Friday, 19 December 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

NIHL North leaders Blackburn Hawks travel to face Whitley Warriors on Sunday looking to extend their lead at the top of Moralee D1 to seven points.

Hawks have dropped just one point in the league this season, leaving Player/Coach Jared Owen delighted with his team's form.

"I think we've been very consistent at just playing our game," said Owen. "We've been strong defensively - I think the 'D' group have been exceptional and Stu Ashton has come in and done a great job in the nets.

"Offensively we've been creating chances on all three lines and the goals have been a result of the hard work we've been putting in on the forecheck. There's a long way to go in the season, but I'm confident in this group of players and we're just concentrating on one game at a time.

"Whitley will be a very tough game in their rink. Last season they took three points off us when we were in winning positions in the last five minutes, so we know we have to raise our game to get a result.

"It will be a physical game and they have some very good players, so we need to turn up with the right attitude and it will be a big boost to finish the year if we can get a good result there."

The other D1 fixture is on Saturday as Sutton Sting face-off against Sheffield Spartans. Hawks are in British Challenge Cup action on Saturday, with the EPL's Sheffield Steeldogs the visitors to Lancashire. Billingham Stars welcome Peterborough Phantoms to Teesside the following evening.

In Laidler D2, Coventry Blaze bid to kick-start their season as they meet Blackburn Eagles. After a steady start to the campaign, Blaze have won just once in their last ten games leaving them languishing in eighth place.

Forward Dale Buckland (above) admits the season has been frustrating so far: "We've lost points where we should have taken them. We have a good team, but for some reason we get side-tracked instead of using our systems and plays that were implemented at the start of the season.

"We've lost some influential players, but it's a long season and there's a lot more games to play. We need to step it up and put in a good run from now until the end.

"It's already been said how much the Eagles have improved this season. We shared the points last time and I expect it to be close again. It's worth double points as well so there's more to gain and more to lose. We want to try and improve our league position, because it's not where we want to be at all."

There are three other games in D2 this weekend, with Widnes Wild playing Sheffield Senators and Telford Tigers NIHL facing Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday, while Nottingham Lions meet Bradford on Sunday.

(Image permission: Scott Wiggins)

Monday, 15 December 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 14th December)

Whitley Warriors and Billingham Stars shared the spoils after their first NIHL North Moralee D1 derby of the season ended in a disappointing 1-1 draw.

Josh Hay (3) led the scoring for Solway Sharks as they won 15-1 at home to Manchester Minotaurs.

Blackburn Hawks were defeated 7-1 by the EPL's Peterborough Phantoms in the British Challenge Cup – Alan Lack scored four.

Laidler D2 leaders Solihull Barons maintained their 100% record, but only after an almighty scare at Telford Tigers NIHL. The hosts led 3-1 early in the final period, but Barons fought back to secure a 4-3 victory – Thomas Soar (above) scored the winner. Barons found things more comfortable back on home ice, winning 16-2 against Coventry Blaze.

Nottingham Lions triumphed 12-4 at Bradford Bulldogs – Slav Kasprzak grabbed a hat-trick – but a James Smith goal 50 seconds from time condemned them to a 2-1 loss at home to Telford. Sergevs Jegorovs scored three for Sheffield Senators in their 6-3 success at Hull Jets. Deeside Dragons won 11-0 at home to Bradford - Si Furnival (2) & Jack Meadows (2) were amongst the scorers.

Invicta Dynamos are up to second in NIHL1 South after a four-point weekend. Steve Osman’s late empty netter capped a 3-1 home win against Wightlink Raiders and Dynamos followed up with a 4-1 success at MK Thunder.

In NIHL2S, Lee Valley Lions had a tough time one home ice losing 6-1 to Chelmsford Warriors and 4-1 to Peterborough Islanders. Conor Pollard hit a hat-trick for Peterborough in their 10-2 D2 Cup game against Swindon Wildcats NIHL.

EPL leaders Telford Tigers slipped to a 5-4 defeat at Swindon Wildcats, but bounced back in style with a 4-1 victory on home ice against Guildford Flames. Tomas Malasinski scored three for Swindon in their 11-3 success at MK Lightning. Basingstoke Bison had a miserable weekend, losing 2-1 at MK Lightning and 7-3 at Sheffield Steeldogs.

Sheffield Steelers lead the Elite League after picking up a pair of victories. They won 4-1 at home to Cardiff Devils and followed up with a 4-2 road success at Coventry Blaze. Belfast Giants slipped to a 3-2 loss at Hull Stingrays, but recovered to secure an impressive 6-3 win at Nottingham Panthers.

Braehead Clan had a mixed weekend on the road. They cruised to an 8-2 success at Fife Flyers, but failed to follow up as they lost 6-5 after overtime at Cardiff. Jade Portwood grabbed the decider in Edinburgh Capitals' 3-2 win at home to Coventry.

Ned Lukacevic hit the winner for Fife in their 6-5 shoot-out victory at Edinburgh. Dundee Stars won 2-1 after overtime against Hull. Nottingham won 7-2 at Fife in the quarter-final first leg of the Elite Challenge Cup.

Great Britain U20 secured promotion back to World Championship Division 1B with a clean sweep of victories in Estonia. GB defeated Netherlands, Lithuania and Romania, before a 5-4 shoot-out win against Korea clinched the gold medal. They completed a successful week with a 3-1 win against the hosts.

(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)

Friday, 12 December 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

Third plays first in NIHL North Laidler D2 this weekend, as Telford Tigers NIHL welcome unbeaten Solihull Barons to Shropshire on Saturday.

Leaders Solihull currently hold a ten point advantage over Sheffield Senators, with Tigers a further two points behind, but with games in hand on the Barons a victory for the home team would keep them in the hunt for the title.

A record crowd for the NIHL in Telford is set to watch the game, with club bosses keen to give Tigers' youngsters a taste of playing in front of a large fanbase.

Head Coach Scott McKenzie (left) said: "These local derbies always bring a lot of excitement, especially with a large travelling support from Solihull.

"I don't want our guys to get overawed though, and it's essential they go out and enjoy the occasion. We have the ability to give Solihull a very good game, but there's no pressure on our players. If we manage to spring a surprise then great, but that will only come through hard work and heart. We have that in abundance."

The teams met in Solihull earlier this season with Barons securing an 8-4 win, and McKenzie is hoping for revenge as they bid to catch the runaway leaders.

He added: "We all know the history of Telford and Solihull, but to be honest we have to look at the bigger picture. Until first place is out of reach, that's what our target is. We've only dropped four points this season, so beating Solihull would really put pressure on them in the New Year.

"This week we have been working on our systems to make it really difficult for Solihull, or any other team we play against. No matter what happens on Saturday, our guys have come a long way. The development and progression has been great so far."

Both teams are in action on Sunday, with Solihull facing Coventry Blaze while Telford travel to Nottingham Lions. Hull Jets meet the Senators and Deeside Dragons host Bradford Bulldogs. There's one other fixture on Saturday with Bradford facing-off against Nottingham.

In Moralee D1, Whitley Warriors welcome Billingham Stars to Hillheads on Sunday for the first North-East derby of the season.

Victory for Whitley would take them above their local rivals and into the play-off places, while Stars are hoping to find some consistency after winning just two of their previous five league games.

Warriors are without long-term absentees Adam Reynolds and Jordan Barnes, with Jamie Pattison still out for Billingham. However, the visitors are hopeful Callum Davies has recovered from an injury picked up at Blackburn Hawks a fortnight ago.

The remaining games see Solway Sharks face Manchester Minotaurs in the league, while the Hawks travel to the EPL's Peterborough Phantoms on Sunday in the British Challenge Cup.

(Image permission: Telford Tigers)

Monday, 8 December 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 7th December)

Brace for Bentham at Billingham
Blackburn Hawks moved seven points clear at the top of NIHL North Moralee D1 after a 4-1 victory at Solway Sharks.

The Dumfries outfit bounced back to win by the same scoreline at Billingham Stars – Richard Bentham (2) led their scoring. Richie Oliver's goal 12 seconds from time secured a 4-4 draw for Sutton Sting at Sheffield Spartans.

Laidler D2 leaders Solihull Barons won 17-1 at home to Bradford Bulldogs - Niklas Ottosson scored five.

Widnes Wild picked up a pair of road victories, winning 4-2 at Blackburn Eagles and 8-5 at Deeside Dragons. Nottingham Lions won 14-4 at home to Hull Jets, while Coventry Blaze triumphed 2-1 against Sheffield Senators.

Chelmsford Chieftains still lead NIHL1S after a 7-2 win at home to London Raiders. Streatham Redskins had a miserable weekend, losing 8-7 at Bracknell Hornets and 6-1 at home to Wightlink Raiders. The islanders also drew 4-4 with MK Thunder.

Juraj Huska scored four in Invicta Dynamos' 11-2 success against Cardiff NIHL1. Oxford lost 4-2 at London, but failed to follow up as they crashed 10-2 at Solent Devils. MK Thunder won 3-0 at home to Bracknell.

In NIHL2S, Peterborough Islanders won 8-1 at home to Lee Valley Lions – Nathan Pollard & Brad Moore both hit hat-tricks. Cardiff NIHL2 won 3-2 at Bristol Pitbulls, while Chelmsford Warriors eased to a 6-2 success at Haringey Racers.

Invicta Mustangs fell 6-4 at Lee Valley and Swindon Wildcats NIHL drew 5-5 with Basingstoke Buffalo. Alan Green & Liam Underwood both grabbed hat-tricks in Slough Jets' 9-4 D2 Cup win at Wightlink Tigers.

EPL teams continued their dominance over their NIHL counterparts with a quartet of victories in the British Challenge Cup. Telford Tigers won 5-2 at Blackburn Hawks, MK Lightning defeated Chelmsford Chieftains 5-2 and Bracknell Bees downed Wightlink Raiders 7-2. Michael Wales & Tomas Karpov both scored three in Basingstoke Bison’s 10-1 win at home to Invicta Dynamos.

Telford Tigers still lead the EPL after a 7-2 home win against Sheffield Steeldogs. Guildford Flames enjoyed a four-point weekend, winning 3-1 at home to Bracknell Bees and 3-2 at Sheffield.

Manchester Phoenix fell 4-2 at Swindon Wildcats, but bounced back with a 7-0 home win against Bracknell. Peterborough Phantoms won 4-2 at Basingstoke, but Jan Kostal's strike condemned them to a 4-3 defeat at home to Swindon.

Braehead Clan lead the Elite League after a pair of wins. Chris Frank hit the decider in 2-1 success against Fife Flyers and they followed up with a 6-4 victory at home to Hull Stingrays. Rod Dowd grabbed the decider as Sheffield Steelers defeated Nottingham Panthers 3-2 and they added a 4-1 win at Fife.

Cardiff Devils secured a pair of home wins against Belfast Giants, securing 4-1 & 5-3 successes. Coventry Blaze lost 5-3 at Hull and 4-3 at home to Nottingham. Edinburgh Capitals won 3-2 at Dundee Stars and picked up another two points with victory by the same scoreline in the reverse fixture.

(Image permission: David Morrison)

Friday, 5 December 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

With Solihull Barons continuing to sweep all before them in NIHL North Laidler D2, a number of other teams are still jostling for promotion to Moralee D1.

Telford Tigers NIHL are currently third, but with just two defeats so far this term they're well placed to take one of the other two guaranteed slots on offer.

Second placed Sheffield Senators travel to Coventry Blaze on Saturday, while fourth plays fifth on Sunday as Deeside Dragons meet Widnes Wild.

Dragons lead their visitors by three points going into the weekend, although the gap could close on Saturday as Wild travel to Blackburn Eagles.

Deeside have struggled for consistency this term, but last week's victory against Coventry left Player/Coach Steve Fellows in a buoyant mood.

He commented: "It was a really good performance and as well as we have moved the puck all season. Quite a few supporters came up to me at the end and said that was the best we’ve played and I’m inclined to agree.

"There was an element of confidence about our play which hasn’t been there for a while. It was nice to see and I have to say the second line were magnificent and got most of our goals.

"Aled Roberts was brilliant and deservedly got MVP. We were at full strength for the first time this season and it made a difference getting the more senior players in from the off. When it's like that everyone gains more confidence and it seemed to make everyone more competitive and they all worked harder as a result."

Nottingham Lions are another team who've struggled to string results together, but last weekend’s 17-3 win at home to Bradford Bulldogs was a welcome boost to their hopes. Lions face Hull Jets on Sunday and defenseman Adam Andrews (above) believes they can still mount a promotion challenge.

"Last week was a very good team performance," said Andrews. "The last couple of weekends we've had losses by the odd goal, but with the run of games we've got coming up we needed a good performance.

"It's a confidence booster for the game against Hull. Hopefully it's the start of a string of results and we can move up the table. We're not in the position we should be, but that's through not closing out games properly.

"We've got 18 games left, 11 of those at home, so if we get points from them we can finish third, potentially second, but the key is one game at a time and keep working hard in training.

"Sunday's game is business as usual for us. We know our schedule doesn't get any easier after Christmas, so it's vital to pick up points at home against teams around us and Hull are one of those.

"Last time out they came short-benched, but we're expecting a better turn out this weekend. Hopefully we can put in the same performance we did against them a few weeks ago, but with the clinical finishing we showed against Bradford.

"The most important thing is we have a happy camp with everyone working for each other. Regardless of results we need to keep that togetherness at this point in the season and push on for points."

The remaining D2 game is on Sunday as Solihull host Bradford.

D1 leaders Blackburn Hawks are at Solway Sharks on Saturday, before returning to home ice the following evening to face the EPL's Telford Tigers in the British Challenge Cup. Solway are at Billingham Stars in the league on Sunday, while Sheffield Spartans face-off against Sutton Sting.

(Image permission: Peter McConnochie)

Monday, 1 December 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 30th November)

Blackburn Hawks moved five points clear at the top of NIHL North Moralee D1 after an 8-1 victory at home to Sutton Sting.

Solway Sharks returned to winning ways with a 5-2 home success against Whitley Warriors. Sheffield Spartans triumphed 10-4 at Manchester Minotaurs.

Solihull Barons retained their unbeaten Laidler D2 record with a 7-2 win at home to Sheffield Senators – Josh Bruce bagged a hat-trick. Telford Tigers NIHL gained their revenge for last week's defeat at Widnes with an 8-4 road success against Wild.

Stuart Parker (left) & Ivo Dimitrijevs both hit hat-tricks for Nottingham Lions in their 17-3 demolition of Bradford Bulldogs. Deeside Dragons won 9-4 at home to Coventry Blaze. James Riddoch scored a couple in Blackburn Eagles' 7-2 success at Bradford.

Chelmsford Chieftains still lead NIHL1S after a 4-0 home win against Bracknell Hornets – Ross Brears (2) & Matt Turner (2) got the goals. Streatham Redskins enjoyed a four-point weekend, winning 9-3 at home to Cardiff NIHL1 and 8-4 at Oxford City Stars.

Invicta Dynamos are now third after a 6-1 win at London Raiders. Jaroslav Cesky scored three in Wightlink Raiders' 4-1 home success against London. Solent Devils lost 6-4 at Bracknell and 5-4 at home to MK Thunder.

Sam Roberts scored three for Haringey Racers in their 6-5 NIHL2S home victory against Lee Valley Lions. Basingstoke Buffalo won 4-3 at Cardiff NIHL2, while Peterborough Islanders won 9-1 at Swindon Wildcats NIHL in the D2 Cup.

In the British Challenge Cup, Billingham fell 8-3 at home to Blackburn Hawks. Chelmsford lost 5-1 at Guildford Flames, Wightlink were beaten 6-0 at MK Lightning and Invicta were defeated 8-4 at home to Swindon Wildcats.

EPL leaders Telford Tigers' winning run came to an end after a 6-5 shoot-out loss at home to Manchester Phoenix – Frantisek Bakrlik hit the winner. Basingstoke Bison lost 4-2 on home ice against Telford, but bounced back with a 5-2 win at Peterborough. The Phantoms picked up two points with a 5-4 success at home to Manchester.

Sheffield Steeldogs lost 5-4 at Swindon Wildcats, but recovered to win 5-1 at Bracknell Bees – Jeff Legue hit a hat-trick. MK Lightning won 4-1 at home to Guildford.

Belfast Giants beat Sheffield Steelers 4-3 after a shoot-out to record their first victory Elite League victory in three attempts over their title rivals this season. The defeat completed a miserable weekend for the Steelers who also lost 6-2 at Coventry Blaze.

Braehead Clan remain in the title mix after a comfortable 7-3 home win against Cardiff Devils. Nottingham Panthers won 4-0 at Hull Stingrays and 3-1 at home to Coventry. Edinburgh Capitals picked up two shoot-out victories, winning 2-1 at Dundee Stars and 3-2 at home to Hull. Dundee also fell 3-1 on home ice against Cardiff.

In the Elite Challenge Cup, Belfast won 3-2 at Fife Flyers – Calvin Elfring hit the overtime decider.

(Image permission: Peter McConnochie)

Friday, 28 November 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

Laidler D2 leaders Solihull Barons are already planning for life higher up the NIHL North scale.

Barons comfortably won the Laidler title last season, but with no promotion place on offer they stayed at the lower level.

With promotion/relegation reinstated, Barons are yet to drop a point this season and look certain to go up to Moralee D1, leaving Vice Chairman Andy Gordon with his eyes fixed firmly on the future.

He commented: "Technically we could buy our way into the English Premier League, but this would mean we'd need a lot of money. We'd also lose a lot of players as most would not want to commit or could not commit to playing two games most weekends and training most days.

"We need to have a sustainable plan to keep from going from boom to bust. There are many rinks up and down the country that have had great plans in the past and are now just memories, including at Solihull.

"Let's look forward to the rest of this season – crowds are officially up in numbers from last season; the Barons are undefeated for over a year – and look forward (fingers crossed) to next season in Moralee D1 with the best team and the best supporters around."

There are four other games in D2 this weekend. Bradford Bulldogs meet Blackburn Eagles on Saturday, while Widnes Wild v Telford Tigers NIHL, Deeside Dragons v Coventry Blaze and Nottingham Lions v Bradford completes the line-up on Sunday.

In Moralee D1, Manchester Minotaurs will look to pick up their first points of the season as they welcome Sheffield Spartans to Altrincham on Saturday. Solway Sharks face-off against Whitley Warriors and Blackburn Hawks play Sutton Sting.

Billingham Stars are in British Challenge Cup action on Sunday evening as they welcome the Hawks to Teesside. Stars have faced their visitors twice already this season, losing heavily in Lancashire in both the League and Cup.

Stars' Director of Coaching Terry Ward is keen to set the record straight: “I don’t need to get the lads up for this one – if I did have to say anything to them in the dressing room then something would be wrong.

"We owe these guys and the boys know it. It won't be easy, but there's no way we want Blackburn strolling in here and just taking the points. We're going to give them a game.

"They'll be confident of the win I'm sure, but we need to give them something to think about. If we do the things that we have been doing – working hard, forechecking hard, chasing everything down – then we will be much better placed to get a result.

"This is our pad, it's a little smaller, and it will give us the opportunity to shut their dangermen down and frustrate them, get them to make mistakes. If we can keep working the way we have been doing lately then we've got every chance."

(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)

Monday, 24 November 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 23rd November)

Barons' Jack McKay (left) celebrates 1st senior goal
Chelmsford Chieftains became the second NIHL South team to defeat EPL opponents in the British Challenge Cup with a 4-1 success against Bracknell Bees.

Blahoslav Novak (4) & Peter Szabo (3) led the scoring for Telford Tigers in their 12-1 win at Solway Sharks. Invicta Dynamos lost 7-1 at Bracknell and 9-1 at home to Guildford Flames.

Basingstoke Bison enjoyed a pair of home victories, winning 4-1 & 9-1 against Chelmsford and Wightlink Raiders respectively.

In NIHL1S, Wightlink won 6-1 at home to Bracknell Hornets. The visitors bounced back in style on home ice with an 8-4 victory against Cardiff NIHL1 – JJ Pitchley & Dan Rose both hit hat-tricks.

MK Thunder won 4-1 at home to Oxford City Stars, while London Raiders fell 5-1 at Cardiff. Raiders also suffered a 7-3 home defeat against Streatham Redskins in the D1 Cup.

Slough Jets are still unbeaten in NIHL2S after a 9-1 win at home to Lee Valley Lions. Swindon Wildcats NIHL drew 6-6 with Bristol Pitbulls. In the D2 Cup, Basingstoke Buffalo won 10-4 at Wightlink Tigers and Chelmsford Warriors drew 5-5 with Peterborough Islanders.

Blackburn Hawks remain three points clear at the top of NIHL1N after a 5-1 win at home to Solway Sharks. Billingham Stars secured a second successive league shut-out with a 3-0 home success against Sheffield Spartans. Whitley Warriors triumphed 4-0 at Sutton Sting.

NIHL2N leaders Solihull Barons hit double figures for the seventh time this season with a 10-2 win at home to Deeside Dragons – Josh Bruce (3) led their scoring. Sheffield Senators crashed 5-0 at Telford Tigers NIHL, but bounced back with a 4-3 home success against Nottingham Lions.

Widnes Wild enjoyed a productive weekend on home ice, securing a 3-1 victory over Nottingham and a 3-2 success against Telford. James Riddoch scored three for Blackburn Eagles in their 10-4 home win against Bradford Bulldogs.

Telford Tigers still lead the EPL after a 7-4 win at home to Peterborough Phantoms – Jason Silverthorn (2) & Joe Miller (2) were amongst Tigers' scorers. Manchester Phoenix lost 4-3 at Guildford, but recovered to win 3-2 after a shoot-out at home to MK Lightning – Tony Hand scored the decider.

Tomasz Malasinski & Aaron Nell both scored twice in Swindon Wildcats' 5-1 victory at Sheffield Steeldogs. James Ferrara's last minute goal sealed a 4-3 win for Peterborough at MK Lightning.

Sheffield Steelers are the new leaders of the Elite League. Steelers began the weekend with a 2-0 win at Braehead, but Clan gained their revenge the following evening with a 5-3 victory. Mathieu Roy's overtime strike against Coventry Blaze secured a 3-2 win and send Steelers top for the first time this season.

Nottingham Panthers won 5-3 at Fife Flyers, but failed to make it a four-point weekend as they slipped to a 4-3 overtime defeat on home ice against Dundee Stars. Cardiff Devils won 8-3 at Coventry and 10-0 at home to Edinburgh Capitals. Carl Lauzon's late empty netter capped a 5-3 win for Hull Stingrays at home to Dundee.

Belfast Giants bowed out of the Continental Cup at Semi-Final stage despite winning two of their three group games. Giants began with a 1-0 win against Neman Grodno (Belarus), before losing 2-1 to Angers (France).

A 5-3 victory against HK Sanok (Poland) wasn't enough as their goal difference and number of goals scored in the head-to-head games against Grodno and Angers were not enough to finish better than third in the table.

(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)

Friday, 21 November 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

Solway Sharks continue the defence of their NIHL North crown on Sunday with a tricky looking trip to Blackburn Hawks.

Sharks made a slow start to their Moralee D1 campaign, but two wins earlier in the month have kept them in touch with the leading pack.

Head Coach Martin Grubb said: "We're looking forward to the game on Sunday and we want to keep our decent league form going.

"We've added depth by bringing Jens Engelen and Josh Hay in, and getting Frazer Goldie back is like a new signing so we now have more options in our line-up.

"Jared (Owen) has built a really good team and they've shown quality and consistency so we know this will be a tough game, but we go into it in a confident manner and will be looking to claw some points back and prove we're back in the title hunt.

"I'm sure it will be a close, physical game and it will be a good advert for our league and we will be ready to play and stop the Hawks unbeaten start in the league."

Billingham Stars are also in action on Sunday as they meet Sheffield Spartans, while Sutton Sting and Whitley Warriors face-off the previous day. The teams met at Hillheads earlier in the season, with Warriors sealing a 4-2 win, but Sting defenseman Scott Glover (above) believes they can gain revenge back on home ice.

"This season has been difficult so far," said Glover. "We've lost some good players over the summer, whilst adding a few new ones and it all takes time for them to gel.

"All the guys have work, family and other commitments so it's hard to set the lines as it's a different team each week. Matt (Darlow) is doing a great job and the 8-1 win against Billingham really showed what we can do when we turn a full team out.

"The losses at Whitley and Billingham were disappointing, but having gone with two lines we came out of both games with our heads held high. If we have a full team this weekend there’s no reason why we can't beat Whitley and grab those two valuable points."

There's one other game on Saturday, with Solway facing the EPL's Telford Tigers in the British Challenge Cup.

Widnes Wild bid to return to winning ways in Laidler D2 this weekend with two games on home ice. Wild face Nottingham Lions on Saturday, before meeting Telford Tigers NIHL the following day and forward Shaun Dippnall is targeting two victories.

"Last weekend we had two tough games, especially heading to Solihull with 11 skaters, but I still feel we were unlucky to come away from the weekend without any points," said Dippnall.

"This week we have another tough double-header facing Nottingham, who we always have good close games with, and Telford who we're a bit unsure about. Judging from their previous results they look like a very strong team. We're looking for four points but we know it will be a big ask."

Deeside Dragons travel to Solihull on Sunday looking to become the first team to take points off the runaway leaders. Forward Chris Jones bagged four goals in last week's win against Blackburn Eagles and he's looking forward to facing the Barons.

"Having played 17 games already I don't think we've had the best start to the season as our results show," said Jones. "We lost a few great players from last season, but we've added some great replacements.

"The team is starting to come together now and I think we'll start picking up a lot more wins. Most teams have improved so much from last season, and that has shown with us struggling to get going and losing some big games."

"We go to Solihull on Sunday which is a tough rink to go to, and with them not losing a game yet it's going to be very a hard game. I'd love to beat them in their own rink, but we'll have to be at our very best to have a chance of that."

The remaining D2 games see Telford play Sheffield Senators and the Eagles meet Bradford Bulldogs on Saturday, while Sens face-off against the Lions on Sunday.

(Image permission: Gary Apsley)

Monday, 17 November 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 16th November)

Sheffield Spartans returned to winning ways in NIHL North Moralee D1 with a 5-2 victory at home to Manchester Minotaurs – Stuart Brittle (2) led their scoring.

In the British Challenge Cup, Solway Sharks fell 10-2 at Manchester Phoenix and Billingham Stars lost 10-1 at home to Sheffield Steeldogs.

Laidler D2 leaders Solihull Barons remain unbeaten after a 9-5 success against Widnes Wild.

Telford Tigers NIHL boosted their promotion hopes with a four-point weekend. James Smith scored twice in their 5-1 home victory against Coventry Blaze, while Karol Jets & Joe Aston both scored two in a 6-0 win at Sheffield Senators.

Sens held on to second place with a 4-3 win at home to Widnes. Deeside enjoyed a 7-5 home success against Blackburn Eagles – Chris Jones (above) scored four for the Dragons. Nottingham Lions won 7-1 on home ice against Hull Jets.

Chelmsford Chieftains moved two points clear at the top of NIHL1 South with a pair of victories. Chieftains won 6-4 at London Raiders and followed up with a 2-0 home success against Wightlink Raiders.

Streatham Redskins stay second after a 7-1 win at Solent Devils, while Invicta Dynamos move into third after a 9-3 success at Cardiff NIHL1 and a 2-1 victory at home to MK Thunder. Alex Murray's hat-trick goal in the final minute sealed a 6-5 win for Solent at Wightlink. Oxford City Stars won 2-1 against MK Thunder.

Slough Jets retained their 100% record in NIHL2S with an 8-2 win at Invicta Mustangs. Peterborough Islanders won 10-2 against the Mustangs, while Basingstoke Buffalo won by the odd goal in three at home to Cardiff NIHL2.

In the D2 Cup, Chelmsford Warriors won 5-3 at home to Swindon Wildcats NIHL and 4-2 at Bristol Pitbulls. Wightlink Tigers fell 4-3 on home ice against Haringey Racers.

Telford Tigers are eight points clear at the top of the EPL after another successful weekend. Tigers won 6-3 at MK Lightning and followed up with a 6-1 home victory against Basingstoke Bison. Two Aaron Connolly goals kept Bison in second place after a 2-1 win at home to Swindon Wildcats.

Guildford Flames had a miserable time on the road, losing 5-4 at Peterborough Phantoms and 5-3 at Manchester Phoenix. Phantoms also won 2-0 at Bracknell Bees. Sheffield Steeldogs lost 4-3 at Bracknell and Swindon fell 3-1 at home to MK Lightning.

Evan Cheverie sent Belfast Giants back to the top of the Elite League with the decider in a 2-1 home success against Nottingham Panthers. Sheffield Steelers enjoyed a productive weekend on home ice, after a 4-2 win against the Giants and a 4-1 victory over Braehead Clan.

Cardiff Devils won 3-2 after a shoot-out at Nottingham and 5-4 at home to Dundee Stars. Chris Auger hit a hat-trick for Fife Flyers in their 6-2 home success against Braehead, but they failed to follow up after slipping to a 4-3 defeat at Edinburgh. That result sealed a rare four-point weekend for the Capitals who also won 3-2 at Dundee.

In the Elite Challenge Cup, Coventry Blaze won 4-3 at home to Hull Stingrays, but fell by the same scoreline after a shoot-out in the reverse fixture.

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

Friday, 14 November 2014

NIHL North weekend preview

Sheffield Spartans bid to return to winning ways in NIHL North this weekend as they welcome Manchester Minotaurs to IceSheffield.

Spartans made a solid start to their Moralee D1 campaign, losing just one of their opening four games, but defeats in recent weeks to Blackburn Hawks and Solway Sharks have seen them drop to sixth in the table.

Although Saturday's opponents are still without a point this season, defenseman Jonathan Kirk is taking nothing for granted.

"There are no easy games in the league this year and with the shortened season, there's less room for error," said Kirk. "We need to start putting points on the board and Manchester won't be light work.

"They've taken leads into the second period, but seem to run out of legs towards the end of games, so we'll be looking to set them back and gain an early lead.

"We've noticeably improved from last season with the addition of a few younger players such as Ben Jones and Charlie Thompson, plus a few of the guys returning from time out of the game. We've had a few results go against us with big scores that don't really reflect how we're playing. We just seem to be getting punished for minor lapses of concentration and we're working hard to fix it.

"We showed in the games against Whitley and our first home fixture against Solway that when we play the full 60 minutes of a game we can compete with anyone, but the task now is to play every game like that. Our goal is to make the play-offs and I personally think if we don't we've disappointed as a team."

Two D1 teams are in British Challenge Cup action this weekend, with Solway travelling to the EPL's Manchester Phoenix on Saturday, while Billingham stars face-off against Sheffield Steeldogs the following evening.

In Laidler D2, Telford Tigers NIHL face a weekend double-header as they look to close the gap on leaders Solihull Barons. On Saturday they host Coventry Blaze, before a trip to second-placed Sheffield Senators on Sunday.

Both of Telford's previous games against those sides have ended in narrow one-goal wins, and Head Coach Scott McKenzie is expecting more of the same this weekend.

He said: "Coventry are a tough side, despite their league position, and have a lot of experience in their line-up. It will be a very tough game at home against them. Sheffield are also a very hard-working team. We beat them by the odd goal at the start of the season, but they've improved a lot.

"We've also made a lot of improvements as well, so it should be an exciting game. With having a few weeks without games, we've been working the guys pretty hard at training. I'm really happy with the way they've responded. The whole squad is excited to get back into some game time. Hopefully we'll end the weekend with another four points."

Sens are also in action on Saturday with a home game against Widnes Wild. The remaining D2 games are all on Sunday, with Solihull meeting Widnes, Deeside Dragons facing-off against Blackburn Eagles and Nottingham Lions playing Hull Jets.

(Image permission: David Morrison)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Sheffield Winter Classic 2014 - The Managers

The inaugural Sheffield Winter Classic may never hit the heights of its NHL namesake, but for those involved it's a very special event in its own right.

Sheffield Spartans and Sheffield Senators are scheduled to face each other over Christmas for their first ever competitive game, and organisers are eagerly anticipating an evening they hope will showcase ice hockey in the city.

Lynn Faber, Spartans' Team Manager, said: "Expectations, hopes and dreams, the future - this game is not just a game to all involved; it's something special, something to build on and grow with.

"Sheffield has always had strong connections with their teams; it's one of the things I love about the hockey and connection we have. Right from the days of Queens Road; everyone knew everyone and the family feel has been tangible.

"This game will bring some of that together with a game of hockey that will be a tough affair, with both teams wanting to hold the trophy for the first time. The buzz of excitement around the game, sharing on social media, the chatter around the rink, the ideas and agenda all coming together in the final stages of organisation is extremely exciting to be part of.

"Everyone involved has already done above and beyond what was discussed at our first meeting. Our target crowd of 500 supporters may have seemed like a pipe dream to some in the early days - now we feel it's almost an understatement.

"Of course I'll be looking for a Spartans win, but I've known the players from both teams for far too many years to remember and they're all great lads. I personally can't wait for the game. I’m excited, anxious and nervous - but as with everything, if you're not you shouldn't be doing it.

"For the future, I hope it's a huge success and becomes an annual event at IceSheffield over the Christmas period. Let's become something other teams and leagues talk about.

"Lynn's counterpart at the Senators, Barbara Walker, added: "I'm very excited about the Winter Classic. It will be a great game of hockey played with true Sheffield passion - a passion that runs right through from the juniors up to our two senior teams.

"At the start of the season this fixture was on neither team's calendar, but ever since it was agreed to play each other the expectations have been for a very competitive game.

"Looking at the two teams Spartans should be the favourites, but the Senators are having an exceptional season and if they continue playing with their true grit, determination and passion, anything can happen. We are a hustle quick and never quit team, but we are a family and this brings the best out of each other - we play with heart and as a team.

"There's no limit to what can be accomplished and only the day will tell this, but I'm sure the fire will be burning in our boys bellies and we'll go there for the win. As long as everyone goes out there, plays their best and enjoys the game, that's all we can ask for. It promises to be a great game and one to enjoy for any ice hockey fan, regardless of which team they support.

"I just want everyone to enjoy the day and in that regard there can only be one winner - Sheffield Ice Hockey! A big thank you to everyone who has put their time and effort into organising this day, it will be great occasion."

The Sheffield Winter Classic takes place on Saturday, 27 December. For further details please click here.