LONDON, UK – After an eventful and largely exciting year of hockey in 2013, the New Year brought some sobering reality to the fans of one team, whilst others celebrated an upturn in form.
Evans Usain Bolt impression fails to rouse the Cardiff crowd (Photo by Tim Bowers)
No one can deny that the warning shots were fired, but when the news of budget cuts came, it was unlikely any London Raiders fan expected such a drastic cull of the team’s roster.
This week, the Raiders released six players in a bid to shore up their finances with the Peterborough based five-some Shaun Yardley, Nathan Pollard, Jason Buckman, Dwayne Newman and Euan King all heading out of the door following the game against Wightlink Raiders.
Youngster Jacob Ranson had joined MK Thunder earlier in the week, and perhaps if his motive was for more ice time, it may be the worst timed decision of all time.
“With recent news releases on the subject it will be of no surprise to Raiders fans that the move to Lee Valley has not been accompanied by the “expected” income” said the news release on the Raiders website.
“As a result the team has been losing money and the spread of fixtures and available ice time have clearly not helped”
London in trouble (Photo by John Scott)
“The team is not in a position to continually lose money in this way and there were very few options available to address the situation”
“Following a management meeting earlier this week it was decided that the most viable option was to reduce the size of the squad and in so doing reduce the weekly outgoings”
“It is therefore with deep regret that the team today announce that taking effect immediately the following players will be leaving (the release then listed the five players mentioned)”
“The “Peterborough five” have been with us all season and in the case of Jason Buckman five seasons”
“We would like to thank them all sincerely for their efforts in this and previous seasons and assure you all that their release is no way a reflection of any issues with the individuals on or off ice. Thoroughly professional in their approach and outlook we wish them well with their futures”
“We have no doubt that the talent and effort that these players have shown over the season will be sorely missed for the remainder of the year, but we have to temper our enthusiasm for the game with a dose of common sense in the face of severe financial restrictions”
This leaves the Raiders with 12 skaters according to our records, and casts doubt over their ability to finish the season.
It is never nice to see any team struggle and even worse to see such professional senior players released, but it was always going to be a difficult ask for the Raiders and this was outlined clearly in the pre-season interview Pro Hockey News did with owner Ollie Oliver, which you can read HERE
Manny ponders the meaning of being Welsh
The charismatic Cardiff defenseman Phil Manny gave a post-Christmas interview with the popular Freezing the Puck website. Mr Manny was as forthright as ever with his views, not least on how the season has gone so far for the Welsh side.
“I think Cardiff have actually surprised a lot of sceptics” said Manny, who re-joined his hometown side from Streatham in the summer.
“Especially with three of last year’s top scorers moving on to other teams. The one thing to remember about NIHL Devils is that it’s a development team and new, hungry blood will always be coming through the ranks”
Another question posed asked whether Phil was still in touch with a certain back-up netminder from Streatham now that he had moved west.
“I may have known Dr Stefan Nubert since we were kids” admitted Manny, who also revealed in the interview that he started out skating as a figure skater.
“But he’s really busy trying to become a Professor so has no time for me I’m afraid”
Indeed Mr Manny famously once remarked that his fellow countryman and PHD boffin Nubert was not really Welsh, owing to the fact ‘his parents had a swimming pool in their house”, to which the Redskins goalie did shrug his shoulders to admit that this could actually be a legitimate statement.
Elsewhere, the temporary ice rink in Milton Keynes got a publicity boost when it was revealed that former England cricketer and Talksport Radio presenter Darren Gough would be using the facility to train for reality TV competition ‘The Jump’.
Gough will join Olympian Steve Redgrave and Tara Palmer Tompkinson amongst others in a competition that will see them tackle scary winter sports such as the bobsleigh, giant slalom and the ski jump.
Rumours that MK Thunder Jamie Randall flogged Gough some new skates from his shop ‘JG Hockey’ within the ice rink were unconfirmed, however defenseman Sam Cheema did step in to offer laundry services to Gough, whose jeans got wet when he fell on the ice.
Gough delighted with service from JG Hockey (Photo by MK Web)
In Invicta there was sad news as it was revealed that committed Dynamos fan Christopher Rushton passed away on Friday.
“Christopher was well known and well liked amongst both the club and its fan base and had been a long term fixture at Dynamos games both home and away for a number of years” said an official press release on the Mo’s site.
“His friendly character and unswerving passion for the game will be sorely missed and everyone connected with the Dynamos would like to take this opportunity to pass on our sincerest condolences to Christopher’s family and friends at this heart-breaking time”
“The Invicta Dynamos will be holding a one minute silence in memory of Christopher ahead of the puck drop at our next home game against Chelmsford on Sunday 5th January”
Mr Rushton followed his team with dedication, was a keen follower of the game and emailed this very column to chat about hockey such was his enthusiasm. All of our thoughts are with his family at this time.
Invicta’s curse in South London continued as the Mo’s could only tie 6-6 with Streatham despite leading the game with less than a minute remaining.
A large crowd of over 850, boosted by a massive turnout of visiting fans from Kent watched an NIHL game that pretty much had everything you could ask for.
A close intense hockey game, two penalty shots and controversy to make the £8 ticket price seem like bargain of the decade.
The final moments in Streatham (Rick Webb)
Sean Scarbrough was the hero for Streatham with four goals, and Michal Oravec and Joe Allen were on target also. For Invicta Juraj Huska hit a hat trick, with the other’s coming from Callum Fowler, Danny Hammond and Andy Smith.
The controversy stemmed from the final minute, when Streatham pulled the goalie at 6-5 down and Michal Oravec’s shot came back out of the net from the back bar. Streatham celebrated but the referee (one half of a two man system) nearest the goal washed it out, before Invicta skated down the other end and scored in the empty net to spark jubilation at one end of the rink, and outrage at the other.
In the rule book, the officials are allowed to consult at the next whistle in play, and after a long conversation, with assistance from the goal judge, they agreed that the Streatham goal should have stood, and therefore the home fans went wild and the visiting support did the same, but not with joy.
In the confusion, the remaining seconds were not added back onto the clock and Invicta had two players ejected for misconduct calls as Streatham then killed off the remaining thirteen seconds shorthanded and celebrated their comeback. It was a dramatic end to a fantastic match that did not deserve to end with such controversy.
In Cardiff, the Solent & Gosport Devils put in a dogged back’s to the wall display to gain a hard earned point on the road with a 1-1 score-line.
Chico time .. again (Photo Tim Bowers)
No prizes for guessing who got the man of the match beers with both Cardiff’s Mike Brabon and Solent’s Chico Cole getting the plaudits.
Louis Lockwood got the goal for Cardiff with Jamie Fitzpatrick on target for the Devils.
There was noticeably less drama at Chelmsford as the Chieftains made short work of the MK Thunder with a 12-0 win.
It was point night for the Chieftains as Ross Brears hit a hat trick, Cameron Bartlett and Daniel Volrab scored two goals each and Gary Clarke, Darren Brown, Luke Brittle, James Ayling and Matt Turner all got goals.
Denis Bell in the Thunder net faced 63 shots, whilst his opposite number Ben Clements had an easier night with 16 heading his way for the shutout.
The last game of the night was to see the ‘Peterborough Five’ (well four as King didn’t ice) make their final appearance in a London Raiders jersey as their side went down 8-5 at home to Wightlink Raiders in the South East Trophy.
Loris Taylor and Matthew Vizzari scored a brace each for Wightlink with Jeremy Cornish, Richard Nembhard, Richard Facey and Dan Pye all on target too.
For London Jakub Klima grabbed a hat trick with AJ Smith and Grant Taylor also scoring.
The players were actually informed after the game of the management’s decision, so it was no doubt a sombre mood after the match in Lee Valley.
Wightlink survived a tricky derby match in Solent to record their second win of the weekend with a 6-3 win in the league.
The Raiders goals came from Alex Barker with a brace and lone goals from Matthew Vizzari, Craig Tribe, Damon Larter and Richard Facey.
Bracknell start well against Redskins (Kevin Slyfield)
Former Wightlink star Alex Murray scored a hat trick for the Devils, who managed to ice over three lines in comparison with the short bench they had the previous evening.
Streatham ended their Bracknell hoodoo as they came back from 2-1 behind to win 3-2 and continue their six game unbeaten run. Goalie Aaron Taylor made his full debut for the Redskins and put in a man of the match performance.
Steven Fisher creeped further up the scoring charts with two more to his name for the Londoners and Sean Scarbrough ended a memorable weekend for himself with a lone goal.
Bracknell goals came from Peter Jasik and the speedy Ryan Handisides.
The game (and therefore this column) was delayed midway through the third as a large pool of water appeared in one end of the ice. Referee Simon Brown battled manfully to scrape the area clear of water, but in the end it needed the Zamboni to come on and give the pad a dry cut.
Invicta Dynamos banished the disappointment of the previous night with a superb 5-0 South East Trophy win over the visiting Chelmsford Chieftains.
Ranby causes chaos in MK crease (Photo Ian Snoding)
The Mo’s goalie Chris Douglas enjoyed an impressive 48 shot shutout, as a brace each from Danny Hammond and Juraj Huska did the damage for the home side along with a lone goal for Callum Fowler.
The final game of the day took place in Darren Gough’s new lair, as the MK Thunder looked to get a win over the Cardiff NIHL Devils.
The home side came close but ultimately got no cigar as Louis Lockwood, Stevie Balmer and Jordan Powell helped their side to a 3-2 win. Milton Keynes scorers were Tom Mboya and Maksims Petruks.
The results leave Wightlink top of the table and London Raiders fans wondering what is to come.
Saturday 4th January 2014
Streatham Redskins 6-6 Invicta Dynamos
London Raiders 5-8 Wightlink Raiders (SET)
Chelmsford Chieftains 12-0 MK Thunder
Cardiff NIHL Devils 1-1 Solent & Gosport Devils
Sunday 5th January 2014
MK Thunder 2-3 Cardiff NIHL Devils
Bracknell Hornets 2-3 Streatham Redskins
Invicta Dynamos 5-0 Chelmsford Chieftains (SET)
Solent & Gosport Devils 3-6 Wightlink Raiders
Contact the author firstname.lastname@example.org