Monday 27 April 2015

Bristol Pitbulls Take South 2 West & Play Off Double

Photo: Pitbulls' Tom Asprey receives the
South 2 Play Off Trophy at Slough
The Viewsbank Bristol Pitbulls won the National Ice Hockey League South Division 2 Playoffs with a 9-4 aggregate score over the Slough Jets. The win completed a league and playoff double after Bristol won the National Ice Hockey League South Division 2 Western Conference title two weeks ago.

The two-legged playoff final took place on the weekend of 25th/26th April 2015 and saw the winners of the league’s western and eastern conferences meet for the first time this season. After a difficult start to the season, Bristol went into the weekend unbeaten in all competitions since the New Year, while Slough had only lost once all season and had already claimed the NIHL South Division 2 Cup title in March.

Bristol won the first leg 4-0 in their nominated home venue of Swindon due to the absence of an ice rink in their own city. After an early goal by Olly Shone in the second minute, a strong defensive performance saw Bristol absorb heavy pressure by Slough throughout the second period. Man of the Match, Bristol netminder John Dibble saved all 47 shots to record his fourth shut-out of the season and keep Bristol in contention before third period goals by Jordan Smith and two from Steve Osman gave Bristol a commanding lead going into the second leg. Player/coach, Rich Hargreaves's assist on Osman’s first goal made him only the first player in team history to record 200 assists.

The following night in Slough Ice Arena, Slough finally scored past John Dibble in the sixth minute as they maintained long periods of sustained pressure in the Bristol zone. However, a goal from Rich Hargreaves, making him the first player to score 300 points for the club, and one from Jordan Smith put Bristol back in control. Jordan Smith scored again in the second before Mike Hargreaves and Tom Egerton made the tie safe in the third period. Slough, desperate to at least win the game if not the title, were able to hit Bristol with two late goals but found themselves unable to avoid a 5-4 defeat on the night.

Bristol’s coach Rich Hargreaves said: “I’m very proud of what this club has achieved through our tough times. We stuck together and we came to battle both days. I think that the emotion from the fans and players said it all. I couldn’t ask for a better a bunch of guys."

Report by Graham Goodman, Bristol Pitbulls Media Officer
Photo by Flyfifer Photography.

Sunday 26 April 2015

Blackburn Hawks 25th Anniversary Legends Game

Blackburn Hawks have had a tremendous season winning their first ever league title and following it up with their second play off crown in recent years so it was quite fitting that this achievement coincided with their 25th Anniversary.

A special 25th Anniversary “Legends” game was arranged and I thought this would be a great opportunity to have my first view of the current double winning team that I have reported about all season - and also to see some old faces from the past.

I ought to just point out here that, while I have watched Blackburn Hawks / Blackhawks on and off since the early 1990s, I am more of a general hockey fan than a partisan follower – even more so now that I am editor of the Ice Hockey Review NIHL yearbook and website where a sense of impartiality is very important. As such, most of the legends who came to play in this special game were well known to me, although for the most part this was due to their involvement with other teams and not necessarily their time spent at Blackburn.  

I have to admit that the main reason I wanted to come to the game was to see Steve Moria play once again.  I have always had a bit of a love /hate relationship with Moria as he has always played for the team opposing the one I was supporting so, while you could appreciate his skill on the ice, you hated the fact that he always had such an impact on the game.

I remember when Steve first came to Britain in 1986 to play for Fife Flyers in the Heineken British
Former Hawks and GB Player Steve Moria
(Photo by John Milton -
League and also saw him playing for Cardiff Devils numerous times in those halcyon days. 

I actually spotted him down at the Blackburn rink during the 1992 close-season before he was officially unveiled as the new Player Coach so could have scooped the rest of the ice hockey media had I had the resources available to me then that I have now….!   

When he finally hung up his skates aged 51 in 2012 after over 1000 senior games in British hockey, I thought that was it so I was really pleased to see Steve coming out of retirement for this game.

It was also nice to see Neil Abel play again – long time Fife Flyer and  early Sheffield Steeler – and also ageless Jim Pennycook – who - like Moria - played internationally for the Team GB senior team, as did Bobby Haig who was at the Hawks’ helm for 9 seasons and helped guide them through some pretty choppy waters.  

Jon Cotton, Mark Johnson and Paul Hannant I all knew from when they played for Peterborough Pirates and then the Altrincham guys Ged Smith (former Nottingham Panther), Pete Winstanley, Ian Hough and Simon Mills who I particularly remember from the season I helped out with the Aces at Devonshire Road.  

In addition to Jim Pennycook, Gary Shearman and John Dunford – both English League North winners with the Blackpool Seagulls – make up a trio of players who all played at the first ever British Championship play-off weekend at Streatham in 1982 so we had players covering the whole of modern day British ice hockey history from the late 70s right up to date all on the ice at the same time!  

The Hawks team also some former players as guests – so it was a wonderfully emotive and nostalgic occasion all round and was it especially nice to see the choice of referee Les Heighway – who I also knew from Altrincham Aces home games where he often officiated alongside his wife Rose (RIP).

As far as the actual game is concerned it is rather difficult to write a proper match report because it wasn’t really a competitive game in the true sense of the word.  We had a play fight midway through the first period and a pantomime penalty shot in the second.

Players switched sides at each break and, by the end, we had most of the Hawks players playing for the Legends and most of the Legends playing for the Hawks –which makes the goals and assists rather bizarre reading to say the least. At one point, Gary Shearman was credited with a goal while later admitting that he wasn’t even on the ice at the time!  Hawks’ new Coach Dan Mackriel had an amusing stint in the net while netminder Daniel Brittle played up front and scored a goal!

For the sake of completeness, the match facts were as follows:
Period Scores: 6-2, 6-1, 2-4

0-1 Legends: Simon Mills (assist Ian Hough) 2.17
0-2 Legends: Simon Mills (Ian Hough) 7.21
1-2 Hawks: Anthony Kinder (Sam Dunford, Scott Barnett) 9.14
2-2 Hawks: Scott Barnett (Jordan Bannon) 11.25
3-2 Hawks: Jordan Bannon (Dave Meikle, Aaron Bayliss) 12.03
4-2 Hawks: Matt Viney (Dave Clancy) 13.22
5-2 Hawks: Adam Brittle (Luke Brittle) 15.48
6-2 Hawks: Scott Barnett (Stuart Ashton)
7-2 Hawks: Chris Butler (Pavel Slovik, Sam Dunford) 22.10
7-3 Legends: Gary Shearman (Adam Brittle) 23.50
8-3 Hawks: Daniel Brittle (Rick Hughes) 25.48
9-3 Hawks: Lance Derbyshire 29.57
10-3 Hawks: Jordan Bannon (Aaron Davies) 26.20
11-3 Hawks: Rick Hughes (Dave Meikle) 32.00
12-3 Hawks: Jordan Bannon (Dave Meikle) 38.36
12-4 Legends: Luke Brittle (Ollie Lomax) 44.37
13-4 Hawks: Mark Johnson (Simon Ferry, Mark Stokes) 47.12
14-4 Hawks: Scott Barnett (Wayne Slater) 48.14
14-5 Legends: Jared Owen (Adam Brittle, Chris Arnone) 50.09
14-6 Legends: Luke Brittle (Jared Owen) 56.40
14-7 Legends: Luke Brittle (everyone….) 59.05

The Blackburn Hawks 25th Anniversary legends game will be featured in the 2015 edition of the Ice Hockey Review NIHL yearbook which will also include details of the Hawks' historic double winning season with photos, player stats and reports.

With full league by league and team by team rounds up for every club in NIHL North and South Divisions 1 and 2, this is the only publication on the planet that covers the NIHL in this much detail.   
Copies will be available to buy from your normal outlet in October or you can save money with the special "earlybird" offer by reserving your copy now at last year's price.  To make sure you are among the first to receive your copy of the Ice Hockey Review 2015 NIHL Yearbook, click  HERE  to see the order link.

Saturday Results At A Glance

All of Saturday's NIHL results in one place - well, there is only one today, actually...

South 2 Play Off Final - 1st Leg:

Bristol Pitbulls 4 - Slough Jets 0 (played at Swindon)

Slough Jets shut out for the first time this season and only their second defeat in all competitions.

Second leg Sunday evening at Slough.

Thursday 23 April 2015

New 2015 Edition - Early Bird Offer

Well, the NIHL ice hockey season is pretty much at a close and, while most people are now going off and taking a well-earned rest, we now face our busiest time of the year as we prepare the new NIHL season review book.

The new 2015 NIHL yearbook will feature team by team, league by league stats and reports for all competitions, cups and play offs in NIHL North & South Divisions 1 and 2

The new book will be on available in early October and full details will be available a little nearer the time.  However we’d like to start off with our popular early bird offer whereby you can order YOUR copy of this year’s book at last year’s price – including free postage and packing (UK only).

This offer is only available for orders placed before 1st September, after which the new 2015 price will kick in.   

To order your copy of the Ice Hockey Review 2015 Yearbook – and make sure yours gets mailed out before the rush – click on the order link below.

Note: copies will also be available to personal customers from co-authors Chris Mackenzie in the North East  and Chris Randall on the Isle of Wight / South Coast from October onwards.  Please contact them directly if you'd like to purchase via them. 

Monday 20 April 2015

Wightlink Raiders South 1 Play Off Champions - Report by NIHL South Editor Chris Randall

Wightlink Raiders celebrate their Play Off title win.
(Photo by Chris Cornford Photography)
The Nihl South 1 Playoffs had more twists and turns than an episode of Eastenders. A team determined to win the Playoffs was the Wightlink  Raiders who faced some adversity with the well published possible closure of their Isle of Wight rink . In a fitting finale the last weekend of the Nihl season saw the islands ice facility secured for the foreseeable future by Ryde Arena Trust  - a  community run company set up to take on the running of the rink.

The Wightlink Raiders saw off Bracknell Hornets  11-5 and London Raiders 20-9  at the Quarter and semi final stage . To set up an intriguing Final against League runners up and Cup Champions, the Invicta Dynamos. The Kent based outfit has a potent attack with the likes of Calum Fowler, Andy Smith and imports Juraj Huska and  Michael Oravec .

Most would have favoured the Dynamos over the two legs .however Wightlink won the home leg with a narrow 3-2 win.  A big crowd was on hand to hear the news of the rinks future and see a last home win. Head coach Jeremy Cornish admitted he wasn't overly confident of success given recent results in the Ice bowl over recent seasons.

It was a nightmare start as  Wightlink's  Star forward Alex Barker went to check a defence man , who ducked and Barker ended up injuring himself after just 38 seconds. To make matters worse  Dynamos Anthony Leone opened the scoring  for the home side at 3.36 . So tied on aggregate most thought the momentum would sit with the home side. However with team captain and local man defenceman Damon Larter playing his last  ever game before retirement the islanders were in determined fashion .

A spell of penalties to Dynamos with defenceman  Dewey and Import Oravec  both binned a 5 on 3 powerplay goal from Raiders Watkins got them back in front. Dynamos looked suspect at the back and Wightlink exploited this time and time again on the break . The Cesky, Tribe, Griffiths  line causing most of the Dynamos problems . Raiders took a rash of penalties as play became chippy. However the penalty kill was in good effect most of the game.

Raiders extended the lead as a 2 on 1 developed with Owen Grithiths score assisted by Ryan Webb. Invicta's  top Brit was increasingly getting frustrated by the tight checking of the Raiders . taking a succession of penalties as  frustration with no room and time  for his quick hands. The game plan seemed to be get Fowler of his game . Which Raiders agitator Corey Watkins was instrumental in succeeding at doing .

The shoe was on other foot when Dynamos finally scored a Powerlay goal as a Billy Phillips blast from the point got then back in the contest. A close first period ended all square 2-2 (4-5 agg) in favour of Wightlink. 

The second period and Raiders Tribe sat in the bin, but Wightlink’s Import Cesky had a shorthanded breakaway spinarama move saved by Dynamos net minder Lee.  With 10.41 left in 2nd period Mo's scored to tie it up on the night . Wigjtlink's Cesky like a man processed raced clear yet again to score from a right angle roofing the puck for 3-3 (5-6 agg) .

A bout of fisticuffs from Mo's Oravec and Raiders Hobbis (with the takedown)  saw  4 on 4 action. With just 46 seconds left on the period Wightlink's  defenceman  Carl Graham speculative dump on net was tipped by Webb to go 4-3 up .(7-5 agg lead) with just one period to go.

Wightlink Raiders owner Geoff Underwood with Chris Randall
(Photo by ...erm... Chris Randall...)
More drama was to unfold in the 3rd as Dynamos Oravec was racing down the wing  and was deemed to have been impended . A gutsy call by ref Paul Brooks saw a penalty shot awarded.  Oravec stepped up himself to take it, but Matty Colclough who put in a man of the match performance wasn't even forced into a save as the Slovak shot high and wide.  Then the dagger in the heart moment came as Stephen Balmer filling in for injured Barker scored from behind the net at 55.10 to further pile misery on the home side with the score at 4-5 to the islanders . Dynamos had a mountain to climb with very little time remaining. 

Timeouts followed as  Invicta Head coach Kevin Parish pulled net minder Lee with 2.20 left. A battle in neutral zone and the puck ended up in the empty net. Dynamos would score one last goal at the very end to trail 6-4. However Wightlink prevailed amid wild celebrations from the 150 strong away following to win 6-4 (9-6 agg ) and win the 2014/2015 Nihl South 1 Play off  Championship .

A great game that was slightly soured at the handshakes as Dynamos frustration got the better of them .  Wightlink Raiders Captain Damon Larter and head Coach Jeremy Cornish joy was obvious . After  being bridesmaids for far too many seasons than they both want to remember it was a great fitting end and  way to cap their season given  the uncertainties the club and rink faced this campaign  . 

Summer will be a sweet one down on the South Coast and the best news is that the Raiders will be back to defend their Play Off title next season!

Report by Chris Randall
Top photo by Chris Cornford Photography
Bottom Photo by Chris Randall 

Sunday 19 April 2015

Sunday Results At A Glance - 19th April

All of Sunday's NIHL results in one place:

South 1 Play Off Final - 2nd leg
Invicta Dynamos 4 - Wightlink Raiders 6

Raiders win 9-6 on aggregate and are Play Off Champions

South 2 Play Off Semi Finals - 2nd leg:
Peterborough Islanders 4 - Bristol Pitbulls 8

Pitbulls win 13-5 on aggregate

Basingstoke Buffalo 0 - Slough Jets 3

Jets win 14-3 on aggregate.

Slough play Bristol in a 2 legged final next weekend.

Photo: Bristol Pitbulls celebrate their semi final win at Peterborough - photo by Flyfifer Photography -

Saturday 18 April 2015

Saturday NIHL Results At A Glance - 18th April

All of Saturday's results in one place:

South 1 Play Off Final - 1st Leg
Wightlink Raiders 3 - Invicta Dynamos 2

South 2 Play Off Semi Finals - 1st Leg
Bristol Pitbulls 5 - Peterborough Islanders 1
Slough Jets 11 - Basingstoke Buffalo 3

More to come - please check back!

Monday 13 April 2015

Presentation of Moralee Conference End Of Season Awards

Blackburn Hawks' Chris Arnone and Adam Brittle with their awards
Photo by John Milton -
The Pro Hockey News Moralee Conference end of season awards were presented on the Saturday night at the Play Off weekend at Dumfries and, as expected, most of the award went to the all conquering Blackburn Hawks.

Coach of the Season award went to Hawks' Jared Owen
Player of the Season went to Hawks' Adam Brittle
and the new award for this year the Fans' Player Of The Season went to Hawks captain Chris Arnone.

The Young Player of the Season award went to Callum Quennan of Whitley Warriors.

Pro Hockey News also compile All Star Teams from the top Moralee Conference players and these will be announced shortly.

As usual, the new 2015 edition of the Ice Hockey Review NIHL yearbook (available in October..!) will feature photos of all award winners and details of the All Star teams. 

Sunday 12 April 2015

Sunday's Results At A Glance - 12th April

Bristol Pitbulls celebrate winning the South 2 West title
(Photo by Flyfifer Photography -
All of Sunday's NIHL results in one place:

Moralee Play Off Final (at Dumfries):
Blackburn Hawks 6 - Billingham Stars 3

Hawks win the League and Play Off double and end the season unbeaten

NIHL North Promotion Play Off - 2nd Leg
Whitley Warriors 11 - Widnes Wild 2 (Warriors win 20-5 on aggregate)

Warriors remain in Moralee Conference and Widnes in Laidler Conference for next season

South 1 Play Off Semi Finals - 2nd Leg:
London Raiders 3 - Wightlink Raiders  8 (Wightlink win 20-9 on aggregate)
Invicta Dynamos 6 - Milton Keynes Thunder  4 (Dynamos win 9-5 on aggregate)

Wightlink Raiders play Invicta Dynamos in the 2-legged final next weekend

South 2 West:
Wightlink Tigers 3 - Bristol Pitbulls 5

Pitbulls are crowned South 2 West Conference champions - Basingstoke Buffalo are runners up.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Saturday Results At A Glance - 11th April

Handshakes after the Hawks v Spartans Moralee
Conference Play Off Semi Final at Dumfries
(Photo by Roy Hodgkinson)
All of Saturday's NIHL results in once place:

Moralee Play Off Semi Finals (at Dumfries):
Blackburn Hawks 4 - Sheffield Spartans 2
Billingham Stars 9 - Solway Sharks 6

Blackburn play Billingham in the final tomorrow at 2pm

Moralee / Laidler Promotion Play Off - 1st Leg:
Widnes Wild 3 - Whitley Warriors 9
Second leg tomorrow

South 1 Play Off Semi Finals - 1st Leg:
Milton Keynes Thunder 1 - Invicta Dynamos 3
Wightlink Raiders 12 - London Raiders 6

South 2 East:
Slough Jets 12 - Chelmsford Warriors 3

South 2 West:
Cardiff Devils 3 - Basingstoke Buffalo 6

Action from the Widnes Wild v Whitley Warriors Promotion Play Off
Photo by Geoff White - caption

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Chelmsford Chieftains Removed From South 1 Play Offs

Chelmsford Chieftains have announced that they have been removed from the South 1 Play Offs by the EIHA for having iced an ineligible player in their quarter final matches against London Raiders.

The Chieftains won their home game 3-6 away and 4-2 at home but both of those games have now been awarded 5-0 to the Raiders.   

London Raiders will now take on Wightlink Raiders in the semi-finals this weekend.

This is an ironic turn of events as London Raiders were themselves removed from the Play Offs at this stage last season after a brawl in their quarter final match at Streatham left them unable to ice a full team for the return leg the next night. 

The EIHA position on Chelmsford icing an ineligible player appears to differ from the situation when Coventry Blaze did a similar thing in the NIHL North promotion play off match against Deeside Dragons in 2013 and no action was taken.

STOP PRESS: Chelmsford Chieftains have announced that they are appealing against this decision - more to follow!

Photo: Raiders' Liam Chong and Chieftains Michael Ranby - by John Scott

Tuesday 7 April 2015

NIHL Moralee Player Awards Shortlists Announced

The shortlists have been announced for the Pro Hockey News NIHL Moralee Conference end of season awards, which will be presented at the Play Off weekend at Dumfries on 11th April. 

The shortlists for each category are as follows:

Player of the Year
Richard Bentham (Solway Sharks)
Adam Brittle (Blackburn Hawks)
Luke Brittle (Blackburn Hawks)

Coach of the Year
Matt Darlow (Sutton Sting)
Jared Owen (Blackburn Hawks)
Martin White (Sheffield Spartans)

Fans Favourite
Chris Arnone (Blackburn Hawks)
Michael Elder (Billingham Stars)
Struan Tonnar (Solway Sharks)

Young Player of the Year
Callum Queenan (Whitley Warriors)
Ben Richards (Whitley Warriors)
Duncan Speirs (Solway Sharks)

You can find out more about the awards and the voting process HERE and we will obviously post the results here on the Ice Hockey Review website next week.

Widnes Wild v Whitley Warriors - Promotion Play Off Preview

The youngest ice hockey club in the country, will meet one of the oldest when the end of season , Promotion/ Relegation play offs take centre stage on April 11th and 12th. The success of the local Widnes Wild squad - in just its second season, will meet one of the great names in British ice hockey - the Whitley Warriors. Warriors, with a history dating back to 1956, have for over 50 years been one of the hotbeds of British hockey talent.
The seaside resort of Whitley Bay, North of Newcastle upon Tyne, is a rare example of a town where ice hockey is the major sport. In recent years its football club, with a compact stadium in the looming shadow of the Hillheads Ice Rink, has made appearances at Wembley in the FA Vase Final. The Warriors are not the national force they once were but they provide the Wild with a major challenge as the young Widnes team aim for a place in the upper tier of the National Ice Hockey League.. The cavernous Hillheads home of the Warriors, was for many years the biggest indoor venue in the North East. Its near 4,000 seats have witnessed appearances from AC/DC, Kiss, Spandau Ballet and Wham, amongst a galaxy of music stars to play the venue.
Within ten years of formation, Whitley Bay, were competing in the top Northern League alongside the top Scottish outfits. During the 1970's they provided a sizeable part of the National World Championship squad. With the formation of the Heineken British League, Whitley Bay took their place in the Premier Division in 1984 -5. Amongst their overseas signings was defenceman, Mike Babcock and he went on to become a leading coach in the NHL, taking the Detroit Redwings to two Stanley Cup Finals. He also led Team Canada to two Winter Olympic Gold Medals. In the 1990's two emerging talents were David Longstaff and Simon Leach. Longstaff is still starring for Guildford Flames in the EPL and Leach is now bench coach for the present Whitley squad.
Wild Head Coach, Mark Gillingham along with Sam Dunford and Richard Charles, is one of the few members of the Widnes club to have played senior hockey in the intimidating atmosphere of Hillheads. In 2007-8 he was a member of the Lancashire Raptors squad which faced the Warriors. In recent weeks he has found time to watch Wild's illustrious opponents in action, during a visit to the North West.
For the home leg of the play off weekend - on Saturday 11th April - doors will open at 16.30, with the big game against the Warriors facing off at 17.30. There is ample parking in the large car park outside the Silverblades rink. There will be a live DJ, video screen and on ice entertainment before the start and catering outlets will be open throughout.
A spokesman for Widnes Wild said ' We advise spectators to arrive as early as possible for this, the biggest game in the club's short history '
Widnes expect to have their two Slovakian stars Filip Supa and Pavel Vales available. Supa currently tops the Laidler Conference goalscorers list. Wild have run up a series of late season victories to take the sought after fourth place in the table and the two leg  promotion play off.
Story by Richard Gillingham
Top: Widnes Wild's Berwyn Hughes, Calum Ruddick and Lee Pollitt by Geoff White -
Bottom: Whitley Warriors' Luc Chabot, Mike Babcock and Scott Morrison during the Heineken League period.
More information from:

Monday 6 April 2015

Laidler Conference Play Off Final

Final Score: Solihull Barons 4 - Telford Tigers 3

Trailing 1-3 after 2 periods, Barons came back to score the winning goal with just 4 seconds left to play.

Period Scores: 0-0 1-3, 3-0
Shots on Goal: Barons 74 - Tigers 29
Penalties In Minutes: Barons 6 - Tigers 14

Barons Scoring: Thomas Soar 3+0, Ryan Selwood 1+0, Niklas Ottoson 0+3, Simon Harrison & Perry Doyle both 0+1

Tigers Scoring: James Smith & Bradley Betteridge both 1+1, Josh Cosgrove 1+0, Karol Jets & Daniel Croft both 0+1

MVPs: Barons - Ryan Selwood, Tigers - Denis Bell

Match Officials: Roy Hamilton (Referee), Elliot Marshall / Stephen Ryder (Linesmen)

Photo: Solihull Barons captain Perry Doyle receives the Play Off trophy from the EIHA's Lynn Faber (photo by Keith & Jenny Davies).

Sunday 5 April 2015

Sunday Results At A Glance - 5th April 2015

All of Sunday's NIHL results in one place.

Laidler Play Off Semi Final (At Solihull)
Telford Tigers 5 - Sheffield Senators 1

Telford play Solihull in final - 6pm Easter Monday

South 1 Play Offs - 2nd Leg:
Invicta Dynamos 8 - Solent Devils 7 (Invicta win 11-10) on aggregate
Milton Keynes Thunder 7 - Streatham Redskins 2 (MKT win 9-4)
Bracknell Hornets 2 - Wightlink Raiders 6 (Raiders win 11-5)
Chelmsford Chieftains 4 - London Raiders 2 (Chieftains win 10-5)

South 2 West:
Cardiff Devils 1 - Bristol Pitbulls 4 (11th game unbeaten in a row for Pitbulls)

Photo: Adrian Smith in action for Bristol Pitbulls away at Cardiff Devils - courtesy of Flyfifer Photography 

Laidler Play Off Semi Final Report: Solihull Barons 12 - Widnes Wild 3

Widnes travelled to Solihull for the Play Off weekend, meeting the hosts Solihull on Saturday evening. A number of players were unavailable due to injury and family commitments. Next week's double header promotion play off with Whitley Bay was also at the forefront of club officials minds.
The game opened at breakneck speed with both netminders making good saves. Wild were struggling to cope with the movement of the Solihull forwards. Tom Jackson took a heavy check on the boards behind the Wild net. After a delay play resumed and in the 2nd minute, Solihull took the lead. As the puck was deflected out , Eaton   fired a low angled shot inside the left hand post. Solihull went down to four skaters after a tripping penalty but despite constructive attack, Wild couldn't apply the finishing touch. After Ruxton had made a great glove save for the visitors, play switched ends and the puck was hooked off the line to prevent a Wild goal. At 12.03, Wild failed to clear the puck and Josh Bruce put Solihull two up with a powerful angled shot from the left. Both sides pressed hard and both netminders were in constant action.
The second period followed a similar pattern to the first. Daniel Bullock broke clear for Wild and his powerful shot was well saved at the right post. Greg Ruxton was coming under tremendous pressure and made a series of saves from close range shots. Wild finally got on the scoreboard at 25.41 when Daniel Bullocks low shot flew low into the net to bring the score to 2- 1. Almost immediately a long pass out of defence by Papps, led to a Solihull attack and Rob Eley  fired in from the left to make the score 3- 1. Ben Brown fired in two powerful shots for Wild, before Filip Supa brought Wild back to 3- 2 with a tremendous rising shot at 32.25 The goal brought the travelling Wild fans to their feet and their vocal and drum support spurred on the visitors. After sustained Wild pressure, Solihull came back into the game and went 4- 2 ahead at 37.22 with Eddie Eaton the scorer. With just a minute of the second remaining, Joe Henry made it 5- 2 with a superbly crafted goal.
The third period opened with Wild putting Hewitt in the Solihull net under constant pressure. It came as no surprise when the visitors scored on the powerplay, Filip Supa bringing the score to 5 -3 from a Lee Pollitt pass at 46.15.Solihull's reply was immediate and savage, as they scored two goals inside thirty seconds from Richard Slater and Thomas Soar. From this point , Solihull benefitted from having five more skaters available, enabling them to score 5 unopposed goals in the last eight minutes.
For threequarters of the game understrength Wild were a good match for opponents unbeaten all season. Shortage of key players and trying to avoid injuries before next week's vital promotion games with Whitley Bay also had an effect. Wild expect the return of four or five key personnel before next weekend.
Whitley Bay, one of the legendary names in British ice hockey, will pay their first ever visit to Widnes for the 1st leg of the promotion play off on Saturday evening - face off 17.30. Doors open at 16.30 and it is hoped that a capacity crowd will be present for the most important game in Wild's short history.

Report by Dick Gillingham
Photo by Steve Pollitt

Saturday 4 April 2015

Saturday Results At A Glance - 4th April 2015

Laidler Play Offs (at Solihull)
Solihull Barons 12 - Widnes Wild 3

South 1 Play Offs - 1st Leg:
Solent Devils 3 - Invicta Dynamos 3
London Raiders 3 - Chelmsford Chieftains 6
Streatham Redskins 2 - Milton Keynes Thunder 2
Wightlink Raiders 5 - Bracknell Hornets 3

South 2 East:
Slough Jets 17 - Haringey Racers 3

South 2 West:
Cardiff Devils 3 - Wightlink Tigers 5

Photo: the teams line up for the first Laidler Play off semi final at Solihull - by Steve Pollitt

Friday 3 April 2015

Laidler Conference Weekend Round Up - 28th & 29th March

Aside from Solihull Barons who finished the season with 32 wins from 32 games with a 2-5 victory away at Nottingham Lions, Deeside Dragons had the best fortune of the weekend with two wins from their final two matches. They won 3-4 away at Blackburn Eagles on Saturday and then demolished 3rd place Sheffield Senators 13-2 at home on Sunday (see a match report HERE ).

Those points mean that Dragons finish in 5th place  8 points adrift of 4th place Widnes Wild who wound up their own league campaign with a 3-10 win away at bottom club Bradford Bulldogs.

Senators had won 5-3 at home to Coventry Blaze on Saturday and finish comfortable in second place, 8 points ahead of Widnes and just two behind runners up Telford Tigers.

In a season that has been difficult to gauge until now statistics-wise due to so many games having been played for double points, it is interesting to note that only Senators, Widnes and Bulldogs actually played all 36 regular matches while Deeside and Nottingham played 34.

Solihull, Telford and Coventry played 32 games each, although the Tigers v Blaze game on 27th December  was awarded 5-0 to the hosts as the Blaze were unable to fulfil the fixture. Hull Jets and Blackburn Eagles only played 28 games - through no fault of their own we should point out - just down to the exigeances of various teams trying to squeeze in more games than originally planned for.

The huge downside of this from a stats point of view is that, while those games may have been played for double points with the winning side taking 4 points for a win instead of two, it still only registers as a single game in terms of player appearances, goals and assists etc so the players who played fewer games had less opportunity to score points than those whose teams played more games. More on this topic in the 2015 Ice Hockey Review NIHL yearbook (out in October!)....

Photo: Deeside's Paul Davies celebrates his goal against Sheffield Senators - by Peter Sheffield 

Solihull Barons Complete Laidler Conference Season With 100% Record!

Solihull Barons wrapped up their second consecutive championship season with a 2-5 win away at Nottingham Lions on Sunday night.  That victory means that the Barons gone through the whole season not only unbeaten but have won all of the 32 games they have played. They finish the season with a maximum 72 points as 4 of their games were played  for double points. 

To say that the Barons have dominated this campaign is an understatement as second placed Telford Tigers - who had already played all their league games before this weekend - finished a distant 16 points behind. The Barons finished with a goal difference of +248 and the nearest again was Telford with +86.

Solihull picked up just one shut out during the regular season - 7-0 away at Deeside - but hit double figures in 14 games. Their highest score was a -27 win away at Bradford Bulldogs in September and the lowest scoring game was 1-4 away at Nottingham in February. The highest tally managed by an opposition team was 6 goals - achieved by Telford in the 6-9 away win on 21st March and also by Blackburn Eagles who only lost 12-6 in Solihull in September. 

Barons players dominated the scoring in the Laidler Conference with 4 of the top 5 playing for Solihull.  However the league's top scorer was actually James Smith of Telford Tigers who finished clear of last season's top marksman Joe Henry.  Barons' Josh Nicholls was top netminder in the Laidler Conference for the second season running, although Telford's Denis Bell picked up more shut outs.