the Summer Cup competition in the South of England is ready for its dramatic conclusion.
The tournament, named in tribute to John Cleighton-Hills takes place over a number of months and whilst the league was won by Swindon Panthers, the competition now advances to the Play Off stage this weekend.
The final four include the title winning Panthers who take on Cardiff Titans in the first semi final, and the Chelmsford Nighthawks who host the Streatham Nightwolves in the other.
The eight team league played over the summer in the absence of league action features full contact recreational hockey and a host of names familiar to British hockey fans.
“Over the last 31 years of senior hockey I have seen the leagues change and improve beyond belief” said title winning Swindon forward Scott Gough.
“I have now been playing with the Panthers for 4 years and I have to say that the level of recreational hockey 20 years ago was basically complete learners to what we have now and in my view the top 4-5 teams are comparable to NIHL hockey only a few years ago before it split to NIHL1/2”
“If these teams could get their players to commit to weekly training and travel to every game the top teams in this years summer cup would compete easily with the bottom to middle end of the present NIHL2”
“In terms of players every team now has a few imports and some have as many as 10 Europeans registered; and a few names UK hockey fans may recognise playing in the league that were imports on a couple of seasons ago”
“Lukas Zilak, Jerry Pavlus, Elvis Veldze and some other players that could easily play now such as Peter Chrenko, Johan Persson, Marian Pavlus, and Daniel Goga would be welcome additions to most NIHL 2 rosters in my opinion”
“I also feel that every team over the last couple of years has improved their goal tending so this has made a lot of the games closer affairs”
Gough is of course a seasoned campaigner from the old Heineken days with Oxford City Stars and Swindon Wildcats, but in the capital, former Streatham Redskins and Slough defenceman Owen Murphy has also enjoyed the competition.
“It’s been a bit of a mixed bag for the Nightwolves” said Murphy, who plays alongside former Redskins Coach Barry Spours in the Nightwolves team.
“The competition itself is about as close as you’re going to get to ‘league’ hockey which is great. “It’s full contact, has numerous league veterans, imports aplenty and guys who have picked up the sport away from the junior set ups”
“However, because it takes place over the summer (The clue is in the title!) it’s very rare for teams to field a full team. We’ve gone to Gosport with 9 players which is never easy and travelled to Peterborough to play in front of a partisan crowd of around 200 with only 7 guys”
“Whether it’s family holidays, work commitments or taking your son to a swimming lesson it’s very difficult for teams’ management to balance getting a competitive team together, although I’m proud that as a club we’ve never pulled out of a fixture unlike some other teams this season”
Facing Streatham will be a Chelmsford team packed with talent including former Redskin Jerry Pavlus and his brother Marian.
The Nighthawks finished runners up to Swindon and are excited about the Play Off challenge ahead.
“I love Play Off hockey, it’s what we play for and aim to reach” said Chelmsford player Neil Hardy.
“It means a lot to the whole team to make the Play Offs. We’ve done so for the last four years and we are all hoping to lift that trophy come the end of the season”
“I’d like to see the summer cup expand as it’s always good to play different teams. It would be good for Rec hockey for it to expand”
“This season hasn’t gone as well as we’d like it to. We think the standard has improved overall though so we have to take that into consideration”
Standing between Hardy and his team will be a Nightwolves team that Murphy feels will have to be on top form to advance past.
“On their day Chelmsford have a first line that wouldn’t look out of place for a mid-tabled NIHL1 team” said Murphy, who also iced with Haringey Greyhounds in a long league career.
“Jerry Pavlus lining up next to his equally talented (and slightly bigger) brother Marian, and between those two is Chelmsford legend Karl Rodgers who is still a unit of a guy with great vision and finishing”
“Sadly for the Nighthawks these guys have only played about half of the games, but I’m sure they will be ready to go come the Play Offs”
“As for the Nightwolves chances, we know what to expect from Chelmsford, we know we can compete, but as ever it will depend on who can join the handful of “Ironmen” in the team for the Play Off games”
In the other semi final Swindon will have to very careful not to slip up against fourth placed Cardiff Titans, who are certainly a tough team to beat.
“After the Panthers winning this year’s league competition I am personally looking forward to this game as Cardiff are the only team that beat us this year” admits Gough, who learnt his hockey in his native Glasgow.
“On the day we did not play well and Cardiff boys really stepped up and deserved the win after the buzzer but that’s hockey as we all know”
“I also know that as captain this year I will be doing everything I can on Saturday at our adopted Oxford ice Rink to ensure we get the result we want before we head down to Cardiff the following week for the second leg”
“The toughest part for the Panthers this year has been the closure of the our home ice in Swindon so we have only have a few training sessions but we have stuck to together as a team and played a couple of tournaments that we used as training, and in a way that all went towards us winning the league this year”
Further details regarding the Summer Cup can be found at the link below: http://summercup.drover.ca/index.asp
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