Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New Cup competition for EPL/NIHL

The EIHA have announced a restructured Challenge Cup competition for season 2014/15.

English Premier League and National Ice Hockey League teams will take part in the regionally structured tournament, which has been designed to allow them to develop home-grown talent in a competitive environment.

EIHA Chairman Ken Taggart said: "This is a very exciting competition and to have clubs from different leagues play each other is fantastic.

"For the supporters it means they’ll have the chance to see teams they wouldn't normally see. I expect the NIHL teams will want to take a scalp when they come up against the EPL sides. Of course, the EPL players won't want to lose face, so the matches will be very well-fought.

"I've wanted the Challenge Cup to be a major part of the season for some time and now we have a format that will do that. Games between sides from different leagues will be played under NIHL rules, with EPL teams having to name just two imports in their line-ups.

"The matches played by teams in the same league will come under normal rules. Clubs can also nominate to play dual-purpose games, with points also counting towards league positions.

A number of sponsors have committed their support to the competition, including Telford Tigers' owners Red Touch Media.Wayne Scholes, CEO of Red Touch Media, said: "It's one of the ambitions of the league owners to improve links between the two leagues and see great collaboration between all involved in ice hockey in the UK.

"This competition will foster those links, while also giving British players the chance to show what they're capable of. This is ultimately about growing British talent and the competition is a great chance to showcase that talent.

"When we first looked at doing this, we immediately saw the potential of a quality challenge cup competition. The EIHA have been supportive in developing the competition and I believe it will become a major part of the ice hockey calendar.

"Since we came into Telford, Red Touch Media have sought to do things in a different way, so we're happy to support the competition. This is part of that process and the fans will enjoy a really great competition."

The teams have been confirmed as follows:

North: Manchester Phoenix, Telford Tigers, Peterborough Phantoms. Sheffield Steeldogs, Solway Sharks, Blackburn Hawks, Billingham Stars.

South: Guildford Flames, Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Bees, Swindon Wildcats, MK Lightning, Chelmsford Chieftains, Wightlink Raiders, Invicta Dynamos.

Friday, 18 July 2014

NIHL round-up

Billingham Stars have confirmed three more returnees to their roster ahead of the upcoming NIHL North 2014/15 season.

Paul Windridge (left), James Pattison and Ben Davison have all agreed another year with the Teessiders as they continue to build for the new Moralee D1 campaign.

Whitley youngsters Callum Queenan and Kyle Hindmarsh-Ross will both be part of the Warriors' senior squad next term. The duo also played U18 hockey last season and will continue to do so this year as they look to continue their development.

In Laidler D2, Solihull Barons have announced two new signings with Tom Soar and Dan Harrison moving to Hobs Moat Road. Soar switches from the EPL's Peterborough Phantoms, while Harrison iced for Telford last season in the EPL with the Tigers and NIHLN for the Titans.

Barons have also re-signed eight of last year's title winning squad with Josh Nicholls, Sam Hewitt, Rob Eley, Josh Bruce, Phil Knight, Kieran Papps, Dave Roger and Richard & Eddie Slater all agreeing another season.

Luke Thomas returns as Nottingham Lions captain for the third season running, Geoff Wigglesworth is back for a second term with Widnes Wild, while Blackburn Eagles have added Dave Williams and Craig & Adam Lutkevitch to their roster.

Newly-promoted Oxford City Stars have boosted their hopes of making an impact in NIHL1 South with the signing of Kyle Flemington. The Canadian defenseman has an impressive CV, having featured for London Knights as they won the Ontario Hockey League in 2011/12.

London Raiders have made their first signings of the summer, with Frankie Harvey and David Oliver both agreeing another year. Defenseman Niall Bound has returned to Wightlink Raiders after a spell away from the game.

Bracknell Hornets have confirmed Peter Jasik has agreed another season with the club. Netminder Connor Standing has joined Solent Devils from the EPL's Basingstoke Bison, while Josh Abbott, Chris Beal and Alex Cole are all back for another season.

(Image permission: IceHockeyMedia)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Ex-Freeze boss takes on new Dragons role

Deeside Dragons Junior Ice Hockey Club have announced a new management structure for their U18 team ahead of the 2014/15 season.

Former Flintshire Freeze boss Nigel Ryland has been appointed as Manager, while son Richard will work as the team's Level 2 Coach. Ryland snr left his role with Freeze in 2010, having managed teams at both senior and junior level. He has since remained in behind-the-scenes positions with the Dragons.

Next season the team will compete in the Northern 'A' League and they're on the lookout for talented players to join their roster.

The Junior committee have passed a scale of travel-related reduced training fees for any player who lives more than 30 miles away and are still offering very affordable training fees compared to other clubs.

Dragons U18s train at Deeside Leisure Centre on Tuesdays, 10.15 - 11.15pm. There are further free training sessions with the senior squad and various other off-ice activities including a state-of-the-art gym for players wishing to improve their fitness.

For further information please email Nigel.

Friday, 11 July 2014

NIHL round-up

Widnes Wild have boosted their defensive options by signing Czech defenseman Pavel ValeŇ°.

The 21-year-old (left) progressed through the HC Karlovy junior system before moving to VSK Technika Brno in Czech3. Wild have also confirmed utility man Berwyn Hughes has joined the club from Telford Titans.

Reigning NIHLN Laidler D2 champions Solihull Barons have announced Perry Doyle, Mikey Rodger and Jake Larkin have all agreed another season at Hobs Moat Road.

Billingham Stars continue to build ahead of the upcoming Moralee D1 season with the addition of five players to their roster. James Moss and Cal Davies are back for another year, while youngsters Jack Emerson, Luke Brown and Matty Campbell make the step up from the junior system.

Whitley Warriors have signed defenseman Dan Pye from Wightlink Raiders, while Blackburn forward Jake Nurse has agreed a second season with the Hawks.

In NIHL1 South, defenseman Ryan Giles has joined Chelmsford Chieftains from Invicta Dynamos. Corey Watkins, Craig Tribe and Damon Larter have all agreed another year with Wightlink, while Arran Strawson and Nicky Lewis have both re-signed for Invicta.

Bracknell Hornets have added returnees Luke Reynolds, Matt Jordan, Jordan Gregory, Tom Fisher and Nick Minhinnick to their roster, while forward JJ Pitchley joins from Slough Jets. MK Thunder have signed netminder Damien King from the EPL's Peterborough Phantoms.

NIHL2S outfit London Racers have appointed Ricky Mills as captain, while Matt France and Mason Webster have agreed another season. Netminder Ricky Young also joins the club from Oxford City Stars. Bristol stopper John Dibble is back for a sixth season with the Pitbulls.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Wayne Scholes interview

C2C spoke to Telford Tigers owner Wayne Scholes to get his views on a number of issues, including his vision for the club and the current state of the sport in the UK.

He also took the opportunity to speak about the proposed link up between the Tigers and NIHL North's Telford Titans. Please click below to listen to the interview.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

NIHL round-up

Sutton Sting have confirmed their third signing of the summer, with Thomas Jeffrey agreeing to return to the NIHL North Moralee D1 club.

Jeffrey was a key part of Sting's 2011/12 ENL promotion winning squad, before taking a break from the sport to concentrate on his business interests.

Sting Coach Matt Darlow commented: "I originally coached Tomo as a kid in the England set-up and have seen him grow and mature into a great D-man.

"As soon as it was clear I was joining Sutton it was inevitable he would rejoin us. Tomo brings a lot of toughness, but he's also an excellent player with great hands and vision, defensive skills and cannon of a shot. His skills with his gloves on have been undervalued at previous clubs and it's these qualities I've brought him in for."

Jeffrey previously played over 100 EPL games with Peterborough Phantoms and Sheffield Steeldogs, in addition to representing Great Britain at U18 level. He said he's delighted to get back on the ice: "Sutton have a great team and a great set-up. I needed some time away from the sport to concentrate on business, but it made me realise how much I enjoy playing.

"I stayed fit by boxing so physically I'm very strong. As well as helping develop new talent, this coming season we're determined to be bigger, better and more powerful than ever."

In Laidler D2, Solihull Barons trio Ryan Selwood, Andy Whitehouse and Richard Crowe are all back for another season. Simon Furnival and Mike Jones have agreed a further year with Deeside Dragons, while Aled Roberts joins them in North Wales from Widnes Wild.

Sheffield Senators' Head Coach Andy Ellis has confirmed Bob Browne and Mark Hartley will compete for netminding duties next term. The duo shared the role last season and Ellis says he’s delighted to have them back between the pipes: "Bob and Harts are the strongest tandem in the league - they'd be starters for any other team in NIHLN Laidler D2.

"They both compete every night and their respective styles give me flexibility, allowing me to match goaltenders to specific opposition and the rink we're playing in. Both guys fill me with confidence and are real team players. They compete hard and push each other to perform, which makes my job a whole lot easier."

Newly promoted Oxford City Stars have brought back ex-Head Coach Simon Anderson as Assistant to Player/Coach Darren Elliott for the NIHL1 South 2014/15 campaign.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Prolific forward back for Sting

Sutton Sting forward James Spurr has agreed a third season with the NIHL North outfit.

Spurr ended last season as Sting's top points scorer in Moralee Conference, with 23 goals and 17 assists from 27 games, and is seen as a key component of their forward lines.

Head Coach Matt Darlow commented: "James is an outstanding signing and one I'm proud to announce. He brings energy and quality to our line-up, which you'd expect from a player who has played so many EPL games and I'm excited to keep him on board with us.

"I've spoken with James numerous times during the off-season and most of the time he's been in the gym, which is exactly what I'm looking for in a player and leader of his calibre. His greatest assets are his intensity, work-rate and ability to change games quickly in our favour, which is something we need more of this season."

Spurr's 40 point haul in 2013/14 represented his best ever tally in senior hockey and he aims to build on that in Moralee D1 next term: "It's great to be back in a Sting shirt for the upcoming season and I look forward to contributing in all areas of the team to the highest of my ability.

"I'm never out of shape so as soon as I hit the ice for pre-season I'll be flying. If the signings Matt is targeting happen I'll be a very happy guy and they'll give us the balance we need to get results. Make no mistake, this is a development season for us so I realise I have to bring my 'A' game to help the team. I'll be doing my very best to make sure we push the big teams in the league."

Billingham Stars duo Michael Elder and Jack Davies are back for another season with the Teessiders, while Whitley blueliner Rob Wilson has agreed another year with the Warriors.

In Laidler D2, Blackburn Eagles have confirmed their first signing of the summer, with forward Jordan Ashington back for his second season with the club.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Dragons' foursome back for more

Deeside Dragons have confirmed a quartet of returnees as they begin to build for the new NIHL North season.

Last year's second highest points scorer James Parsons is joined by captain Marc Lovell, defenseman Kenny Williams and netminder George Cox.

2014/15 will be Cox's first full senior season and Coach Steve Fellows is delighted to see the progress he's made: "George is still a young lad and it's hard to believe he’s only now going into his first senior year.

"It's important for the Dragons' development that young lads like George are coming through the junior system into the seniors. We expect big things from the likes of George, Ross (Kennedy) and Sam (Krempasky)."

Defender Matt Wainwright won't be back at Deeside as he has moved to Laidler D2 rivals Widnes Wild.

In Moralee D1, Billingham Stars pair Garry Dowd and Andy Finn have agreed another year with the Teesside outfit, while Ollie Lomax and Craig Rogers are amongst five defensive returnees to the Blackburn Hawks roster.

It's been a quiet week for news in NIHL South, with just three signings confirmed. Ryan Handisides and Carl Thompson are back for another year in D1 with Bracknell Hornets, while Jordan Smith has agreed a second season with Bristol Pitbulls in D2.

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Stars bag GB U18 international; Sens look to rise again

Billingham Stars have signed local boy Tom Keeley from Florida's Space Coast Hurricanes.

Defenseman Keeley (left) returns to his home town after a spell in North America. After spending two years studying and playing hockey at the Ontario Hockey Academy, Keeley moved south of the border to play for the Hurricanes in the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) Elite Division.

19-year-old Keeley came up through the junior ranks at Billingham, before spending his final season in the UK at Whitley Tomahawks following the closure of the Forum for refurbishment.

He has represented both England and Great Britain, including being part of the GB squad that travelled to Estonia for the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division 2 Group A last year.

Keeley says joining Billingham in NIHLN Moralee D1 was an easy decision to make: "I've trained with the Stars whilst I was home from playing in Canada and America. They've been good with me over the years by letting me train and improve my own skills on their ice time, and if I was to choose any team in the league to play for they would always be my first choice.

"They've always had a good team, but with these new players coming in it will boost our chances and give us the edge we need to compete with anyone in the league."

Sheffield Senators are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2013/2014, where a slow start meant they finished 7th in Laidler Conference and missed out on the end of season play-offs.

With hockey in the city boosted by Ron Shudra's appointment as Head Coach of Sheffield Ice Hockey Academy, the Senators are hoping to push for a top four spot next term.

Senators boss Andy Ellis said: "We're looking to strengthen the squad for the new season. I've already announced four key re-signings and had lots of interest for our open trials which take place later in the month.

"The team has a great spirit which I'm keen to build on. I'm looking for experienced players to bolster our ranks and help develop the younger members of the team. I think we could surprise a few people next year.

"We don't play flashy hockey, but we have solid fundamentals and the guys have more grit and passion than any other team in NIHLN Laidler D2, so watch out for the Sens as we bid to rise up the ranks in 2014/2015."

Friday, 13 June 2014

Sting reveal first summer signing

Sutton Sting have confirmed captain James Goodman has agreed another season with the club.

Goodman (left) brings a wealth of experience to the Sting roster having played over 200 EPL games for Sheffield Scimitars/Steeldogs, before going on to make in excess of 100 appearances for the NIHL Moralee D1 outfit.

The 34-year-old admitted he's delighted to be back for another year: "I'm really looking forward to my fourth season at Sutton Sting, and although we'll be missing a few familiar faces from last year it will enable more players from our junior system to progress into the senior squad for training and hopefully some games.

"I came here to win things and also to help progress the club and I'm hoping this season will be a big step towards achieving both."

Sting boss Matt Darlow is a former teammate of Goodman's and says he's happy to have him on board: "Having played with and coached him before I know exactly what I'm getting. The tenacity and drive he brings to our unit will be immense and his hockey skills speak for themselves.

"He was unlucky to begin last season injured and it's no surprise to see the squad struggled without him. I've said for years he's one of the most underrated players I've played with, coached and watched and I stand by that assessment 100%. He's a wonderful signing for our organisation."

Billingham Stars' influential D-man Richie Thornton is back for another season with the Teessiders. Now part of the Stars coaching team, the 31-year-old has been patrolling the Billingham blue line on and off since his junior days. Thornton played at the highest level of British ice hockey with Newcastle Vipers, and has also enjoyed spells with a number of other teams including Isle of Wight Raiders & Whitley Warriors.

Solihull Barons have made their first signings of the summer, with forwards Joe Henry & Connor Hubbuck agreeing another season with last season's Laidler Conference double winners. Chris Preston and Daniel Bracegirdle are back for a second year with Widnes Wild.

In NIHL South, Invicta Dynamos have signed ex-Great Britain international Greg Chambers from Sheffield Steeldogs. The Toronto-born forward moves to Kent as Player/Assistant Coach after a successful career in the Elite League & EPL where he averaged over a point per game from nearly 500 appearances.

Wightlink Raiders have snapped up forward Ryan Webb from Slough, while the Jets have confirmed Zoran Kozic and Graham Bellamy to their roster once again. Mike Hargreaves has agreed a sixth season with Bristol Pitbulls.

(Image permission: Gary Apsley)

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Stars confirm another big signing

Billingham Stars have followed up the capture of Thomas Stuart-Dant from Sutton Sting by snapping up his teammate Chris Sykes.

A product of the Sheffield youth development system, Sykes (left) joins the Stars after two seasons with Sutton.

Previous to his time with Sting, Sykes had spells in the Elite League with Hull Stingrays and also in the EPL with Sheffield Scimitars/Steeldogs.

Sykes posted 32 points in the NIHL North Moralee Conference last season, plus a further eight in the Northern Cup, and is looking forward to linking up with his new team: "I chose Billingham for a few reasons, some personal, but mainly because I want to win something and this year I'd love to be a part of the team that wins the League and even the Play-offs," said Sykes.

"I'm excited about the challenge and to meet the boys, some I know, some I don't, but they're my teammates now and I'd love to play a part and win some silverware with them. The fans are another massive reason - I've had some heckles before from a select few but I reckon I can win them over."

Sheffield Spartans have signed defenseman Chris Wilcox, who returns to the club after a year away from the game. Tom Humphries has rejoined Sheffield Senators after a year with the Spartans, while Andy McEwan, Nathan Britton and Sergejs Jegorovs have all agreed another season with the Laidler outfit.

In NIHL1 South, Chelmsford Chieftains have pulled of a major coup with the signing of Czech defenseman Lukas Zatopek from MK Lightning. Chieftains have also brought forward Danny Hammond back from Invicta Dynamos, while Matt Turner, John Connolly and Julian Smith have all agreed another season with the Essex team.

Darren Brown, Ross Brears, Alex Staples, James Ayling, Cameron Bartlett, Michael Ranby, Ben Clement, Euan King and Grant & Cameron Bartlett are also back as Chieftains look to bring more silverware to Riverside. Luke Brittle won’t be returning after it was confirmed he’d be joining brothers Adam and Danny at Blackburn Hawks.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Darlow steps up player hunt

Sutton Sting are holding two open training sessions as they prepare for the new NIHL North season.

They are open to all players interested in pre-season ice and will help new Head Coach Matt Darlow get a good overview of the players hoping to be involved in the 2014/15 NIHL Moralee D1 campaign.

"These sessions are designed to help players get themselves back on the ice early and for me to see the guys wanting to fill our roster this coming season," said Darlow.

"In previous years there's been a strong showing in this type of pre-season training, with many EIHL, EPL, NIHL and higher level Rec players attending, so it will be good to see great turnouts again this time around."

The sessions will take place at iceSheffield on June 26th and July 17th at 8:30 - 10.00pm. These will include light drills with plenty of game time. Each session will cost a maximum of £10 depending on player numbers.

Anyone wishing to attend with the intention of joining the 2014/15 NIHL1 Sutton Sting roster please email Matt Darlow prior to the first session date.