LONDON, UK – Invicta climb back into the title race and Solent & Gosport Devils celebrated a four point weekend, but there was not much Valentines love in the air of the NIHL South this week.
With some big games coming up at the weekend for those three teams involved in the league title race, eyes were fixed on news coming out of Chelmsford, Wightlink and Invicta.
On the island, Wightlink Raiders coach Jeremy Cornish was frustrated after his side narrowly lost out to Chelmsford at the Riverside. The Canadian seemed to be alluding also that his team’s chances of the title were gone after the 3-2 defeat.
“Even though we lost the game, I feel the shot count was embarrassing” said the big Canadian in his Coaches Corner.
“They claimed we only had 19 shots on target, but that was very far from the truth and at times we had them on the back foot. I don’t actually ever remember playing such a strong game in that rink and it was awesome to see the guys battle back from being 2-0 down, I just wish we could have held on for the two points”
“We have lost our fair share of games in Chelmsford over the last five seasons, but this game was one of the toughest to take”
“We now have to shift our focus to winning our remaining games and make sure we get the highest seed possible heading into the play-offs. We are still in both cup competitions and have had a decent run of results during the course of the year and I think the final couple months are going to be exciting”
The shot count argument is one that stretches back in to the distant past and will probably continue to be debated at this level of hockey for as long as it exists.
Many goalies have carved out high save percentages based on generous shot counting, or on the flip side been completely screwed over by stats as reliable as an early nineties Skoda.
In a league where you can get an assist by requesting one from a non plussed official, it is hardly surprising that the volunteer shot counters are not exactly Opta stat qualified.
At higher levels of hockey, save percentages can build a goalie a career, as can a player’s points tally. At this level though it is largely an ego massage for most and a good chiseller can look back on his stats at the end of the season with pride.
For those readers who love to watch a bit of hockey highlights during the week, there was welcome news as Invicta Dynamos started up their YouTube goals footage again, after an absence of a few months.
Unfortunately there was no colour commentary for Pro Hockey News to dissect and make a joke about, however the quality of the footage was pretty good and most NIHL fans will be hoping it continues.
The only people who will probably not enjoy the footage from last weekend will be the Cardiff defensive unit, who looked like they endured a tough night at the office. To watch the highlights from the game click HERE
Invicta were anticipating a tough weekend with a road trip to Bracknell followed by a crunch home league game against Chelmsford.
“I think it is Chelmsford’s to lose, but we have got to play them twice and that’s four points if we win” said Invicta Coach Kevin Parrish on his team’s title chances.
“They have got pressure on them and it’s hard to retain the title having won it last year. The league doesn’t lie and at the end of every year, the best team has won the league”
“We are waiting them for them to slip up and although we don’t want to be waiting for them to slip up, that’s where we are”
So with Invicta and Wightlink both looking ahead to the weekend, the biggest news out of league leaders Chelmsford was the arrival of this season’s must have piece of NIHL merchandise.
Forget the bestselling Dave Carr Oxford City Stars fridge magnets of the 2004/05 season, forget the Alan Armour Cardiff Snow globes, or even the fantastic range of Streatham Redskins bobble hats (available for only £12 on game nights) . They all pale into insignificance since the arrival of none other than, the limited edition Ben Clements’ clock.
This is not a joke (neither was the Oxford fridge magnet sales figures) as the Chelmsford goalie does feature on the face of a clock that we can only assume will be on sale at the Riverside very shortly.
Bracknell Hornets forward Carl Thompson had barely jetted off on his round the world travels, when the club announced that they would be raffling off his old home jersey at the game against Invicta.
Thompson played his final game last weekend and will clearly not be posting pictures of himself on social media in Rio, New York and Tokyo wearing his Hornets jersey. Instead the jersey will remain in the confines of Berkshire no doubt, or possibly get an airing in Hampshire if it is lucky.
‘Game worn’ jerseys are always of particular appeal to hockey fans for some reason, perhaps it’s the blood stains, the slight tears in the fabric or that lingering smell of wet alsation that makes them so popular.
So far this season, we have had bruise of the week, gown of the week, NIHL player with a celebrity feature and also Bracknell’s Ryan Handisides wrapped in fairy lights.
Quite what we can call this week’s feature is up for debate but maybe it could be ‘Pregnant Ankle of the week’, for which the award goes to Streatham’s Jack Tarczycki, whose ankle looked as if it was about to give birth this week.
Milton Keynes Thunder released their team photo this week, to gasps of joy from the ladies of the city.
It is fair to say that the Thunder are a fresh faced outfit this season with a number of young prospects in the line-up.
The most striking aspect of the whole thing however was that goalie David Cassidy’s leg pad was nearly bigger than the player sitting to his right hand side, plus the fact that Player Coach Jamie Randall looked like he was having a great time on the far corner of the picture.
You can question many things about the London Raiders season, but their backs to the wall spirit was in evidence at Lee Valley, as they stunned the Wightlink Raiders 6-4 in a lively game.
Jakub Klima scored a hat trick for London with Billy Phillips, Danny Marshall and Frankie Harvey also on target. For Wightlink Jeremy Cornish, Nathan Taylor, Steven Osman and Alex Barker all scored a goal each.
Cornish also dropped the gloves with Raiders JJ McGrath in the first period to further endear himself to the Raiders’ faithful.
Streatham and Cardiff faced each other in front of another decent crowd in South London.
The Londoner’s won 3-2 in a game that turned scrappy at times, but a brilliant individual display and goal by Callum Best sealed the two points for the home side. Sean Scarbrough and Steven Fisher got the other goals for Streatham with Rob Sedlak getting both goals for Cardiff.
Louis Lockwood and Streatham’s new signing Kris Abbott dropped the gloves in the third period to add to the drama for the crowd.
Invicta avoided a slip up in Bracknell as a Callum Fowler hat trick inspired them to an 8-5 win over the Hornets. Andy Smith got two goals for Invicta with Danny Hammond, Marek Nahlik and Juraj Huska also on target.
Bracknell’s goals came from Peter Jasik with a brace, and one goal each for Nick Minhinnick, Ryan Handisides and Luke Reynolds.
Solent & Gosport Devils used their experience of playing on a small ice pad count as they overcame Milton Keynes Thunder 6-4 at MK Ice.
Kent Johnson bagged a hat trick for the Devils with Mitchell Murray, George Norcliffe and Alex Murray getting a goal each. Milton Keynes scorers were Alex Whyte with two goals and Maksims Petruks and Jamie Randall with one each.
Milton Keynes actually outshot the Devils, to make it a second weekend in a row, where they have come so close, but so far from getting their first win of the season.
Invicta Dynamos knew they had to beat Chelmsford Chieftains at Silverblades to give them real hope of catching the Essex side at the top of the table.
In front of a big crowd, the Mo’s made it a four point weekend, and also ensured the title race was well and truly on with a hard fought 3-2 win.
Shaun Wild, Juraj Huska and former Chieftain Danny Hammond all scored for Invicta, with Ross Brears and Darren Brown on target for Chelmsford.
Mo’s goalie Chris Douglas soldiered on despite reportedly dislocating his shoulder to help his team to victory.
The result really ramps up the pressure on Chelmsford at the top, whilst also dealing a big blow to Wightlink in third position.
Still bruised from their loss in London the night before, Wightlink had chance of early revenge in the return fixture on the island, albeit in the South East Trophy.
Unfortunately for all concerned, including the fans that had made the effort to get there, the Raiders showed up with only seven players on the game sheet and a goalie.
A broken down car was cited as the reason behind the lack of numbers, but things got worse for the crowd after the second period, as Raiders goalie Michael Gray took a shot to the head and the game was subsequently abandoned.
Wightlink were 10-0 up at the time thanks to goals from Nathan Taylor with a hat trick, Richard Nembhard and Steven Osman with two each, and lone goals for Matthew Vizzari, Alex Barker and Richard Facey.
Everyone at Pro Hockey news hopes that P-Head gets better soon.
Across the Solent, there was jubilation as the Solent & Gosport Devils made it a four point weekend with an impressive 7-3 win over Bracknell Hornets.
Steve Gannaway’s side moved above the Hornets in the league table thanks to a brace each from Kent Johnson and George Norcliffe, plus goals from Kev Tanner, Alex Cole and Jamie Fitzpatrick.
Bracknell’s goal scorers were Josh Smith, Danny Hughes and Peter Jasik.
Saturday 15th February 2014
Streatham Redskins 3-2 Cardiff NIHL Devils
Bracknell Hornets 5-8 Invicta Dynamos
Milton Keynes Thunder 4-6 Solent & Gosport Devils
London Raiders 6-4 Wightlink Raiders
Sunday 16th February 2014
Wightlink Raiders 10-0 London Raiders (match abandoned due to injury)
Solent & Gosport Devils 7-3 Bracknell Hornets
Invicta Dynamos 3-2 Chelmsford Chieftains
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