I thought it would be a good idea to give the fans a little mid-season report and let everyone know how I think people have played and settled into the team.
Let’s start with our goalies Matthew Colclough and Dan Well-Evans. Matty has been with us for a few years now and has played very well this season so far. He is a very quiet character, but is one of our strongest leaders and we need him at his best in order to challenge the other top teams. Matthew has been a top keeper in this league and I feel he is now back to his best after a slow start to the season. I have enjoyed having him as part of our team and I’m expecting a strong second half and play-off run from him.
Dan has also been with us for a number of years and is also a massive part of the team. This past weekend Dan back-stopped us to a four point weekend and Dan never disappoints when given an opportunity to play. Dan is a hard working player and a big body that is improving all the time. It is an awesome feeling as a coach to know that Dan can step in when needed and perform for the team.
As for our defence, Damon Larter is our captain and leader from the back. He has had a very good season so far and skates extremely well. Damon will lead the team with a rush up the ice when needed and now makes excellent choices when it comes to moving the puck when up the ice. He plays very physical and often plays hurt without even letting anyone know. I think Damon is a complete captain, he comes to the rink every week and gives 100 percent, produces on the ice and leads in the locker-room.
Nick Compton has been with us for a couple seasons now and is also a very strong leader in the locker-room. Nick is an offensive defenceman and when Nick is at his best he is one of the best d-men in the league. Nick has been producing very strong offensive numbers this season while battling injury troubles all year.
Dan Pye is another core player that gives us a big body that can really shoot the puck. Dan is a physical d-man that is very effective in his own zone while chipping in with the occasional goal. I’m expecting Dan to really pick up his game this second half and if we are to be successful down the stretch, he will be a major reason.
Yousef Abu Sada has been the surprise signing of the season for me. I knew he was a steady defender, but had no idea how much he sacrifices his body for the team. He is our best shot blocker and is a very good role model for a couple of our younger players. Abu is sound defensively and knows how to play with an edge. Abu is really good in the locker-room and we share a lot of jokes together each week (sometimes I have to tell him to settle himself down a bit).
Ben Lock is in his second year with the Raiders and I have him partnered up with Yousef on D. Ben is another big body that is at his best when he’s moving he feet and playing physical. Ben has come a long way since last season and I can see him becoming a big part of our team from here on out.
Simon Hobbis is a first year Raider that came to us on the recommendation of Basingstoke Bison coach Doug Sheppard. Simon has been awesome this year. He isn’t our biggest player, but he plays physical and can skate very well. Being a young D-man is difficult and he learns from any mistakes he makes, but for the most part has played some big minutes against the other teams top lines.
As for the forwards, let’s start with Alex Barker. Alex is a first year Raider and he is a winner, he hates to lose and I like the way he conducts himself on and off the ice. Alex can shoot the puck as well as anyone in the league and has come up with some massive goals for us this year. Alex is a natural goal scorer and this last summer it was my priority to sign a couple other players who could score goals and that’s what we’ve done with this signing and Steve Osman.
Steve Osman is also a goal scorer and has been a pleasure to have on the team this year. Players of Steve size and skill set are hard to find and he has quietly become a big game player for us. Steve drives from Bristol each week with Yousef and we are very happy those guys are as committed as they have been this year.
Richard Facey is a long time Raiders and a player that gives the same effort every single game. He has been a big part of our teams success over the last few years and has all the tools to consistently be a top performer in the NIHL. Richard has developed a strong relationship on the ice with Osman over the last couple weeks and we will be hoping they will cause some goalies grief down the stretch run.
Matthew Vizzari is our other import and he has really picked up his game over the last month or so. He has a very high skill level and after playing the first month with a nasty shoulder injury he has really settled into life on the island. We started the season with Matt on the wing, but once we moved him to center he has been playing some better hockey and producing points in every game. There is a lot of pressure for our other import to produce since I take up an import spot, but I think Matt has done a good job and our whole team has been scoring at a much better rate than last year.
Craig Tribe is an alternate captain who is a second year Raider and a player that always shows up for the big games. He has played out of his natural position all season as we have had to use him at center, but him teamed up with Barker has been fantastic. They played together when they both played for the Hornets a few years ago and I’m pretty sure they like being back together again.
Kieran Annis has had a bit of a break-out season for us, he has certainly paid his dues since joining us our first year straight out of under 18’s. He has come a long way and I’m happy he has had the chance to play a regular shift and show what he has to offer. Kieran has excellent size and skill and for him to continue to develop he must play hard every night and help the team win. He is currently out with a broken finger, but will join the team when he is back fully fit.
Nathan Taylor is another long time Raider, he has been a bit snake bitten when it comes to scoring, but he has been getting quality ice time and loads of chances. Nathan is an alternate captain and is a very big part of our locker-room, he is a player the young players can look up to. Nathan is always giving the younger players advice and showing them the ropes of being a Raider. For Nathan to be effective, he needs to move his feet and play physical. He has unbelievable hands and a wicked shot, I’m sure the goals will begin to come in.
Corey Watkins is another core player for us, he brings the same work ethic every night and is one of my key guys. Corey is at his best when he is under the other teams skin and he will play a pretty prominent role for us if we are to be successful this year. Corey has been switched around and played on all lines this year, but he is probably our teams best penalty killer. Corey blocks shots and always provides big hits, he also has been known to come up with big goals from time to time.
Richard Nembhard is another local boy that has raised a lot of eye brows with his never quit attitude. Richard is a hard worker and his intensity and enthusiasm has rubbed off on the rest of the team. He came to our team on a try-out basis and he has begun to earn more and more ice time as the season has worn on.
We also have two other forwards, Ricky Attrill and Alex Trendal. Both of these players have been training with us on a regular basis and if injury problem arise I would not hesitate in playing them a regular shift.
As for myself, I have been really enjoying my hockey this year and I feel I can still contribute on the ice. I have never been known as a goal scorer, but I do think we have enough scoring on this team to do well and I like chipping in any way I can. The next couple weeks are big for our team and I hope the fans come out to support us along the way.