Friday, 23 January 2015

NIHL North weekend preview

The battle to reach the NIHL North Moralee D1 play-offs in Dumfries hots up this weekend, with the teams chasing one of the four slots on offer all in action.

With Blackburn Hawks looking unstoppable in their quest for a first ever league title, five other teams are battling to join them in the end of season shoot-out.

Two of the contenders meet in Sheffield on Saturday as the Spartans face Billingham Stars. The hosts are unbeaten in their last six, while Stars have bounced back in style after some poor results to win their last two games.

Spartans' netminder Brandon Stones has been in stunning form recently and is keen to keep things going.

He said: "We found our feet at the back end of November and we've put together a really strong run. We seem to be finding the net more and overall we're looking a more solid team at both ends of the ice, which makes my job a little easier.

"After recovering from injury I've started to find some form and I feel we're all improving game-by-game and ironing out the creases. Last time against Stars we lost 3-0 in Billingham, although I think it's fair to say we deserved something from the game. However, Flav (James Flavell) stood on his head that night and earned his MVP.

"I think we'll be in for another tough game, but we're ready and prepared after a good win at Whitley Warriors and we want to keep the run going."

Stars go into the game on the back of two big wins against Whitley and Manchester. Forward Chris Sykes (above) scored four against the Minotaurs last week and he's looking forward to facing his former team.

"The bounces are going my way at the moment and I've remembered where the net actually is, so I hope to continue that this weekend," said Sykes. "It's always nice to score any goal, and even better when you get four which doesn't happen very often. It's a good feeling and my confidence in front of goal is high again.

"Sheffield is a tough place to go, but we'll keep our wheels going and hopefully take two hard earned points back to the Forum with us."

Stars are back in action on Sunday as they face-off against the Hawks. Play-off hopefuls Sutton Sting and Solway Sharks also do battle, while Whitley will look to return to form against Manchester.

Deeside Dragons' Laidler D2 promotion hopes have received a boost with the signing of Slovakian forward Tomas Mitrik. Dragons are without a win in three and have dropped to sixth in the table, but they're hopeful Mitrik can shoot them back into contention.

Mitrik, who makes his debut against Telford Tigers NIHL on Sunday, commented: "I started training with Deeside in October and now I've got the chance to play for this club. I'm a right-sided forward and I hope I will be really useful for the team. I would like to help us get maximum points in the games that are left and see us move back up the table."

There are four other D2 games this weekend, with Bradford Bulldogs v Hull Jets and Coventry Blaze v Sheffield Senators scheduled for Saturday, while Hull v Blackburn Eagles and Coventry v Bradford completes the Sunday line-up.

(Image permission: Dean Reeve)

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Legend wings in for All-Star game

Blackburn Hawks' 25th Anniversary game sees the return to Lancashire of one of the best players ever to grace the UK ice hockey scene.

Steve Moria (right) will ice for Hawks Legends against the current NIHL North Moralee D1 leaders in an All-Star game which is sure to draw a big crowd to Blackburn Arena.

After prolific spells in the Heineken League with Fife Flyers and Cardiff Devils, Moria joined Hawks as Player/Coach in 1992, going on to notch over 400 points in two seasons.

He subsequently played for the likes of Nottingham Panthers and Great Britain, before enjoying successful stints in charge of Slough Jets and Basingstoke Bison in the EPL. He eventually retired from the game in 2012 aged 51.

Ex-Hawk Ian McDade has been instrumental in organising the game and said he was delighted to able to bring Moria back to Blackburn.

"It's an honour to be part of a game that contains so many genuine 'names' within the British game, most notably Steve," said McDade. "In my opinion, and all things being considered, he's the greatest player ever to grace our shores in the modern era and was the person who signed me from Trafford Metros in 1992."

Moria added: "I have great memories of Blackburn and all of the Hawks fans. I began my coaching and management career in Blackburn and I feel very thankful for that opportunity. The 25th Anniversary game will be a night for all of us to enjoy and treasure. I'm really looking forward to donning the skates again in the Arena."

Other top names returning to play include John Haig, Bobby Haig and Mark Stokes, but McDade said it had been a tricky task picking the team.

He said: "It's been hard work but equally rewarding. Trying to select 24 players from over 300 for the Legends team was difficult, but having to explain to those who weren't selected was the toughest part. Every player who wore the Hawks jersey deserves recognition.

"I remember the 10 year anniversary game being a special occasion and it will be great to catch up with many people who I haven't seen since that night. Once you've played for the Hawks there is a special bond that links you for life. It will also be fun to have Hough on the back of my shirt again (I took my wife's name, McDade, when we married)."

With the current Hawks team on course to deliver the club's first ever league title, the All-Star game could turn into a double celebration. McDade coached some of the squad at both junior and senior level and he has his fingers crossed they can achieve their aims.

"When I was appointed Player/Coach in 2007 I was delighted to find Bobby Haig and Graham Lomax had created a young team consisting of several players that I'd coached 10 years earlier at junior level.

"Under the guidance of Jared Owen and with some quality additions they've gone from strength to strength, remain unbeaten in NIHL North and are favourites for the League/Play-Off double. Hopefully the anniversary game will be a chance to parade the silverware in front of a bumper crowd and show the Legends that their legacy lives on.

"A special mention should go to Bobby, Des Finlay and Mark Halliwell who guided the club through a transitional period at the turn of the century. Without them the Hawks may not have reached this milestone."

The event takes place at Blackburn Arena on Saturday, 25th April. For further details please call 01254 263063.

(Image permission: Chris Turner)

Monday, 19 January 2015

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 18th January)

Tomlinson celebrates Bulldogs' winner
Chelmsford Chieftains moved level on points with Invicta Dynamos at the top of NIHL1 South after a four-point weekend.

Martin Piecha (4) led the scoring in Chieftains' 9-1 win at home to Cardiff NIHL1 and they followed up with a 10-4 success at Solent Devils.

Streatham Redskins and London Raiders fought out two entertaining games over the weekend.

Jakub Kostelansky & Jacob Ranson both scored two in London's 6-3 win on home ice, and Raiders looked to be on their way to another victory as they raced into a 5-0 lead in the reverse fixture.

Redskins had other ideas as they battled back to claim a stunning 6-5 win – Steven Fisher (4) & Jakub Klima (2) got the goals.

Invicta slipped to a 6-4 defeat at Solent, but bounced back with a 5-1 win at home to Wightlink Raiders. Jamie Line's second of the night secured a 4-4 draw for Bracknell Hornets at home to MK Thunder and they followed up with a 5-0 success in the return game. Oxford City Stars lost 10-5 at Wightlink and 7-6 at Cardiff.

Slough Jets maintained their 100% NIHL1S record with a 10-2 victory at home to Haringey Racers. Chelmsford Warriors won 9-4 against Haringey, Lee Valley Lions triumphed 10-5 at Invicta Mustangs and Basingstoke Buffalo drew 2-2 with Bristol Pitbulls.

Sheffield Spartans boosted their NIHLN Moralee D1 play-off hopes with a 6-2 win at Whitley Warriors – Ollie Barron scored a couple. Chris Sykes (4) led the way for Billingham Stars as they cruised to a 12-0 home success against Manchester Minotaurs.

Slav Movko scored twice for Sutton Sting in their 4-3 victory at home to Whitley. Blackburn Hawks won 7-0 at Manchester and followed up with an 8-2 home success against Peterborough Phantoms in the British Challenge Cup. Solway Sharks failed to add to last week's win against the Phantoms as they lost 4-2 on home ice against the EPL outfit.

Laidler D2 leaders Solihull Barons remain unbeaten after a pair of wins against Widnes Wild. Joe Henry scored three in their 9-5 road success, while Thomas Soar went one better in a comfortable 7-1 home victory.

Tom Humphries hit a hat-trick for Sheffield Senators in their impressive 4-2 win at Telford Tigers NIHL. Declan Pearson grabbed the winner for Hull Jets as they defeated Deeside Dragons 4-3. Bradford Bulldogs picked up their first points of the season with a 5-4 success at home to Coventry Blaze – Ryan Tomlinson's final minute strike sealed the win.

Telford Tigers still lead the EPL after a pair of wins. Tigers secured a 5-3 victory at Swindon Wildcats and came from behind on home ice to defeat Basingstoke Bison 6-5. Tomasz Malasinski hit the winner for Swindon in their 3-2 win at Bracknell Bees.

Guildford Flames also collected four points, winning 5-1 at Sheffield Steeldogs and 6-4 at home to MK Lightning. Milan Kostourek scored three for Lightning in their 8-4 home win against Bracknell. Manchester Phoenix lost 3-2 at Basingstoke, but recovered to win 2-1 at Sheffield.

Braehead Clan stay top of the Elite League after a 6-2 home win against Dundee Stars. Nottingham Panthers had a mixed weekend, winning 5-0 at home to Coventry Blaze before crashing 7-2 at Cardiff Devils. Tyson Marsh scored twice for Devils in their 5-0 victory at Coventry.

Mike Kompon hit the shoot-out decider for Belfast in their 1-0 win at Sheffield Steelers and Giants followed up with a 6-3 success at Edinburgh Capitals. Steelers also lost 3-2 after a shoot-out at Dundee. Fife Flyers lost 6-3 at home to Hull Stingrays, but gained their revenge with a 3-2 road win in the reverse fixture.

Sheffield are through to the Elite Challenge Cup semi-final after completing a 14-1 aggregate success against Dundee. Cardiff also progressed after defeating Belfast 8-5 overall, whilst Braehead lead Coventry 3-1 after the first leg of their quarter-final.

(Image permission: Rob Hutchinson)

Friday, 16 January 2015

NIHL North weekend preview

Whitley Warriors face a tricky looking weekend as they bid to bounce back from last week's derby disaster at Billingham Stars.

Following a spirited draw at Sheffield Spartans, Warriors were mauled 8-1 by the Teessiders and will be determined to set the record straight this weekend.

Warriors travel to Sutton Sting on Saturday, before welcoming Spartans to Whitley the following evening.

The Hillheads outfit now lie fifth in NIHL North Moralee D1 and forward DJ Good admits he was disappointed with last week's performances.

"We knew it would be tough with players missing and the lack of games this season," said Good.

"Saying that we were still quite confident, but in both games we switched off for a large part of the second period. Luckily we are straight back into again this weekend.

"Our team has so much potential and our fixtures this month should get us up to speed. I know on our day we can beat any team in our league, but we have to qualify for the play-offs and that really means we have to get things right this weekend."

There are two other games in D1 this weekend, with Manchester Minotaurs hosting Blackburn Hawks on Saturday before travelling to face Billingham on Sunday.

The final two British Challenge Cup (North) group games are also scheduled for this weekend. Solway Sharks meet Peterborough Phantoms on Saturday, while Hawks welcome the EPL outfit to Lancashire the following day.

Laidler D2 leaders Solihull Barons can take a step closer to promotion as they face Widnes Wild twice over the weekend.

Simon Harrison (above) weighed in with an assist as Barons maintained their 100% record with victory at Sheffield Senators last week and he's confident they can keep their run going.

"The Sheffield game was our first after a three week break for us," said Harrison. "We lost our focus in the second period and took a few penalties to let them back in the game, but we came out hard in the third determined to win and keep our unbeaten streak going.

"We'll go into this weekend confident, but we won't underestimate Widnes. We have a strong squad who work well together and we all want to keep this winning streak going until the end of the season. As long as we keep playing the way we have been with the same intensity, it's going to be tough to stop us."

The remaining D2 games are all on Saturday with Telford Tigers NIHL hosting Sheffield, Bradford Bulldogs facing Coventry Blaze and Hull Jets meeting Deeside Dragons.

(Image permission: Keith & Jenny Davies)

Monday, 12 January 2015

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 11th January)

Solway Sharks became the first NIHL North team to defeat EPL opposition in the British Challenge Cup with victory at Peterborough Phantoms.

Sharks trailed 4-3 going into the final two minutes, but goals from Ross Murray & Richard Bentham sealed a 5-4 victory. Billingham Stars lost 11-1 at Telford Tigers.

Moralee D1 leaders Blackburn Hawks triumphed 16-0 at home to Manchester Minotaurs – Luke Brittle (4) & Aaron Davies (3) led the scoring.

Michael Elder scored three for Billingham as they bounced back to form with a stunning 8-1 home victory against Whitley Warriors.

Sheffield Spartans led 3-1 against Whitley with one minute left, but goals by DJ Good & Jamie Tinsley snatched a point for Warriors. Solway won 3-1 at home to Sutton Sting.

Solihull Barons maintained their 100% Laidler D2 record with a 6-2 win at Sheffield Senators. James Smith scored four for Telford Tigers NIHL in their 7-4 success at Coventry Blaze and they followed up with a 6-4 victory at home to Blackburn Eagles.

Nottingham Lions are up to fourth after a 7-4 home win against Coventry - Slawomir Kasprzak (above) grabbed a hat-trick. Widnes Wild won 13-0 at home to Bradford Bulldogs, but they found things tougher at Sheffield as they crashed 5-1 against the Senators.

Chelmsford Chieftains moved two points behind NIHL1 South leaders Invicta Dynamos with a pair of wins against Solent Devils. Chieftains triumphed 3-2 on the road and followed up with a 3-0 home success.

Invicta forward Juraj Huska scored three in Dynamos' 6-2 win at Streatham Redskins, but their long unbeaten league record came to an end as they slipped to a 5-4 defeat at home to Bracknell Hornets. Alex Barker scored twice for Wightlink Raiders in their 5-2 victory at Cardiff NIHL1.

London Raiders blew a three goal lead to draw 3-3 at Bracknell and they completed a disappointing weekend with an 8-6 reverse at Oxford City Stars. Jamie Line hit a hat-trick for MK Thunder in their 8-4 win at home to Streatham.

Slough Jets are still unbeaten in NIHL2S after a 5-1 win at Lee Valley Lions. Nathan Pollard scored three for Peterborough Islanders in their 5-4 success at Chelmsford Warriors. Bristol Pitbulls won 9-1 at home to Cardiff NIHL2 – Steve Osman (3) led their scoring. Haringey Racers beat Invicta Mustangs 8-1 and Wightlink Tigers won 5-3 at home to Swindon Wildcats NIHL.

Telford Tigers moved eleven points clear at the top of the EPL with a 5-3 win at Manchester Phoenix. Basingstoke Bison enjoyed a four-point weekend, winning 4-3 at home to Peterborough and by the same scoreline at Guildford Flames.

Sheffield Steeldogs suffered two heavy road defeats, losing 8-2 at Manchester and 7-2 at MK Lightning, but they bounced back with a 2-1 overtime success against Lightning on home ice. Aaron Nell scored two for Swindon Wildcats in their 4-2 win at home to Manchester, but they failed to follow up as they lost 3-1 at Bracknell Bees.

Braehead Clan still lead the Elite League after a pair of wins. Two Leigh Salters goals helped them to a 5-1 success at home to Fife Flyers and Clan followed up with a 4-1 victory at Hull Stingrays.

Nottingham Panthers returned to form with an impressive 4-1 win at Sheffield Steelers and they made it a four-point weekend with a 4-3 success after overtime at home to Cardiff Devils. Steelers recovered to win 3-2 at Coventry Blaze.

Belfast Giants endured a miserable weekend, losing 4-2 at home to Hull and 3-2 after a shoot-out at Dundee Stars. Jakub Sindel’s second of the night sealed a 5-4 win for Coventry at Cardiff. Edinburgh Capitals lost 2-1 on home ice against Dundee and 9-3 at Fife.

Nottingham are through to the semi-final of the Elite Challenge Cup after completing an 11-8 aggregate success against Fife. Cardiff lead Belfast 4-3 after the first leg of their quarter-final, while Sheffield hold a 3-0 advantage over Dundee.

(Image permission: Peter McConnachie)

Friday, 9 January 2015

NIHL North weekend preview

NIHL North play-off hopefuls Sheffield Spartans and Whitley Warriors face-off on Saturday looking to build on impressive performances last weekend.

Spartans were less than a minute away from being the first team to defeat Blackburn Hawks in Moralee D1 this season, while Whitley beat reigning champions Solway Sharks.

Sheffield Head Coach Martin White was delighted with his team's performance: "We had a few players missing, but we were determined to start the New Year well.

"Blackburn have a highly talented offense and we worked on reducing the space they had to operate in, whilst keeping shifts short and the bench refreshed.

"Despite giving up two short-handed goals in the first period, we pulled level in the second before taking the lead in the third, setting up an entertaining last eight minutes where we were unlucky not to receive a powerplay or penalty shot when Nick Manning was brought down as he went clear.

"We've a couple more injuries within the squad, including netminder Brandon Stones (above) who took a clapper to the neck which sent his helmet flying. Luckily he was able to continue and we're hopeful he'll be fit for the Whitley game.

"We're keen to get on with the games as the second half of the season and the run to the play-offs begins. The play-off spots are going to be closely contested and it's anyone's guess who'll end up there come the end of the season."

Solway are also in action on Saturday as they host Sutton Sting. There are two games on Sunday with Blackburn facing Manchester Minotaurs, while Billingham Stars meet Whitley Warriors. Stars are in British Challenge Cup action on Saturday as they travel to EPL leaders Telford Tigers. Solway are at Peterborough Phantoms the following day.

Blackburn Eagles face Laidler D2 promotion chasers Telford Tigers NIHL on Sunday looking to end a four game losing streak. Eagles started 2015 with two defeats against Sheffield Senators, leaving Player/Coach Scott Barnett disappointed, but he is hopeful his team can bounce back on the road this weekend.

"We matched Sheffield well on Saturday, but penalties cost us on Sunday," said Barnett. "Last time we played Telford we had a very poor start to the game and it cost us. They are well placed but have had some close results recently, so it will be interesting to see how it goes. I'm confident if we play to the level we're capable of the game will be a close one.

"I'm sure people will think we’ve had a strong start to the season and then dropped off a little bit, but that's not the case. We've faced some good opponents and had some close games. We're still building for the future and are a long way from the team we were last year. I don't want to finish where we currently stand and the aim is to rejoin the 'pack' as soon as possible."

Saturday's D2 games are Coventry Blaze v Tigers NIHL, Senators v Solihull Barons and Widnes Wild v Bradford Bulldogs, while on Sunday Senators face Wild and Nottingham Lions play Coventry.

(Image permission: David Morrison)

Monday, 5 January 2015

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 4th January)

NIHL North leaders Blackburn Hawks survived a big scare at home Sheffield Spartans as they looked to maintain their unbeaten Moralee D1 record.

Spartans led 4-3 going into the final minute, but Adam Brittle's late strike sealed a point for the hosts.

Adam Reynolds scored on his return for Whitley Warriors as they ran out 5-3 winners at home to Solway Sharks. Billingham Stars lost by the odd goal in nine at Solway, while Sutton Sting won 9-6 at Manchester Minotaurs.

Sheffield Senators boosted their Laidler D2 promotion hopes with a pair of victories against Blackburn Eagles. Tom Humphries (left) scored two in their 7-4 road success and he bagged another four as they triumphed 7-2 on home ice.

Telford Tigers NIHL won 2-0 at home to Widnes Wild, but they couldn't add a second success as they blew a two goal lead to draw 4-4 at Hull Jets. Kieran Beach scored three for Hull in their 7-4 victory at Bradford Bulldogs. Nottingham Lions won 7-1 at home to Deeside Dragons.

Invicta Dynamos still lead NIHL1 South after a 9-0 win at home to London Raiders. Callum Best hit a hat-trick for Streatham as they won 6-5 at Cardiff NIHL1 and Redskins made it a four-point weekend with a 6-1 home success against Bracknell Hornets.

Alex Barker (3) led the scoring for Wightlink Raiders in their 10-4 victory at Oxford City Stars. Solent Devils slipped to a 6-5 loss at Bracknell, but picked up two points with a 4-0 home success against Cardiff. MK Thunder won 3-2 at London.

Wightlink won 3-1 at home to Chelmsford Chieftains in the D1 Cup. Invicta fell 10-2 at MK Lightning in the British Challenge Cup and Chelmsford lost 6-2 at home to Swindon Wildcats.

In NIHL2S, Chelmsford Warriors won 6-1 at Invicta Mustangs and Peterborough Islanders cruised to a 6-0 success at Haringey Racers.

EPL leaders Telford Tigers won 3-2 at Sheffield Steeldogs, but failed to follow up as they lost 3-2 after a shoot-out at Basingstoke Bison and 5-4 at home to Peterborough Phantoms.

Guildford Flames won 5-2 on home ice against Bracknell Bees and 3-1 at Swindon Wildcats, but ended the week with a 3-2 defeat after a shoot-out at home to Sheffield. Jan Kostal's overtime strike sealed a 3-2 home win for Swindon against Basingstoke.

Manchester Phoenix lost 4-3 after overtime at Sheffield, but bounced back on home ice to win by the same scoreline after a shoot-out against Basingstoke. Bracknell lost 4-0 at Peterborough, but recovered to win 4-3 at home to MK Lightning.

Braehead Clan moved back to the top of the Elite League after trio of victories. Clan won 4-2 at Fife Flyers, 2-1 at home to Dundee Stars and 5-0 at Edinburgh Capitals. Belfast Giants enjoyed three home victories, beating Dundee 9-3 and Sheffield Steelers 5-3 & 6-3.

Nottingham Panthers picked up two home wins, defeating Coventry Blaze 3-2 and Edinburgh 6-1, but they found Blaze a tougher proposition at the Sky Dome as the hosts secured a 2-1 success after a shoot-out. Stephen Gunn & Danny Stewart got the goals as Fife won 2-0 at Edinburgh.

Cardiff Devils continued their excellent recent form, winning 7-0 at home to Hull Stingrays and 8-5 against Fife. They also picked up a 3-2 victory at Hull in the Elite Challenge Cup.

(Image permission: Gav Rawson)

Friday, 2 January 2015

NIHL North weekend preview

Whitley Warriors have targeted NIHL North play-off glory as they look to give outgoing Head Coach Simon Leach a fitting send-off.

Leach steps down as Warriors' boss at the end of the campaign and the club are desperate to finish in the top four in Moralee D1 to qualify for the Dumfries showdown.

Warriors currently stand fifth in the table, but are only two points behind Sunday's visitors Solway Sharks who lie second.

Ace forward Adam Reynolds (left) could be back in the line-up after a long spell out with a broken ankle and he's hoping to spark a strong end to the season.

"It's been a frustrating three and a bit months, but I had to make sure it's fully recovered before I came back as I can't afford to come back early and hurt it again as I need to work too," said Reynolds.

"I'm hoping to play on Sunday and will know more after training this week. Hopefully I can help the team achieve our goals of finishing as high as we can in the table."

Sharks are also in action on Saturday as they face Billingham Stars, while Manchester Minotaurs meet Sutton Sting. Leaders Blackburn Hawks play Sheffield Spartans on Sunday.

Nottingham Lions bid to boost their Laidler D2 promotion hopes on Sunday as they face Deeside Dragons. After a disappointing start to the season, Lions have won four of their last five games to move into contention and have been boosted this week by the return of defenseman Elliot Perrin.

The 20-year-old was a key figure in Lions' D2 title winning team in 2012/13 before moving to Sheffield Senators. Head Coach Matt Bradbury commented: "It's great to welcome Elliot back into a team that's growing in confidence and he will be a solid, welcome addition for the second half of the season.

"He's a Nottingham lad through and through with loads of experience, youth and energy. Elliot has always had an eye for goal as well as moving the puck with speed and accuracy and he will also be able to support younger members of the squad.

"Having spoken to Elliot he's now got more responsibility in a new job and it really has given him a focus, as well as more manageable hours, enabling him to work and play hockey."

Dragons head into the game full of confidence having pulled off a stirring comeback to draw 3-3 at Coventry Blaze last weekend.

Player/Coach Steve Fellows said: "We were down to the bare bones so to come away with a point was fantastic and shows how resolute we were. At 3-1 down it wasn't looking good and we were tiring, but the lads have rallied superbly and we've taken a great point away.

"It's been impossible to get out on the ice over Christmas with the ice rink being closed and it is a difficult time of year for us, so I'm regarding it as one of our best efforts this season. It took us a while to get the energy levels going but we came strong late on, so I'm delighted with everyone."

Promotion chasers Sheffield Senators and Telford Tigers NIHL both have two games over the weekend. Senators face a home and away double header against Blackburn Eagles, with Tigers meeting Widnes Wild on Saturday before travelling to Hull Jets the following day. Jets are also in action on Saturday at Bradford Bulldogs.

(Image permission: David Morrison)

Monday, 29 December 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 28th December)

Invicta Dynamos still lead NIHL1 South after a 7-2 win at home to Solent Devils – Juraj Huska (2), Michal Oravec (2) & Ashley Jackson (2) led the scoring.

Chelmsford Chieftains forward Martin Piecha scored four in their 8-3 win at London Raiders, but the Essex outfit missed the chance to narrow the gap on Invicta to a single point as they drew 1-1 at home to Wightlink Raiders.

Jakub Klima (4), Callum Best (3) & Steven Fisher (3) were amongst the goals as Streatham Redskins romped to a 14-5 success at MK Thunder.

London Raiders ended their long losing run with a 4-2 home victory against Thunder.

In NIHL North Laidler D2, Chris Jones' (left) second goal of the night with four minutes remaining sealed a 3-3 draw for Deeside Dragons at Coventry Blaze. Jordan Fisher hit a hat-trick for Hull Jets in their 7-1 home win against Bradford Bulldogs.

EPL teams continued their British Challenge Cup dominance over their NIHLN counterparts with two more comfortable victories. Sheffield Steeldogs ran out 7-1 winners against Blackburn Hawks, while Peterborough Phantoms triumphed 9-3 at home to Billingham Stars.

Sheffield Spartans claimed silverware with a 5-1 success against Sheffield Senators in the inaugural Sheffield Winter Classic.

Telford Tigers moved thirteen points clear at the top of the EPL after double success against Manchester Phoenix. Jason Silverthorn grabbed a hat-trick in a 6-2 road success and he followed up with another pair as Tigers defeated last year's champions by the same scoreline back on home ice.

Matt Towe's overtime strike sealed a 4-3 win for Guildford at home to Bracknell Bees, and Flames made it a four-point weekend with a 6-3 victory in the reverse fixture. Swindon Wildcats also picked up a pair of wins, defeating Bracknell 4-2 and Basingstoke Bison 2-1. Sheffield Steeldogs won 5-3 at home to Peterborough Phantoms.

Elite League leaders Sheffield Steelers had a miserable time against their big rivals Nottingham Panthers. Steelers slumped 4-0 on home ice and 3-2 after overtime in the return game.

Braehead Clan lost 6-1 at Belfast, but bounced back in style against the Giants in Glasgow with a 5-2 success. Cardiff Devils picked up 5-4 & 3-1 victories from their double-header against Coventry Blaze.

Sean Ringrose hit the shoot-out winner for Dundee in their 5-4 win at Edinburgh Capitals, but Stars found Fife Flyers a tougher proposition as they fell to 7-5 & 3-2 defeats. Hull won 3-2 at home to Edinburgh and followed up with a 6-3 road success in the reverse fixture.

(Image permission: PSD-Images)

Friday, 26 December 2014

Barron & Britton: Sheffield Winter Classic 2014

Sheffield's two NIHL North teams do battle this weekend in the city's inaugural Winter Classic Game.

With Spartans currently chasing a play-off spot in Moralee D1 and Senators lying second in Laidler D2, both teams will be keen to secure the bragging rights from their first ever competitive fixture.

Sheffield Ice Hockey Academy (SIHA) have organised the event to celebrate Sheffield's vibrant amateur hockey scene. Established in 1991, the SIHA is widely recognised as one of the premier set-ups in the country.

In addition to the clash of the seniors SIHA's current U14s teams, the Stormers & Sabres, will have the opportunity to showcase their talents as they stage an exhibition game ahead of the main event.

Spartans captain Ollie Barron said he was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in the Sheffield Winter Classic.

"It's great exposure for NIHL hockey as well as junior development in Sheffield and credit must go to the organisers for spreading the word around the hockey community and beyond in getting the word out about the game," said Barron.

"It's great to raise the profile of our respective teams whilst hopefully inspiring the younger players in the academy. It will be a good game as Senators are having a good season, but so are we. I look forward to matching up against some former teammates, but I can assure you we'll be doing everything we can to win the game."

Senators forward Nathan Britton added: "It means a lot to us all because it's a great way to promote ice hockey in Sheffield to the younger players in the academy by having the junior game beforehand. A lot of them won't have seen the Spartans and Senators and this will hopefully give them something to aim for in future.

"It means a lot to me as well because I used to play for Spartans, so there's a friendly rivalry there and it'll be nice to see how we go against a good D1 team. I reckon it will be a very tight game, with Sens to win by one or two goals."

The event takes place on Saturday, 27 December, at IceSheffield. The U14s game will face-off at 3.30pm, with Spartans & Senators scheduled for 4.15pm. For more information about the Sheffield Winter Classic please click here.

Monday, 22 December 2014

UK Ice hockey round-up (w/e 21st December)

Kasprzak celebrates Lions hat-trick
NIHL North leaders Blackburn Hawks moved seven points clear at the top of Moralee D1 with an 8-2 win at Whitley Warriors. Sutton Sting drew 2-2 against Sheffield Spartans.

In the British Challenge Cup, Hawks lost 4-3 at home to Sheffield Steeldogs – Janis Ozolins got the winner. Billingham Stars' game against Peterborough Phantoms was abandoned after the visitors' forward Marc Levers sustained a serious head injury early in the third period – Phantoms were 2-1 ahead at the time.

Sheffield Senators boosted their Laidler D2 promotion hopes with an 8-6 victory at Widnes Wild – Callum Rawson hit a hat-trick. James Smith (4) & Karol Jets (3) were amongst the scorers for Telford Tigers NIHL in their 16-2 home win against Bradford Bulldogs.

Nottingham Lions triumphed 8-3 at home to Bradford – Stuart Parker (4) & Slav Kasprzak (3) led the scoring. Coventry Blaze won 7-4 against Blackburn Eagles.

Invicta Dynamos are the new leaders of NIHL1 South after a pair of impressive victories. Juraj Huska scored four in an 11-4 win at London Raiders and they followed up with a 6-2 success at home to Chelmsford Chieftains.

Bracknell Hornets picked up four points from their double header against Cardiff NIHL1. Carl Thompson hit a hat-trick in their 6-2 road win and Hornets completed a successful weekend with a 5-0 victory on home ice.

Solent Devils lost 4-2 at Wightlink Raiders, but bounced back with a 6-4 win at Oxford City Stars. MK Thunder drew 2-2 with Wightlink. Streatham Redskins won 7-2 at home to London Raiders in the D1 Cup. Haringey Racers won 8-3 at Invicta Mustangs in NIHL2S.

Guildford Flames moved up to third place in the EPL after securing two road victories. Flames won 2-1 at MK Lightning and followed up with a 3-2 success at Basingstoke Bison. Manchester Phoenix lost 2-1 after a shoot-out at Peterborough, but they fared better on home ice as they defeated MK Lightning 5-3. Bracknell Bees lost 3-2 at home to Basingstoke and 4-1 at Sheffield Steeldogs.

Elite League leaders Sheffield Steelers enjoyed a four-point weekend against Hull Stingrays, winning 5-2 at home and 4-3 in the reverse fixture. Belfast Giants picked up a trio of wins, defeating Coventry Blaze 3-1 & 3-2, before adding a 5-2 success at Edinburgh Capitals. Blaze picked up two points with a 6-4 win at home to Fife.

Braehead Clan lost 4-2 at home to Edinburgh and 4-3 after a shoot-out against Dundee, but they gained their revenge in the return against Stars with a 4-1 road win. Cardiff Devils won 5-0 at Fife Flyers and 5-2 at home to Nottingham Panthers. Fife romped to a shock 5-1 success at Nottingham.

(Image permission: Peter McConnochie)

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)