NIHL South Signings
If you want to keep abreast and up to date with all the movers and shakers, the comings and goings in NIHL S1? Our friends at 482days.com have just the page for you! All the updated signings can be found by clicking on the photo of the 482days mug
23 June 2017
Clements Signs Shot Stoppers
When the bad guy's forwards make it past the Blue Line Patrol, they're the last line of defence. Sometimes, they're the game savers. Good ones are a critical part of building a new team. Some may even say that they're quite insane. They are.....The Goalies! And if there's one thing Coach Clemma knows about, it's goalies. As with previous announcements from Head Coach Ben Clements, Chieftains announce a pair.
First up, after getting his first full senior season with Chieftains in 2016/17, Sonny Phillips stood tall and proved himself time and time again between the pipes. At just 20 years old, Phillips will play his second season as a Chieftain, this time as the team's starting goalie. Speaking about the signing, Ben says: “The moment I got the job as head coach I knew I wanted Sonny as my number 1 goalie. Having played together last season I know exactly what I'm getting with Sonny and I'm sure he's going to go from strength to strength between the pipes this season”. Delighted with his appointment, the fans favourite stated: “I'm so glad to be returning to Chelmsford this season after hearing Ben's plan for the team and me. I can't wait to get going come September. With the changes to the league it's not going to be easy but I will do my best to help this team win some more silverware."
With the solid defence in front, it's going to be a hard enough task as it is for opponents to get to Sonny's goal, but with a save percentage of 92.7% last season, getting to the goal and getting the puck into it are going to be two completely different things.
Of course, every starting goalie needs an understudy, and Sonny is no different. This coming season, that task goes to last season's Warriors #1, Billy Cook. A youngster just starting out in his career, he takes a well deserved leap into senior hockey for Chieftains. But at just 16 years of age, coach Ben Clements has a lot of confidence in the signing. In the team's press release he comments: “It's great having him sign for the team this season especially knowing how hard he's work to get where he is in hockey but this is just the start and I'm going to be looking for him to push Sonny in training and games." While Billy remarked: “It's a great feeling to be part of what I think is a strong and passionate team. Wearing a Chieftains shirt will definitely be something to remember, as it was one of my aspirations coming up through the Academy and it feels amazing for the opportunity to come up. I have great confidence in Ben being our coach as he's helped me to where I am now and he knows what he is doing. When I was offered the position to play, I knew there was only one answer. This is definitely going to be a step up in my career and I look forward to the coming seasons and being part of a team that can produce results”.
Although considered a back up, Billy's stats are nothing to be sniffed at either with a save percentage of 89.6% in 12 games for Warriors last term. We think that Billy may well give Sonny a run for his money for starting rights this season.
You can read Chieftains full press realease on their Facebook page HERE
So Coach Clemma's team building machine goes marching on at break neck speed, we can only wonder who is going to come next, and when. We don't think it'll be long before we have some more to report on.
22 June 2017
Two More Sign Up For Chieftains
Hot on the heels of our interview with Chieftains Head Coach, Ben Clements, yet another announcement of signings was made on the team's facebook page. And, once again, it was a pair of faces that are familiar at Riverside.
First up is a 32 year old, 6'3" veteran defender. Having been released by Chieftains mid way through the 2015/16 season to make way for the Phillips brothers, Matt France makes his return to Chelmsford. On signing France, Coach Clema states: “I've know Matt for a very long time and I know he will want to prove a few people wrong this coming season, and I'm glad he's chosen Chelmsford to do so. He has a great eye for goal from the blue line as well as making that killer pass to start an attack from the defensive zone”. Speaking to the Chieftains Media team, Matt said: “After getting the call from Ben it was kind of hard to say no. He might be an inexperienced coach but he's been around ice hockey and part of winning teams for a long time, so he has that winning mentality. He has played under some good coaches so hopefully that will rub off on him and I’m sure the whole team will work hard and make it an easy transition from playing to coaching. I'm happy to be part of the team again pulling on the jersey, back at the club I started. After talking with Ben and listening to what his plans for the team were I was happy to sign, and can't wait for the season to start and be part of hopefully a successful season. It’s always an honour to play for the Chieftains and hopefully we can give the fans something to celebrate and get excited about."
With a chap this size patrolling the blue line, we think it's going to be a mighty tough job for any opponent who has aspirations of heading for the Chieftains goal this coming season.
The second player announced last night is, as in keeping with previous announcements by the team, also no stranger to the Black And Gold, having played the last two seasons with the Warriors.
18 year old Donald Campbell, also a defender, trained with Chieftains last season and makes his debut for the team this term. Clements says: “Donald was training with the Chieftains last season and I have to say I was impressed with him and work effect and he definitely didn't look out of place. I'm looking forward to working with Donald this season and giving him a chance to grow as a player." Reported as being over the moon to get the call up, Campbell stated: “I was inspired to play hockey after watching the Chieftains over 12 years ago, and I have been playing at Chelmsford all my junior career. After spending the last two years playing for the Warriors I was getting closer to playing for the team I once supported, so I was more than pleased to hear that Ben wanted me to take the ice for the Chieftains this year. After my success in both junior and senior leagues over the past years, I hope to continue this success with the Chieftains this year. As one of the younger players I hope to encourage younger fans to take up hockey at Chelmsford and also learn from the more experienced players or even teach them some new tricks”.
If Donald's name seems familiar to Chieftains fans, you may well remember him icing for "Team Stripes" as a linesman in last season's playoffs.
Welcome to the Chieftains, Donald, we look forward to taking lots of photos of you come game night.
Coach Clema dropped by for some (virtual) coffee and cakes, and a chat
21 June 2017
It's certainly been a hectic few weeks in the world of NIHL level ice hockey. To some it's felt like the end of the world, to others just the end of an era. Some have remained positive throughout. Undoubtedly, one of the biggest surprises of the off season so far has been the decision by NIHL S1 champions Chelmsford Chieftains to drop out of Division 1 just days after an agreement was reached by the EIHA and NIHL teams on the format of the league for the coming season. While Chieftains may not have been the first to make the jump, they were certainly the most unexpected.
To add to the woes of Chieftains fans, there was very little news coming from the team following the earlier announcement that experienced coach Kenny Redmond would be joining the Essex outfit to lead the team into the next season. Following the decision to leave Division 1, it was announced by the team that Redmond had since had a rethink about his decision and was moving on - later being announced as Head Coach at Oxford City Stars. And a replacement for Chieftains old new Head Coach was very quickly revealed to be the newly retired puck stopper Ben Clements, much to the surprise and sheer delight of the Riverside faithful.
Now, with the task of rebuilding the team at the top of his to do list, and with four big name signings for Chieftains already in place, we caught up with Ben for a quick chat.
We started by asking him what he could say to the Chieftains fans who have felt let down and disheartened by the team's decision to drop down to NIHL2 for the next season, and how his team building was going. He told us:
"Firstly, as a player, I was gutted to hear the team was dropping down as I had originally signed to play again in NIHL1 and was looking forward to the challenge ahead. But, after speaking to Del (Bartlett), I completely understand why he has made the decision to drop the team down to NIHL2 and now I have an even bigger challenge ahead in rebuilding the team to get us back to where we belong.
"Obviously, we have already announced a few guys, and we will be looking to add to that list very shortly. Overall, I'm very pleased with the team I have signed, especially with having started a lot later than other teams. But, the main thing I wanted was to sign good guys in the room, and guys who showed a willingness to want to play for Chelmsford."
We then asked whether his ultimate goal for the season would be to return to NIHL1 and what kind of players he was hoping to bring to Chieftains.
"I'm not too sure on the rules if we are allowed to go up next season if we win due to us dropping out. But, either way, that is the ultimate goal. But NIHL2 won't be a walkover this season. There are some really good teams in the league so, starting the season, I want to make sure we are a competitive team and challenge as close to the top of the table as possible.
"Coaching the juniors at the club (mainly goalies), I get to see the guys coming through, and there are definitely a few guys who will get a chance this coming season. Being the only senior team in Chelmsford now, we have to help develop the younger guys coming up or we will lose them, simple as that."
One of the most disappointing things for fans that we have noticed being talked about often on Social Media is the rivalries that have been built between opposing teams and fans over the last few years, most notably with Invicta Dynamos, London Raiders, and Streatham RedHawks, and the effect the decision to drop down a league will have on that. We asked Ben his thoughts, and who he thought Chieftains biggest rivals will be for the coming season.
"Looking at the league, teams like Oxford and Bracknell will be rivals to us, especially having played against them last season. But then you have Peterborough and Haringey who were big rivals to the Warriors, so it's going to be an interesting season, that's for sure. And who knows, we could end up with a few new rivalries come the end of the season."
Finally, we asked Ben if we would be seeing him on the ice again or if he'd be strictly a "Behind The Bench" kind of coach. He assures us that "my playing days are over as long as I'm coaching the Chieftains. We have enough goalies coming through the system to be able to play if one of the main guys gets injured."
So with four big names already signed for Chieftains, in the form of Ross Brears, Will Polston, Darren Brown, and Elliot Dervish, Coach Clements (will we ever get used to calling him that?!?) is clearly confident that Chieftains will have what it takes to be competitive. Would they have been as competitive if they'd remained in Division 1? I guess that's the answer we'll never get to find out. With Oxford and Bracknell both making some big signings over the last couple of weeks, the argument that Chieftains would drop down a league just to remain dominant is surely looking unfounded. With the expected start of the season just a little over 10 weeks away, we expect more signing news from Chieftains sooner rather than later.
For now, though, we'll let Ben have the final word: "I really hope the fans continue to support the team as they have been over the years. It really does make a difference come game day. And I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone for their kind words on my appointment. I know I might not be everyone's first choice, but I love this club and I will do everything I can to make this season a successful one and I hope to see you all come September."
A massive thanks to Ben Clements for taking time out to talk to us, and we wish him the very best of luck in his new role.
20 June 2017
More Good News For Chieftains Fans
Another announcement on Chelmsford Chieftains Facebook page by Head Coach Ben Clements this evening is sure to please even the most disheartened of Chieftains fans. Coming just four days since the veteran goalie announced the signings of Ross Brears and Will Polston, tonights offerings will be equally welcome additions to the 2017/18 squad. And, as before, the signings are no strangers to the Black And Gold.
In the team's statement, Clements says “Ever since the Chieftains first dropped down from the EPL, he has been a massive part of the team, his work rate is second to none. At times he might of been seen as underrated but he's definitely going to be one of the go to guys this season”. Chieftains fans will be delighted to welcome back Darren Brown. When asked about re-signing for Chieftains, the 26 year old Chelmsford native, who has been a regular in the team since 2008, said: “I was planning on retiring from hockey. But with the team dropping down I felt I still had a bit left to give. With fewer games I should be at home more for my family which is a bonus. So when I got the call saying Clemma was going to be coach, it gave me an easy decision to make. I’m sure Clemma is the right man for the job and I’m very much looking forward to getting my skates on for some pre-season training ahead of what is sure to be an exciting season."
Second up in tonights announcements is a 22 year old forward who has also arrived at Chieftains through the Chelmsford Academy. A regular in the Warriors line up since the 2013/14 season, Elliot Dervish has amassed 86 goals since joining the Chelmsford Apaches in the England Under 16 League in 2007/08, and racking up 41 total points in 61 games for the Warriors.
“Elliot is another one of last season's Warriors who's looking to continue to improve his game. I'm really glad he has decided to do that with the Chieftains” said Clements. “He has a great attitude towards the game and I know he can't wait to get started and play in front of the Chelmsford fans”.
On his signing, Chieftains newest recruit said: “Ever since I was 9 I've been playing at Chelmsford and I have never wanted that to change, so as soon as I got the call from Clema I knew exactly what I was going to say. I was given the chance to play some Chieftains games when I was in my first few years of Warriors, so to finally make the jump for this coming season is a real privilege. It's going to be a challenging season with the new league structure but the way the team is shaping up and the excellent fan base behind us, I think we are in for a great shot at some silverware”.
With a few quiet weeks behind us, it seems Coach Clements has now started to bang the war drums of NIHL S2 and sent out a warning to the other teams that Chieftains mean business.
The statement on Chieftains Facebook page can be found HERE
16 June 2017
Chieftains Finally Make Some Signings
Hot on the heels of Chelmsford Chieftains announcing the signing of a new new Head Coach, Ben Clements, the team building has begun in earnest. The first two players to wear a Chieftains shirt for the 2017/18 season were announced on the team's Facebook page earlier tonight. Both players are no strangers to Riverside, and one will be very familiar to Chieftains fans indeed.
First up was former Chieftain forward Ross Brears, who was released by the club at the end of the 2015/16 season and then went to play on the 2016/17 season for Chelmsford Warriors. Racking up a whopping 639 points in 439 appearances over his 13 year career, all at Chelmsford, Ross will be a very welcome signing for fans. In Chieftains statement, 25 year old Brears says: “It's been a hard time for the club the past few months and I am really happy to be part of the team to take the first steps in the prospect of lifting more trophies. Having Ben as coach is going to be an exciting experience as he was a great goalie and understands the game thoroughly. He is also about bringing through new talent into the team which at this point rebuilding a new team for years to come is a massive priority that Chelmsford need to address. It's going to be a nice feeling putting back on a Chieftains shirt and I really look forward to playing with the team and for you fans once again”.
The second player to pull on a Chieftains shirt in September, while new to Chieftains, is also no stranger to Chelmsford. Having been Warriors Captain for the last six seasons, 28 year old Will Polston will be patrolling the blue line. With 215 appearances, Will has totalled 57 points. When asked about his signing Will explained ”When I got a call from the newly appointed coach explaining he wanted me to sign for the Chieftains this coming season, I agreed in an instant. Having been involved with the Warriors since it's first season 10 years ago, and had the honour of being captain for the Warriors for the last 6 seasons, I hope to add some experience to the youngsters making the transition to senior hockey both on and off the ice as well as playing alongside some great talent that I grew up playing with and against. Signing for the Chieftains this season is a great way to celebrate the 20th year since I started playing and I look forward to providing an exciting, competitive and engaging season for the fans of Chelmsford ice hockey".
Speaking about his signings, Chieftains Head Coach Ben Clements said: "It's great to have Brearsy back with the Chieftains this season. He was actually the first guy I called once I knew I had job of rebuilding the team. He plays hard every shift at both ends of the ice and will chip in with the points as well. He is the type of player every coach would want in their team.
"I’m really pleased to have Will on board this season, he is a great guy to have around the team and always plays 110%. He has been Captain of the Warriors for the last 6 seasons so I will be looking for him to bring that leadership into this Chieftains team”.
NIHL League, Playoff, and Cup Format Confirmed By EIHA
Yesterday, the EIHA confirmed the format for the whole NIHL competitions for the 2017/18 season. League formats for all divisions were announced previously, with the format of the playoffs and cup competitions being finalised this week.
Playoffs for Division 1 will see the top 8 teams from the division facing off in home and away games over three weekends to decide North and South champions, culminating in a Grand Final weekend featuring two teams each from the North and South to crown an overall National Champion.
Division 2 will see a slightly different format for the playoffs, due to a different number of teams in the North and South. In the North, the top FOUR teams will face off over one weekend to decide their Champion, while down South the top EIGHT of the 14 teams will play two-legged Quarter Finals before the final four take part in a playoff weekend to decide a Champion.
Division 1 will have two cup competitions. There will be a National Cup featuring 12 of the Division 1 teams from both North and South. This will start with four groups playing to a knockout stage. The groups, however, seem to bunch all the former EPL teams together while all the previous NIHL teams are also bunched together. While this may seem (and has been slated as such by many on social media) boring as the same teams are meeting over and over, it looks to us as though it's designed that way to manufacture EPL v NIHL at the knockout stage. Whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen.
There will also be an Autumn cup for NIHL teams to take part in, however it appears that only the former EPL teams have been selected to take part in this competition, which will be played and decided by early December.
It was also announced that there would be no cup competitions for Division 2 teams in either region.
It was also announced that at the end of the season there would be automatic one up/one down promotion/relegation between the divisions. There is to be an exception to this at the end of the 2017/18 season that will see no relegation from Divison 1 in the South to allow the division to return to 10 teams.
The full statement from the EIHA can be read HERE.
it's fair to say that the reception on social media by fans has been less than enthusiastic. Many people have seen the announcement as a missed opportunity, while others have called it a "cop-out" and a "shambles" Some have even gone as far as to speculate that with teams playing each other so many times that it could have seriously detrimental effect on crowd numbers. Again, only time will tell whether this will be the case or not. That said, looking at the Autumn Cup and the National Cup, it does appear that there is a bias towards the former EPL teams, grouping them together in the National Cup and giving them their very own cup to contend. While, it appears, the NIHL clubs appear to get very little out of it. Yes, the Division 1 teams (or at least some of them) get to compete in the National Cup against each other with a lucky one or two going up against a former EPL team against which they are likely to get a good thrashing. There was a clear opportunity there to give the NIHL teams from both divisions and regions their own inter-division cup competition. An opportunity that was sadly missed.
One of the most vocal reactions to the statement was by Legendary player, journalist, and self confessed whiner, David Carr, who took to his column in Pro Hockey News to vent his displeasure at the direction the EIHA and LMC have taken with the new league format. You can read his article HERE.
I guess all we can do now is sit and wait until September when the season begins, get behind our teams and see what happens.
13 June 2017
Clements Returns To Chieftains
With news coming out of other teams adding to the woes of Chieftains fans, most notably the signing of Matt Turner and Olegs Lascenko by London Raiders, and Alex Staples by Oxford City Stars, Chieftains fans have, understandably, been getting frustrated by the lack of any news coming from the Chelmsford side.
They will, no doubt, be pleased by the announcement earlier today that, in what could possibly be the shortest retirement in UK Ice Hockey history, Chieftains veteran goalie, Ben Clements, would be returning to the club. However this time he won't be between the pipes.
Following the news that Chieftains were to step down to NIHL S2, Ben announced his retirement from playing to concentrate on coaching the future Chieftains in the Academy and in doing so, in Ben's words: "allowing talented younger net minders to play and gain vital experience."
But, in a dramatic turn of events behind the scenes, it was announced on the team's Facebook page that Ben would be returning to Chieftains as Head Coach for the 2017/18 season, replacing Kenny Redmond who, according to the team's press release, had had a rethink and decided to move to pastures new. Ben also had this to say in the press release:
"Once Derek (Bartlett) got in contact with me about the Head Coach role, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down. Given the changes enforced on the club I am really looking forward to the challenge of rebuilding and putting a competitive team out on the ice come September. Being in NIHL2 this season means I will be looking to give the younger guys a chance to step up to senior hockey and give them a taste of what it is like, whilst adding in some experienced guys to help them out on and off the ice. I can't wait to get started and look forward to your continued support next season"
We here at Ice Cold Photography are, naturally, delighted to see Ben return to Chieftains, and wish him a whole heap of success in his new role.
29 May 2017
Clements Leaves Cheiftains
Within the last hour, Chelmsford Chieftains #1 netminder, Ben Clements, has announced on Social Media that he will not be back for the 2017/18 season.
Having initially signed up with the team to defend their NIHL S1 league title, following the team's decison last week to apply for NIHL S2, he has decided the role would be better taken by someone else. Citing the motivation for the decision as hindering the development of younger players, alongside the arrival of a new baby in August, 29 year old Clements says in his statement that "I find myself in the position where I feel that by playing I would be hindering the opportunity for a couple of very talented younger netminders to play and gain vital experience at that level." The veteran nettie also hints in his statement that the drop to NIHL S2 for the Chieftains will be the end for the Warriors, the team traditionally tasked with developing junior players for future Chieftains appearances.
Whilst Ben will be leaving Chieftains, he will not be turning his back on the sport or the Chelmsford organisation, reassuring fans that he will continue to coach in the junior academy and Conference set up. He also goes on to thank team owners Derek and Karen, and the fans and team mates.
Ben's full statement, released on his facebook page, is as follows:
"Just a few weeks ago I had signed up to the challenge of helping the chieftains defend their title next season. Unfortunately with the team now aiming to ply their trade in NIHL 2 in place of the Warriors I find myself in the position where I feel that by playing I would be hindering the opportunity for a couple of very talented younger netminders to play and gain vital experience at that level. Having developed through the junior ranks at Chelmsford and been given those opportunities with the Chieftains in the ENL2 back in 2008, I know how important it is to have those chances. Now at 29 years of age, I feel that it is fair i do that as the club loses a part of its development structure. Its been an incredibly hard and emotional decision to take as the club and its fans have been a part of my life for so long. I intend to continue to coach within the junior Academy and conference set up, and with the upcoming addition to my family due in August it is going to be a busy time for me away from the ice too.
I would like to thank Del and Karen for their hard work over the years, together with the coaches and teammates I have played with. Its been an honour to have been part of a talented team and have had the opportunity to win honours with the club. Finally I would like to thank you all for supporting me and the team over the years, its been a privilege to play in the black and gold and to have your support.
20 May 2017
Chieftains Break Their Silence
Following the shocking announcement yesterday that Chelmsford Chieftains, Oxford City Stars, and Solent Devils would be withdrawing from NIHL S1, overnight Chieftains finally released their press release to inform their fans of the decision. In their statement, owner Derek Bartlett sites the league's restructure and player movement as the main contributing factors to the decision, saying that "After the restructuring, NIHL S1 has effectively become the new Premier League and the cost of putting a squad together has increased massively." The release goes on to say that "New coach Kenny Redmond called last season's players and only three players agreed terms there and then to sign for the 2017/18 season. Other players were then contacted, who demanded large sums of money. We soon realised that the Premier League would not be within our budget, and if it was we'd have been playing in the Premier League before it ran into trouble.
Despite the success and contrary to popular belief we were not a big budget team and anyone that has played for the current management knows that that's a fact"
Chieftains, who have been in NIHL S1 since 2009 after dropping out of the EPL for similar reasons, have now applied to play in NIHL S2 for the 2017/18 season and plan to regroup using players from the Chelmsford Academy. While this may ensure the future of Chieftains, one wonders if this move would now leave Chelmsford Warriors in a similar unstable position. Although Chieftains may have applied to join NIHLS2, the application surely has to be approved by the teams currently already in that league, and also the EIHA management. As it stands at the moment, Chieftains don't currently have a league to play in.
Naturally, the fans reaction on social media has gone into overdrive. While some applaud the move as sensible, and the right thing to do to save the club from potential financial ruin, the vast majority of people see it as "running away" or "hiding behind other teams". Many have also suggested that the move was down to the team not wanting to be in a league where they wouldn't be as successful as in previous years. They also see the move by the reigning NIHL S1 champions to a lower league as a similar move to the former EPL teams moving down into NIHL S1, potentially forcing current Division 2 teams into the same financial insecurity that Chieftains are trying to avoid.
Solent Devils, as far as we are aware, have yet to make a statement and we are assuming that they are the other team who have applied to join NIHL S2. Many people did expect Solent to make the decision to drop down a division at the NIHL Section meeting two weeks ago. But at the end of last season, the found some form and made a bit of a resurgence which, we are assuming, meant that they felt they would have something to prove to themselves, their fans, and the rest of the league if they were to stay in Division 1. While we are yet to discover whether it was Solent who made the first move, or just followed Chelmsford's lead, we do think that, if accepted into NIHL S2, that they would be more competative there.
Oxford City Stars, on the other hand, were quick to put out a statement to their fans. So quick, in fact, that this was where, for most of yesterday, fans of all NIHL S1 teams had got their information from - even beating the official EIHA press release by several hours. Oxford commented that their decision to leave NIHL S1 was prompted by a further restructure following the withdrawal of Chelmsford and Solent from the league. A restructure that, to them, would put their financial viability and, therefore, the team at risk. As yet, they have also to announce whether they have applied to join NIHL S2. In the mean time they are promising their fans that they will continue to find a way forward to keep Oxford City Stars playing in as high a league as possible for the 2017/18 season. But as there is already an Oxford team in NIHL S2, there is also the possibility that they wouldn't be accepted into that division either.
Last night, however, one of Chieftains biggest rivals, Invicta Dynamos, along side NIHL S1 newcomers, Cardiff Fire, were quick to release statements reassuring their fans that they were committed to the new NIHL S1 league, and have no intentions of following the three other team's lead and withdrawing.
Now, with the whole league in turmoil, it seems that the fans will just have to wait until the team owners decide they're ready to speak to their fans. For the sake of the fans of all the teams in NIHL, and for the sake of Ice Hockey in the UK in general, lets all just hope that the EIHA can find a solution to a situation that is rapidly becoming farcical.
19 May 2017
Following a statement early this afternoon by Oxford City Stars that the league was in turmoil after they announced a further restructure, fans from all teams worked themselves into a Twitter frenzy of shock and speculation as to what was happening. A short while ago, EIHA put a statement out saying that "overnight and this morning Solent Devils, Oxford City Stars and Chelmsford Chieftains had told the LMC that they wish to withdraw from NIHL S1.
"After our meeting on May 7, where the league was in such a positive place, it is desperately disappointing to see this happen." It goes on to say "Several of these teams have requested relegation to NIHL S2. This will be considered over the coming days and a full statement will be made at that time to include the agreed structure for NIHL 1 and NIHL 2 in the South. The LMC continues to talk to all of the member clubs of the NIHL South to reach a solution as soon as possible."
Naturally, fans of these teams have taken to Social Media to express their thoughts - most of which are of shock and disappointment, not only at the decision of their teams but also at the lack of anything official from the teams themselves. While people on the Social Network platforms are expecting these three teams to make an appearance in NIHL S2 now, it has been pointed out that Chelmsford and Oxford already have teams in NIHL S2 so, for the sake of junior development, may not be accepted by the league. We felt sure, as Chieftains fans, that we would at least give it a go for a season and see if it works. Sure, we expected to be less competative against the bigger guns of the former EPL teams, but we did expect Chieftains to be the top half of the conference - and the league overall. And we certainly expected Chieftains to make the play offs.
It has to be said that I am as shocked and surprised as anybody else. Here was I expecting Chelmsford Chieftains, current league and cup champions, to stand up and be counted and at least take a stand and fight. Instead, we're informed by a league statement that we have hung our heads and ran away. While we will continue to be Chieftains fans, we are feeling rather disappointed by the team right now.
So with three teams currently without a league to play in, one thing for sure is that this is a very dark day for Ice Hockey in the UK, particularly at this level. We can only hope that a solution is found very VERY soon.
Click Here to read the full statement from the EIHA
17 May 2017
Coaches, Grand Finals, Heartbreak and Cycling
It’s been a really busy few days in the world of lower league ice hockey, and we’re only half way through the week!
Starting with the most recent, Chieftains announced late on Tuesday night that their search for a new head coach to replace the outgoing Sean Easton was over and former Bracknell Hornets head coach, Kenny Redmond, would be taking over the reins at Riverside. With over thirty years experience in the game as both player and coach, he comes to Essex with an impressive CV. In a playing career that began in the mid ‘80’s and spanning 23 years, Redmond racked up a massive 975 points in 497 appearances, retiring as a player at the end of the 2001/02 season and making a comeback for a season in 2007/08 playing in the Irish Ice Hockey League. Following his retirement from playing, his coaching career began in 2008, coaching the Irish National teams until 2013, winning Gold and Bronze world championship medals. Following a sabbatical for a season, he was snapped up by Chieftains rivals Invicta Dynamos as assistant coach for the 2015/16 season, before heading to Berkshire to take over as Head Coach at Bracknell Hornets for the 2016/17 season, while also coaching the South West Under 15’s. In the statement issued by the club, Coach Redmond says: “I’m delighted to be involved with a club of Chelmsford’s stature, and can’t wait to get started.” While team supremo, Derek Bartlett, went on to say “The past few weeks have been a trying time for the Chieftains. This is going to be a testing times for all the teams this year with the new league structure, but, as always, we will try our best to put our best team on the ice with the budget we have.”
The reaction to the news on social media was mixed, with some welcoming Kenny to the Chieftains family, while others described the news as “underwhelming”. Some were even speculating as to the possibility of his son, Conor, joining him at Riverside. While many will only remember him for his season at Bracknell last term, it’s fair to say that there wasn’t a lot going for him there with regular short benches, and the team going through a massive amount of imports due to injury and illness. What Chieftains fans can be assured of, however, is that their new coach will give 100% to the team and expect the same from his players.
Tuesday lunchtime, 16 May, the EIHA announced the post season playoff format for the coming season. Following the end of the regular season and, presumably, the NIHL cup finals, there will be a further four weeks of hockey for some as the playoffs get a revamp. The new format will feature a play off series similar to what we’ve been used to but this season will culminate in a Grand Finals weekend at a central location featuring teams from both the North and South leagues - something we’ve been longing for for some time.
The top eight teams from both regions will qualify for the playoffs and will play each round over a two legged home/away aggregate score. This will follow the tried and tested format of 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, and 4v5 in week 1 and (1or8) v (4or5) and (2or7) v (3or6) in week two leading to a regional final in week 3. The Grand Final weekend will then take the format of two semi finals on Saturday with North winners taking on South runners up and South Winners taking on North Runners up, with the winners of both semi finals meeting in the Grand Final on Sunday. The press release also states that there are likely to be other games scheduled for the weekend although further details on this are yet to be worked out. However, we expect that to be a 3rd place game between the losing teams from the semi finals.
While we applaud the league for finally giving us a playoff weekend that will involve both regions, we feel it could’ve been better. In the format they’ve decided on, it’s entirely possible that the Grand Final could be played between two teams from the same region which will be a repeat of that regional final. While the majority say this is a good thing as it should be the best two teams in the league facing off in the Grand Final regardless of which region they come from, we disagree. We’re not saying NIHL is a comparison to the 7 or 8 figure salaried players across the pond playing in the NHL, it has to be said that if the two best teams in the NHL happen to be from the Western conference, there will ALWAYS be an East V West Stanley Cup Final. And so it should be in NIHL.
WPL action on Sunday brought heartbreak for a very short benched Chelmsford Cobras, as they went down 1-12 to Streatham Storm in the top of the table, winner takes all clash. While the scoreline says it was a one sided affair, team manager Frank Wright insists it wasn’t all one way traffic. On facebook he says “It may look like a pasting but the team played with great heart. We had 11+1 players to start the game, with two subsequently taking injuries and unable to complete the game leaving a bench of just 9+1. Tiredness took its toll and 6 of the goals came in the last 10 minutes”.
Carolyn Scott scored a hat trick, Rachael Wood and Melissa Reidelberger bagged a brace each and Jennifer Lawrence, Fiona King, Joanna Chung, Isabell Whiteley and Jamie Endrizzi with single markers for Streatham, while Assistant Captain Jennifer Bolton scored the consolation for Cobras.
While it wasn’t the result Cobras wanted, it’s been a spirited season for the Chelmsford ladies team, turning their wooden spoon season last year into runners up this year - an achievement all the team can be proud of. We will be back at Riverside next season to cheer on our favourite girls.
And finally, the reason I wasn't at Riverside to cheer on Cobras, I managed to complete the 50 mile Colne Valley Cycle Ride in a time of 3:46:49. A time I'm quite pleased with given the puncture I had at 42 miles, and the massive, massive amount of hills! A massive thanks to work colleagues and friends, with whose kind sponsorship, I managed to raise almost £300 for Essex Air Ambulance.
14 May 2017
While the NIHL season may have been done and dusted a few weeks ago, there is still the issue of the Women's Premier League to be resolved. Our belles at Chelmsford Cobra's, who have been sitting pretty at the top of the league for most of the season, are now in second place behind Streatham Storm who have a slender one point lead. Today sees the final game in the season for the WPL and at Riverside it's winner takes all as the top two teams meet. For the winners today, a nice shiny trophy and a promotion to the Elite league beckons. In their last meeting back in November, it was Cobra's who came away with the spoils bringing home a 4-3 win in what was a close game. We hope for more of the same, however we think this is too close to predict. #WeGotThis
Unfortunately, I won't be at Riverside to cheer on the Cobras today as I will be joining hundreds of other like minded individuals taking part in a 50 mile cycle ride through the Colne Valley and North Essex Countryside in aid of the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance. If you happen to be in the area and see us about, please cheer us on and give us a wave - it will help. Fingers crossed I survive this one! #WeGotThis
8 May 2017
It's been a little over three weeks now since EIHA Chairman Ken Taggart sent "THAT" email to the seven remaining EPL sides advising them to apply to join their respective NIHL leagues for the coming 2017/18 season. With Manchester Phoenix folding before the end of last season, and MK Lightning and Guildford Flames going up to the Elite League, it has been deemed by the league that a seven team EPL would be unstable and Mr Taggart's recommendation being for the greater good of Ice Hockey in the UK. With Swindon Wildcats and Sheffield Steeldogs first to make statements to their fans that they would apply to NIHL, the other five teams followed suit soon after.
Yesterday, 7th May, the league and current NIHL South teams held their section meeting In a record breaking six hour meeting, the applications from the former EPL teams were heard and, ultimately approved. Also on the agenda was how the NIHL would look with extra teams, and what format it would take.
Of the eight teams who iced in NIHL South Division 1 last season, all but one remain, Bracknell Hornets opting to move to Division 2. While last season's Division 2 West champions, Cardiff Fire, chose to move up to Division 1, Division 2 East and Play Off Champions Peterborough Islanders, who are affiliated with EPL side Peterborough Phantoms are to remain in Division two and are renamed Peterborough Phantoms 2.
Former EPL sides Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Bees, Peterborough Phantoms and Swindon Wildcats join NIHL South Division 1 to form a twelve team league, split into two conferences, each with 6 teams:
Conference A will house Basingstoke Bison, Bracknell Bees, Cardiff Fire, MK Thunder, Oxford City Stars, and Solent Devils while Conference B will host Chelmsford Chieftains, Invicta Dynamos, London Raiders, Peterborough Phantoms, Streatham IHC, and Swindon Wildcats. Each team will play teams in their own conference twice at home and twice away, and play teams from the other conference once home and once away, making a 32 game league season. Whilst, at first glance, there doesn't appear to be any logic to how the conferences have been split, it does appear to us that, going off last seasons standings, the stronger of the six teams have been bundled together in one conference. It was also announced that we have seen our last tied game in NIHL, as it was decided that if scores were tied after regulation there would be 5 minutes of sudden death 3 on 3 overtime followed, if necessary, by a penalty shootout.
There will also be a Division 1 cup competition with two groups initially playing a round robin format and ending in knock-out stages. Play Offs have yet to be confirmed, the league indicating that they are waiting for NIHL North to have their section meeting which, we believe, is scheduled for this weekend. Although at this stage we would expect it to be the top four teams in each conference progressing to the play offs in a 1v4/2v3 two leg home and away format with the winner of each conference meeting in the final. That said, there is also the possibility that there could be a North V South final for the ultimate post season prize.
Reaction to the new format has been mixed, with fans of the former EPL teams feeling especially agrieved with comments on the various social media outlets along the lines of "got the rough end of the stick" and "load of old rubbish" while one Phantoms fan vowed to become a Lightning fan. Fans of current NIHL S1 teams greeted the news with much more positivity, many looking forward to seeing new teams, travelling to new rinks, meeting new fans, and making new friends. The decision to bring in Overtime has also been welcomed with open arms by pretty much every NIHL fan.
In a statement issued by the English Ice Hockey Association, NIHL South League Manager Richard Carpenter said "It was a difficult meeting but we've reachen an agreement on the way forward. There are no perfect answers to such a highly complicated situation but we would like to thank all the teams involved for reaching a deal to the betterment of British Ice Hockey."
While we agree there's never going to be a solution to this that pleases every fan and every team, we do believe that this is a good format and will provide a winter of exciting ice hockey. Our only hope is that, with the inevitable better quality of players in the former EPL teams, there won't be too much of a void between them and the NIHL teams.
22 April 2017
Sean Easton speaks to us
Following on from our earlier article detailing Coach Sean Easton's move to London Raiders, and the statement released by Chelmsford last night, Sean has spoken to us. There are always two sides to every story and, while it may prove unpopular with some, we believe that both sides should be heard. The following is what Sean wrote in it's entirety, and unedited by us:
Dear Chelmsford supporters,
It's only fair that my side is heard after a statement has been released about me.
For anyone that knows me and has worked with me will know that ice hockey is my true passion, and will also know that I put everything into the sport that I love not for self gain but just to share knowledge and develop players as much as I can.
It's been a tough year in many ways but we found a way through it. I have been a part of Chelmsford for 23 years as a player and coach, and for the past 10 years I have been head coach of the junior Academy, a job I have enjoyed doing. I love this club with a passion and I believe I have played my part along with lots of great coaches and dedicated volunteers over the many years to get it to where it is today.
The club has enjoyed another successful season, and against many doubters wishes, we have yet again been a top team with many younger players stepping up in their natural development and flourishing at a higher level.
Yes Romford was a consideration of mine because the thought of being able to help build a new club from scratch is an exciting one for someone that loves the sport. Secondly, I always strive to challenge myself to become a better coach by experiencing new environments, faces and styles and, in this case, rise to a new challenge to see if I can help rebuild a team and test my abilities once more.
Chelmsford Chieftains, as many of people have said, will always be successful with the infrastructure they have built and sometimes a coaches ability can be hidden within that. I want to be as good as I can be and go as far as I can in the sport and to do that I need to challenge myself.
This may sound like I'm just thinking about myself and not the club, but that's really not the case.
I was gutted not to be there for the team in the playoff finals, but due to the unfortunate loss of the IOW from an already reduced league meant our season was curtailed and the playoff dates moved mid season. Unfortunately the GB tournament clashed with the playoff finals when it's normally still the first rounds of the playoffs.
It is an absolute honour to represent Great Britain in ice hockey, the highest honour anyone in the sport can achieve, especially with talent I have helped to nurture, and I am grateful I have had the privilege to do this for a second year.
I would have loved the chance to attend the end of season celebrations to thank you all for another great season but I was asked to NOT attend the day before. Luckily I had the chance to spend time with the players before the presentations to inform them of my non attendance and thank them all for what has been a great year. All the players understood and as has been mentioned in every sport people move on or have to move on.
I asked for a face to face conversation about 17/18 season but was told that the management were not interested in what I had to say. I wanted the chat at the end of the season to finish the year off professionally concentrating on the task in hand, and talk about next season but this was denied.
By this point I had not been asked to return to the chieftains for the 17/18 season and, had to consider my options without the opportunity to talk directly with the club. As with all players and coaches, in that situation, they have to look for the next opportunity.
The rumours have been doing the rounds for a long time and that's all they were then, just rumours, as nothing had been decided, to say the move is a shock is a shock in itself.
London asked if Chelmsford wanted to release a statement about my non return for the next season which was declined, and gave London the go ahead to announce my arrival. And this is we are where we are now.
I would like to thank the Chieftains for the great opportunity that was given to me. To the coaches that have worked alongside me and also the players that it has been an immense privilege to coach.
Finally my thanks and gratitude go to the fans who have supported the team and me during my tenure as coach. I wish you all the best of luck for the future.
We'd like to thank Sean for taking time out to share his side of recent events, and once again we wish him well at London and his future endeavors.
21 April 2017
Easton Heads To Raiders
Yesterday, Chelmsford fans were thrown into even more turmoil when, what was arguably the worst kept secret of the off season so far, was confirmed by London Raiders. That being that coach Sean Easton would be joining their organisation next season.
Following weeks of rumours around the various social media outlets, the statement by the Raiders reads "For good reason Sean is a very well respected coach at senior level and for his work with developing players both locally and at conference and national level. Sean is to join forces with Alan Blyth and the Raiders management for the 2017 2018 season and we confidently expect that relationship running the Raiders in NIHLS1 will cement a coaching union which with the addition of other key staff in the new Romford Leisure development will quickly return the Romford name to the “club team” column of the conference and GB squad lists."
Sean takes with him a long list of achievements at junior, senior, and international level, and having success in both NIHL1 and NIHL2. A highlight of his career to date leading Chelmsford Chieftains to a famous Quadruple in 2015/16. In his two season reign at the helm of Chieftains, Sean has led his team to 6 of the 7 trophies that were on offer, and in the last league campaign dropped just four points. With a track record like that, we would expect London to be contenders next season.
We wish Sean well in his future endeavours, and thank him for the time he spent with Chieftains and the success he brought the team. Hopefully, he won't become a stranger to Riverside.
12 April 2017
More Heartache For Chiefs As Hammond And Chong Bow Out
After the heartache of defeat to Invicta Dynamos in the Playoff final at Riverside on Sunday, Chieftains fans were dealt a further blow when news of two big names in their squad would be departing the team.
Firstly, before the ice from the game had even melted, it was revealed that influential forward Danny Hammond would be retiring from the game after some thirteen seasons at senior level, at the ripe old age of 27. Having played for Chieftains for the last three seasons, Danny heads into retirement with a string of championships under his belt, helping them to league glory in 2014/15, an outstanding quadruple in 2015/16, and a league and cup double in 2016/17. Over his career he’s amassed over 500 points in a little over 300 appearances. Danny leaves the game to start his own venture as he endeavours to open his own fitness facility. After the game, he told David Carr of Pro Hockey News “I need to give it my full attention and hockey is such a big commitment. I’ve been lucky enough to be part of such a great club here at Chelmsford. We’ve won a lot which I’ve loved but having no real room for progression in the leagues has taken me as far as I can play. I have played for over 20 years so it’s been a big part of my life, however it’s time to move on to a new chapter.”
Danny signs off his final season having scored 34 goals and 36 assists in 46 games, and ends his career as Chieftains second all time points scorer behind Rick Smith.
If that wasn’t bad enough for the Chieftains fans, following a night in Broomfield Hospital’s A&E department after taking a puck to the chin, Ice Cold Photography sponsored fan favourite Liam Chong also announced on his facebook page that he would be taking a break from the sport.
Originally brought in by Chieftains early in the season as a temporary replacement for the suspended Billy Phillips, Liam firmly stamped his mark on the team. So much so that when Oleg Lascenko was offered the opportunity to play in the EPL for Bracknell, Liam was made a permanent fixture in the Chelmsford line up. The 25 year old Chelmsford lad told his fans that it was now time to concentrate on finishing his Physiotherapy degree. He goes on to say that “This last season has been one of my favourite ever as a senior hockey player.”
Liam bows out with some impressive stats of his own, racking up 11 goals and 26 assists in 37 games this season. And in the last five seasons he has played two seasons each with EPL side Manchester Phoenix, and with Chieftains rivals London Raiders before joining Chieftains early this season, and amassing a whopping 123 points from just 153 games played over the last five years.
Here at Ice Cold Photography, we wish both players well with their future endeavours, and we thank and salute them for the effort and enthusiasm and entertainment they’ve given to us, the fans, over the years - you will both be missed
9 April 2017
Playoff Heartbreak For Chieftains
The season finale has arrived. The final game of the NIHL S1 2016/17 season. Chieftains find themselves going into the second leg with a bit of a mountain to climb after a bad night in Gillingham. When Liam Chong opened the scoring for Chieftains after just 23 seconds, things looked promising. But, conceding three goals in as many minutes alongside having two goals disallowed, left the Chieftains disheartened and in trouble as a trophy hungry Invicta Dynamos side romped to an 8-3 win in Gillingham. Bringing home a five goal deficit was certainly not in Coach Easton’s battle plan, and it may be a mountain, but not every mountain is impassable. Back in February, Chieftains beat Invicta 9-3 so have proven such a scoreline is achievable, however unlikely it may seem. And this time last year Chieftains beat Wightlink Raiders 7-0 in the home leg of the Playoff final.
With the tension mounting in Riverside, the first period faced off and almost immediately in a carbon copy of the 1st leg, Liam Chong beat King to open the scoring for Chieftains after just 7 seconds. The stunned Dynamos were then on the back foot as Chieftains laid siege to Kings goal, forcing him into save after save. Eventually, Invicta managed some breaks down the ice, Ben Clements in the home goal tested but not really concerned. Another attack by Chieftains was broken up by the Mo’s which resulted in Alex Staples hitting Rehak hard behind the play triggering a delayed penalty by ref Hewitt. Chieftains didn't get to touch the puck though as Strawson and Grant Bartlett dropped the gloves at the edge of the Chieftains zone, Bartlett getting the takedown. The resulting Invicta powerplay yielded nothing for the visitors, the best chance coming on a break for Chiefs which King was equal to. Lots of up and down high energy hockey forced saves from both keepers. Just after the 15 minute mark, Jake Sylvester popped up in the slot and beat King glove side doubling the Chieftains lead on the night and reducing the aggregate deficit to three. A powerplay for Chieftains saw the Invicta penalty killers in disarray as players were sent sprawling all over the ice but despite being down, a couple of highlight reel saves by King ensured the puck didn't fall to a Chelmsford player and the penalty was killed off, the period ending 2-0 in favour of the Chieftains.
The second period started much more sprightly for Invicta who tested Clements a good half a dozen times before Chieftains broke forward and hemmed them in their own zone for what seemed an eternity. Invicta countered, Chieftains countered back and cycled the puck but were still unable to find another way past King. The puck popped out to Chong who would've fired a rocket in on goal save for his stick snapping in half on the shot, the resulting Invicta breakout forcing him to play a full two minutes with no stick. Some good moments of pressure from Dynamos towards the end of the period but, ultimately, neither team was able to force another goal.
Period three started with Invicta’s Elliott Dewey clearing the puck straight over the plexiglass and earning himself a two minute delay of game penalty for his trouble just 23 seconds into the season’s final period of regulation hockey. Chieftains piled on the pressure, putting traffic in front of King and raining shots down on him. It paid off at 41:58 when, after a goal mouth scramble which the ‘Mos couldn’t clear, Grant Bartlett poked the bobbling puck beyond the Kentish goalie. And it looked like the comeback was well and truly on when, just over a minute later, Danny Hammond converted a pass from Huska who’d been released by Sean Barry from the Chieftains defensive end. The scoreboard on the night reading 4-0 in favour of Chieftains, the aggregate score a healthier 7-8 to Invicta. Chieftains took the game to Invicta, laying on heavy checks, getting in passing lanes. It was by far the visiting goalie who had the most work to do. But Invicta bided their time and at 48:30 Steve Osman set up youngster Scott Bailey to break Clements’ shutout and edge the aggregate lead a bit further out of Chieftains grasp. Chieftains weren’t giving up yet, though as one by one the home team’s forwards took shot after shot at King, forcing countless saves, but were unable to find a way through. With the seconds on a Callum Fowler slashing penalty rapidly evaporating, Liam Chong stood tall to block a clearance from the Invicta zone and, taking a puck to the face, went down heavily on the blue line - his season done as he left the ice to have the wound tended to by the team medic. Straight after the restart, it was Fowler stepping out of the penalty box and picking up a loose puck and going on the breakaway that finally broke the home fans collective hearts beating Ben Clements to edge them back to a three goal aggregate lead. Try as they might - and they really did try - Chieftains were unable to claw back any ground on the Dynamos as they pretty much closed the door on Chelmsford, not allowing them to set up in the zone, and barely allowing them time on the puck. With 54 seconds left to play, Chieftains called a time out and pulled Clements in favour of an extra attacker. It was a futile effort, however, as they just couldn’t find a way past King.
The final score on the night was 4-2 in favour of Chieftains, Invicta Dynamos running out 10-7 winners over the weekend to clinch the playoff trophy. Ultimately, the damage had been done on Saturday night with Chieftains uncharacteristic unravelling in Kent, a five goal deficit being too much to overcome. So, while we congratulate Invicta on the Playoff title, let’s not forget that Chieftains won the league and cup double. And that just about wraps up the 2016/17 season. Long may it be remembered for all the right reasons.
3 April 2017
Chieftains Send Raiders On Their Summer Holidays
There's no denying that fans, players, and teams alike this week have been busy on social media whipping the NIHL world into a playoff frenzy with the much anticipated Semi Finals. Most notably, London Raiders coach Alan Blyth, who ventured onto the Chieftains fan's Facebook page to taunt the Black And Gold Army over the amount of noise coming out of Essex. But, despite all the promises from the Raiders faithful, Saturday's first leg in Lee Valley played out in front of a less than packed rink.
While there was plenty of end to end stuff on social media, fans from both sides were hoping for the same on the ice. And they certainly wouldn't have been disappointed with the performance of either team. With both teams looking fast and furious on the fore-check, rapidly turning the game into a battle of the goalies, both Sonny Phillips for Chelmsford and Euan King for the Raiders were forced into save after save with the play rapidly switching ends. It wasn't until almost 14 minutes of the period had passed when the deadlock was broken, Danny Hammond skating into the Raiders zone and sending a cross ice pass to Juraj Huska waiting to tip the puck past King on the left post. Some more bumping and grinding followed as Raiders tried to force an equaliser, but Phillips was equal to everything the home side had to offer, the period ending with Chieftains taking a slender 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
The teams came out for the second period, and London seemed to have more of a spring in their step, for the first minute at least. But at 21:56, with Chieftains having locked the Raiders down in their zone with some tape to tape cycling of the puck, a pass back to the point from Grant Bartlett allowed Carl Graham to release a rocket, beating King over his left shoulder to double the lead. London started to get a bit physical at this point, both Julian Smith and JJ Pitchley doing some sneaky hitting and holding behind the play and out of view of referee William Hewitt. It seemed to work, as the Chieftains looked to be a little unsettled and the Raiders fans could almost taste a goal. They were rewarded just after the 30 minute mark, when big import Slavo Buda finally managed to squeeze a puck past Sonny Phillips. With 32 seconds remaining on the period, JJ Pitchley slashed Callum Wells, who took offence and held on to Pitchley's stick just in case he had any notions of trying it again, earning them both a 2 minute minor penalty for their trouble. The result of this was that after 19 seconds of 4 on 4 hockey, the puck fell to Huska's stick at the top of the slot and all he had to do was pick a spot, resulting in a 3-1 lead going into the second break.
The third period started pretty much as the second had ended, with a minute and half of 4 on 4 which was easily killed off by both teams. By now Alan Lack and Brandon Miles were joining in the rough stuff, a popular target being Brandon Ayliffe, who seemed to have a bullseye painted on his back. At 42:37 Julian Smith didn't wait for the referee to turn his back as he hit Grant Bartlett from behind which could have resulted any number of penalties being called - Roughing the one that Ref Hewitt eventually chose. Despite a couple of shorthanded ventures into the Chieftains zone, all Raiders could do as the Chieftains cycled the puck around their zone, was to watch it once again fall to Huska's stick for Chieftains top scorer to claim yet another hat trick. A nice little run on goal from the Chieftains blue line by Grant Bartlett shortly after saw King come sprinting out of his goal to dive on the puck between the face off circles. But Grant eventually got his goal at 46:01, with an assist going to twin Cameron. A flurry of activity in front of Sonny Phillips saw the Chelmsford nettie at the bottom of a pile of players as they all appeared to jump on each other. After some pushing and shoving and finger wagging, the only penalty that came was a 10 minute Misconduct for Raiders Brandon Miles. With the game ending 5-1, the tie at the half way point may look done and dusted, but on Sunday Raiders are more than likely going to come all guns blazing to Riverside. But after a Chieftains performance that was nothing short of clinical as they picked away at the London defence, It'll be a big ask for the Raiders.
Coming into Riverside for the 2nd leg of the playoff semi final trying to overturn a 5-1 deficit was never going to be an easy task for London Raiders. However, you can't fault the team or fans that thought they could pull off a massive upset in Chelmsford. Maybe it was a sign of things to come when, during the warm up, the London players pinged puck after puck off the goal, over the netting and into the gathering crowd.
As the seconds ticked down to game time, the lights in Riverside went out, and the music built to a crescendo, the fans from both camps were working themselves into a frenzy. The plexi was being banged the whole way around the rink, drums were pounded, and vuvuzela's were blown to welcome the players onto the ice. With the first drop of the puck Chieftains went onto the attack, firing a shot that ricocheted off Euan King's helmet to force a stoppage in play. The faceoff won by London, they broke and attacked the other way, a shot ricocheting off Ben Clements' helmet to force a stoppage in play at the other end. With both teams going on the attack early, it was only a matter of time before a goal came. The breakthrough came at 6:34 when Cameron Bartlett picked out twin brother Grant in the slot who wristed the puck home. Both teams came tantalisingly close to getting the next goal, but it was Grant Bartlett who scored next, his second goal coming at 12:24, this time the assist going to Anthony Leone. At 13:36 Darren Brown took a marginal tripping penalty to put the Raiders on the power play. Keeping the London side to the outside of the zone, Liam Chong passed to Juraj Huska, who in turn sent Danny Hammond down the ice shorthanded to score Chieftains 3rd of the night at 14:00, much to the delight of the home fans. At 14:30 Alan Lack for the Raiders was penalised for Clipping, making the ice seem so much roomier with the 4 on 4. It was London who capitalised at 14:49 when big import Marek Nahlik finally beat Clements in the Chieftains goal, the sole assist going to Captain Tom Davis. Raiders jubilation was short lived, however, because at 16:51 Grant Bartlett and Danny Hammond combined to give Cameron Bartlett goal number four for the Chieftains and just 25 seconds later goal number five, courtesy of the league's top scorer, Juraj Huska - the assist going to Jake Sylvester. Both teams came tantalisingly close to scoring more goals in the period, most notably, Darren Brown who shot from a bad angle to the right of King, the puck going behind King's skate and skidding along the goal line and safely into the opposite corner. The clock ticked down and the period ended with Chieftains doubling their lead from the previous night in just twenty minutes. Into the second period and the Raider's team talk seemed to work when they came out with a spring in their step. They were soon brought back to reality, however, when at 23:35 Brandon Ayliffe stole a puck in the Raiders zone and skated in on Euan King and fired home his fourth goal in three games to give the home side a 6-1 lead. As time pressed on, London's checks became more physical but, once again, Chieftains didn't rise to the bait and stayed disciplined and focused on getting more goals. The next one coming at 35:30, Liam Chong setting up Danny Hammond to get his second of the night. A trip by Andy Munroe with just over two minutes of the period remaining it was Chieftains who went on the powerplay. The home side cycled the puck around and around the Raider's end for a full 18 seconds before a slap shot from the left point by Carl Graham appeared to change direction on its way through traffic to beat King to give the Champions a massive 8-1 lead going into the second intermission. Locked down in their own zone for long periods at a time, there was very little in the way of Raiders offence to trouble Ben Clements in the Chieftains net, facing just 8 shots.
Things started a little differently in the third period. Chieftains coming out with 1:39 of powerplay time remaining on a JJ Pitchley holding call at the end of the second period. Not allowing Chieftains to get set up, Euan King playing the puck to Jack Cooper, who in turn sent Marek Nahlik down the ice on a shorthanded breakaway. The Chieftains defence couldn't get back in time, leaving Clements high and dry and another goal on the board for the Raiders. Following that goal, the Londoners were resurgent and went on the rampage, keeping Chieftains on the back foot for what seemed an eternity, forging attack after attack on Clements' goal, the hard work paying off at 47:10 when the impressive Tom Beesley set up Sam Roberts to give Raiders their third goal. The blue and gold faithful, going wild in their corner of the rink, could feel an unlikely comeback taking shape. Coach Easton called time out while the Chieftains took stock of the situation. At the restart, Chieftains regained their composure and slowly but surely began to pick away at the London defence, while at the back they were stopping most London attacks before they got any close to trouble Ben Clements. A stoppage in play with 10:06 remaining on the clock, and Chieftains leading 8-3 on the night and 13-4 on aggregate, and with nothing left to lose, the Raiders bench pulled King to give youngster Harry Buckingham a chance at playing in a big game - a move which brought cheers from fans from both sides. The 16 year old understudy was brought into action almost immediately, making a big save from the left faceoff circle - the rebound going earily close to sneaking in at the right post. But as Chieftains steady dismantling of Raiders defence continued, fans could sense it was just a matter of time until another goal came. Grant Bartlett, bagging himself a hat trick at 54:40, with assists going to Carl Graham and Cameron Bartlett was next to score. And a minute and a half later, Brandon Ayliffe with greyhound like speed skated in on Buckingham but was hauled down by Alan Lack. Referee Tom Stephenson raised his arm to signal the penalty, but before Clements could even get out of his crease, a sprawling Harry Buckingham had poked the puck off Ayliffe's stick which fell to Matt Turner who flicked it into the now open goal, to send the home side into double figures. And with just a minute and a half to go in the game, Cameron Bartlett and Carl Graham combined once again to set up Grant Bartlett for his fourth goal of the night. While Harry Buckingham will, no doubt, be grateful of being given the opportunity to play in such a high profile game, the Raiders bench really did send a lamb to the slaughter.
If Saturday's first leg in Lee Valley was a clinical performance by Chieftains, then this could be described as nothing short of surgical. Aside from a five or six minute spell at the start of the third period, Chieftains proved once again why they are consistently winning as they dissected both the Raiders defence and fore-check time and time again. And with Ben Clements and Sonny Phillips in goal, Chieftains looked unstoppable all weekend. What looked, on paper, to be a pair of closely fought, thrilling games turned out to be a massive blowout. The game ending 11-3 on the night, and 16-4 on aggregate, Chieftains end Raiders season and advance to next week's final against Invicta Dynamos, who had a similarly convincing win over Streatham. The first leg will be on Saturday 8th April at Silver Blades, Gillingham facing off at 5:15pm, with the 2nd leg at Riverside on Sunday 9th April, face off 6:30pm.
31 March 2017
Playoff Semi Final Weekend
There's just two weeks of NIHL S1 ice hockey left this season and it's all to play for as the end of season playoffs kick up a gear going into this weekend's semi finals. If you've been following along on social media, you'll know that fans and teams alike are working themselves into nothing short of a playoff frenzy in the build up to the games. Last weekend, in the quarter finals, gave up little in the way of surprises, the only one dealt out was just how easily London Raiders dispatched Oxford City Stars after being so evenly matched in the league. But, that's how it goes in the playoffs, and it all went towards setting up a pair of juicy ties in the Semi Finals.
In the quarters, the only ones who really thought Milton Keynes stood a chance were Milton Keynes, even if they did put up a good fight in the 2nd leg, they were never really going to overturn the first leg deficit. Streatham and Solent, on the other hand, could have gone either way after Solent had a burst of form at the end of the league season. On paper, Dynamos have the edge in this tie, having won five of the eight previous games this season. But, Streatham have proven they can win against Invicta in both rinks and will most certainly be looking to avenge that heavy Cup Semi Final defeat. Former Streatham player David Carr thinks that, while the tie is too close to call, the RedHawks have a chance. When I asked him what his thoughts on which way this clash is going to go, he had this to say: "Streatham have looked quality at times under Cornish and they have a lot of speed now which wasn't the case before. Form has been patchy and the RedHawks never really blow teams away which will be a frustration to the Coach. Having said that, Invicta are an attacking team and they do leave gaps at the back so Streatham will need to stay disciplined and look to break with their speed and get some odd man rushes. Invicta have also looked impressive and Rehak is an obvious standout. He has bags of skill, can snipe and is tough which is everything you want in an import. Ashley Jackson has also been a revelation this year and the pair have been a big reason for Mo's success. I think Streatham need to make sure they are still in with a shout for the 2nd leg unlike the Cup Semi Final. The team have shown in recent seasons they can get results in Gillingham and sometimes I think the smaller ice actually suits a lot of the players. Too close to call so yes I am sitting in the fence although my heart obviously wants Streatham to win the PlayOffs." Independent, yet interesting (and always fun) hockey media outlet 482days.com had very similar thoughts when we spoke to them, saying "This is a tough one to call. These sides have ebbed and flowed against each other over the season. I could honestly see it going either way and, if either team has an off day, the other is more than capable of punishing them. Invicta will have a bit of extra confidence after the convincing cup semi-final wins the last times the sides met in February. But, at the same time, Streatham will feel they have something to prove after a seriously lack-lustre performance. For me, the teams probably have the best two netminders in the league - and that could play a massive part as well - but, again, if either keeper has an off day... If both teams bring their A game then I think Invicta might just edge it and the Jackson-Rehak line could have a big say in the final scoreline (assuming both are available for both games)." If the experts can't pick between the two, then what hope do us mere mortals have? To be honest, having watched both teams this season, we have to agree with David and 482days.com in that this one is going to be so close. As was mentioned, Rehak and Jackson will be big players to watch for Invicta. But if all their squad is healthy, they have so many other players to fall back on. Zosiak and Osman are far from strangers to the score sheet, and young Scott Bailey has really been impressing since they picked him up mid season. With Mason Webster mixing it up with just about anybody, and Damien King at the back, with John Dibble in reserve, Dynamos are going to be a tough team to beat. While Jeremy Cornish has Jack Tarczycki, Joe Johnston , Sean Scarbrorough up front, and Matt Colclough in goal holding it all together, we don't think they have as much fire power as Invicta so we think that if Streatham can play good solid defence, they may be able to catch the Mo's on the break. The problem will be being able to play good solid defence against so much Dynamos fire power. While Carrsy and 482days.com are sitting on the fence on this one, we're going to say that, purely because Invicta have the bigger guns and the speed on the forecheck, Dynamos will be taking this one. Although we expect it to be far closer than the cup semi final a month ago.
In the other semi final, London Raiders truly believe they have what it takes to overcome bitter rivals Chelmsford Chieftains. At the start of the season, things looked good for the Londoners in bragging rights, beating Chelmsford in both of the cup group games, scoring ten goals. Unfortunately, for Raiders, it took all of the following six games to score another 10 goals, losing all six of those games, including two shutouts and only holding Chieftains to less than five goals once. However, being former team mates, this one could end up coming down to a battle of the goalies. We spoke to Chieftains stopper Ben Clements, who told us "After seeing how well London did against Oxford in the first round, I think this weekend will be a real test for us. Most people will have us down as the favourites, but anything can happen in the playoffs and we need to be at our best and make sure we play for a full 60 minutes both days if we want to make it to the final. I believe as long as we stick to our game then this is achievable." While at the other end of the ice Euan King was thinking along the same lines, saying "It's going to be a tough series as one thing Chelmsford don't know how to do is lose, especially over two legs. We're going to have to be at our very best, each and everyone one of us, to have a chance of taking the tie. No one expects us to win so we can go out and play without any pressure, enjoy the weekend and play without any shackles and see what happens. Hockey is a strange game any anything can happen especially in the play offs. We will do all we can to try and upset the form book and advance to the final." What's clear speaking to two big names in the line ups, is that neither team will be taking anything for granted this weekend. When we asked 482days.com for their thoughts on the tie, they had this to say: "Obviously Chieftains go in as the red-hot favourites and they will be full of confidence. A strong and talented side with a coach who knows how to get the best out of them. But, I think London may surprise folks and make a real go of it. Could even see them winning the home leg if they can keep discipline (not just penalties but concentration and systems). However, over the two legs, I think Chiefs three strong lines will be just too good. Having said that, don't write the Raiders off - a shock result is not completely off the table." A sentiment that is shared by David Carr, who wrote "The Raiders are obviously buzzing after beating Oxford last week, and will go into the game relatively confident. They have some good solid defenceman and Kinger in goal but if they want to beat Chelmsford their forwards are going to have to work really hard in both ends and I'm not sure they have the numbers to sustain that for 120 minutes. Nahlik and Pitchley are the obvious dangermen but Alan Lack does a great job keeping the energy levels high too. Chelmsford have really good depth and it's hard to see many weaknesses in their roster. I think it will be a Chieftains win but with a spirited effort by the Raiders." Players to watch for Raiders will, undoubtedly, be JJ Pitchley, Marek Nahlik, and Slavo Buda at the front with former Chieftains John Connolly and Juilan Smith at the back and, of course, Euan King in goal. While they also have Captain Tom Davis and Andrew Munroe mixing it up a bit. Also, keep an eye on youngster Ziggy Beesley, who has a tendancy to pop up from nowhere and be a menace to any defence in the league. For the Essex side, there is so much depth in the team that a goal could come from any one of the squad. The Huska/Sylvester/Baldock line has been one of the most productive in the league and few teams have had much of an answer for them. Young Brandon Ayliffe will also be teeming with confidence after scoring his first hat trick as a Chieftain last weekend. While at the back, all six defencemen are a force to be reckoned with for anyone daring to venture into Chelmsford territory. The last time these teams met, they allowed just 23 shots on goal, none of which got past that last line of defence. And while Ben Clements has been huge in goal for Chieftains, Sonny Phillips, in his first full season with Chieftains, has also played a significant part in the team's success, shutting out the Raiders in that last meeting and pulling off almost gymnastic and acrobatic saves to help Chieftains to the cup final win in Gillingham two weeks ago. For us, we're going to go with the form book and say that, despite a good resistance from the Raiders, their defence just won't be good enough to keep the Chieftains forwards at bay, leaving King too exposed at the back. You may call us biased being Chieftains fans, and there may be an element of truth in that. But you can't deny the statistics, so we're going with a Chieftains win on this one.
What is certain, however, is that whoever you support, this is going to be a great weekend of ice hockey, and a great advert for the sport in this country. Everyone who goes to one of the semi final games this weekend, whatever the result, will surely be in for a thrilling game and may well come away from the weekend with no nails left.
Our heartfelt thanks to Ben Clements, Euan King, David Carr and 482days.com supremo Nancy Carpenter for taking time out of their busy schedules to speak to us and give us their thoughts.
27 March 2017
It's the most wonderful time of the (hockey) year - that is the end of season play offs. For the last seven months the teams have been striving to be the best they can to get their best league position for a more favourable playoff opponent. Now we move into the last three weeks of the season, and three weekends of knock out hockey. Being league Champions, Chieftains were pitted against 8th placed Bracknell Hornets.
The fans, the media and pretty much everybody who follows the NIHL South leagues expected this tie to be nothing more of a formality, resulting in a big Chieftains win on Saturday leaving Sunday nothing more than a training exercise for the champions. But, the game was much closer than anyone could've expected as Chieftains brought a fairly narrow 2 goal lead back to Riverside on Sunday after taking the win at The Hive by a 4-2 margin.
The return leg on Sunday saw a less than packed Riverside expecting big numbers as it took just 3:04 for top scorer Juraj Huska to open the scoring from the slot, Liam Chong and Grant Bartlett getting the assists. The home fans were soon silenced, however, as just 54 seconds later Will Stead centred a pass to a waiting Conor Redmond who beat Sonny Phillips to even the game and bring the overall deficit back to two. The rest of the period seemed to be rather flat as Chieftains made hard work of getting out of their defensive zone - Hornets having an answer for pretty much everything the champions tried. There were times as the period wound down that the Hornets looked most likely to score the next goal, goalies at both ends pulling of save after save to keep the scores level.
The second period started with the home fans being stunned, Jordan Gregory setting up Josh Martin to give Bracknell the go ahead goal on the night just twelve seconds into the period. That seemed to wake Chieftains up as they found a spring in their step when Huska set up Brandon Ayliffe at 21:51 to tie the game up again, and a minute later Ayliffe netted the go ahead goal, this time with the help of Cameron Bartlett. The period again settled into a battle of the goalies as neither team could find a breakthrough. Clearly beginning to tire, it was Hornets who came closest to the next goal as, in the dying seconds of the period, veteran blue liner Danny Hughes released a rocket of a shot that beat Sonny Phillips over his left shoulder, only for the puck to ricochet into the corner off the near post in a ping that echoed around the rink.
In the third period, Chieftains came out and piled the pressure on The Hornets, trapping them in their zone as they fired shot after shot at young Danny Milton, as he turned himself upside down keeping the Chieftains attack at bay. The result of the onslaught was inevitable, however and, just before the halfway point of the period, Danny Hammond with a cross ice pass to Darren Brown at the left faceoff circle released a wrist shot that beat Milton over his left shoulder to edge the score to 4-2 on the night, 8-4 on aggregate. Three and a half minutes later, Danny Hammond with a cross ice pass to Darren Brown at the right faceoff circle who released a wrist shot that beat Milton over his right shoulder to edge the score to 5-2 on the night, 9-4 on aggregate. The home fans could taste a big scoreline coming on then as shots rained down on Milton. With a little over five minutes of the game remaining, they were rewarded when Brandon Ayliffe picked up a loose puck and bagged his first hat trick as a Chieftain.
Final score 6-2 on the night in favour of Chieftains, 10-4 on aggregate to set up a pair of thrilling Semi Final encounters next weekend against London Raiders who ran out massive winners over Oxford City Stars.
26 March 2017
2nd leg of the Play Off Quarter finals tonight.
London Raiders came back from 2-0 down to beat Oxford at Lee Valley 4-2 thanks to a natural hat trick from JJ Pitchley. With both teams having been so close in the league, we don't think a 2 goal lead will be enough and the first goal will be crucial. Too close to call.
Invicta took a not unexpected 3-1 home win over MK Thunder and will look to build on that in MK tonight, which we think they will. Invicta to progress.
Streatham Vs Solent ended all square at 2-2 on the South Coast. With Solent's current form and Streatham being a tad inconsistent of late, this one could go either way but we think the big ice pad in Streatham will be an advantage for the home team so we're going mark this one as a Streatham win.
In the final match of the 1/4 finals, the talking point is not that Chieftains won, but more that Bracknell managed to keep it to a two goal margin at The Hive. But coming to Riverside is a completely different beast altogether for the Hornets, especially if they come short benched as they often do. An early goal or two for Chieftains and it could turn into a very long night for Bracknell. But, this is the play offs, and anything really could happen. But, that said, we don't think Hornets will over turn a two goal defecit at Riverside so we'll predict a Chieftains win.
24 March 2017
It's the most wonderful time of the (hockey) year. The league is consigned to the annals of history, the cup final was bravely fought last weekend. Now the most exciting part of the season gets under way. Play off quarter finals start tomorrow, and for four teams the season ends on Sunday. Four more get another week. While Chieftains have a seemingly easy tie facing Bracknell Hornets.
But Hornets will be giving it their all to not make it easy for Chieftains. With just 8 points from 28 league games, Bracknell may have looked to have put in a poor showing during the league, but in reality they have had some really rotten luck. Having gone through a whopping 6 imports this season, they currently have Ondrej Pekarik, who may possibly be one of the best in the league and, although we'll never know, maybe Oxford might have finished higher in the league had they kept hold of his services.
Chieftains, on the other hand, have had pretty much everything go their way this season. Winning the league with six games to spare and the NIHL cup last season after that thrilling cup final last weekend, they have shown consistency wins trophies. And more trophies are what Coach Easton has his sights on. And despite having that hard fought double header against Invicta last weekend, it's bound to be business as usual for Chelmsford.
For all Bracknell's hard work and their weekend off last week, I still can't see this being a close tie. Indeed, this one may be al over bar the shouting on Saturday. We're going to predict this one as a Chieftains win.
We're not able to make Bracknell on Saturday but we will be at Riverside on Sunday for the 2nd leg.
19 March 2017
Champion Chieftains Take The Cup
With the league done and dusted for another season, and another week until the play offs start, all NIHL S1 eyes were on the 2 legged Cup Final which sees league champions Chieftains take on Invicta Dynamos again. Whilst dominant in the league, Chieftains were far from their best in the group stage of the cup at the start of the season, only managing to beat Streatham. And with Dynamos coming into the tie as one of only two teams to win at Riverside this season, and the only team to have done it twice. The 'Mos have been filling social media all week with the #ourtime in an attempt to rally their support and the scene was all set for a classic matchup.
The first of the six periods of the tie started with Chieftains being penned into their own zone, with Dynamos cycling the puck like it was a powerplay. But It was Chieftains who got the break when Huska and Baldock set up Jake Sylvester for the opening goal at 2:40 to hush the vocal Dynamos crowd. However, it took just 51 seconds for Invicta to reply as Ondrej Zosiak, skating down the wing unchecked as the Chelmsford defence backed off, fired a heavy shot on Ben Clements and Steve Osman made no mistake hammering the puck into the empty net as the Chieftains stopper was unable to recover. With some solid end to end hockey from both teams, it was only a matter of time until the next goal was scored, it was just a question of who was going to score it. The answer was given at 12:17 when Zosiak, with help from Tom Ralph, sent Osman on his way once again, this time firing from the faceoff circle beating Clements stick side, much to the delight of the so called "Dynamos Wall Bangers". The period ending with a slender 2-1 lead in favour of the visitors, this one could still go either way.
Chieftains came out for the 2nd period all guns blazing with Danny Hammond setting up defenceman Sean Barry for a rare goal to tie the game at 2 just over a minute into the period. Just over three minutes later and Huska assisted by Cameron Bartlett restored the home teams lead. Cameron Bartlett had aspirations of a goal of his own and went skating in to the Dynamos zone, only for Tom Ralph to hold him up and impede his progress, resulting in a holding penalty, while referee (and far from fans favourite) Blaine Evans adjudged Bartlett to have exaggerated the hold and called him for a dive leaving the teams to play 4 on 4. Less than a minute into the penalties, Huska scored his second of the night, this time combining with Liam Chong. Their fans quietened, Invicta decided to turn up their physical game, finishing checks heavily, finishing some checks maybe a little later than they should have. Whether this was an attempt to goad the Chieftains into taking retaliatory penalties or not, only their coach will know. But for the most part, the home players just walked away - a game plan that has seen other teams infuriated even more. The period ending 4-2 in favour of the Chieftains, Invicta had some work to do in the third.
The Chieftains may have come out all guns blazing in the second, but it was the 'Mos turn in the third. Once again controlling the play in the Chelmsford zone, it was the visitors who looked most likely to score the next goal, and everybody in Riverside knew that would be crucial. And with Invicta carrying on where they left off with the heavy hits, it looked increasingly likely that some fisticuffs would eventually result. The next goal came at 44:39, Callum Wells in the penalty box sitting out a holding call, Dynamos Captain Callum Fowler made the man advantage pay, with assists going to Rehak and Strawson, much to the delight of the travelling fans. With just under 8 minutes of the game remaining, the expected, and inevitable, happened. Huska, skating into the Dynamos zone was checked hard by Harrison Lillis, to which the Slovakian forward took offence, and levelled Lillis with one punch, earning both players a sit in the box for roughing minors. However, among the ensuing mêlée, Liam Chong, who appeared to have fallen onto Lillis as he went down, was judged to have been third man in, earning himself a game misconduct. And after having had words for most of the period, Carl Graham and Mason Webster finally dropped the gloves. Webster getting the take down as Graham took a nasty cut to the forehead, resulting in the Zamboni being called out to clear the blood from the ice. Graham later posted a photo on social media from Broomfield Hospital showing his repair wound and stating that "I could see the blood squirting from my head during the fight but I had to keep going". And for their bout, both players were given 2+2 for fighting. In the minutes that remained, neither team could gain the upper hand, with both sides going close but nobody being able to find a way past either goalie.
With the final horn signalling the halfway point of this two legged tie, with the score finely poised at 4-3, Dynamos may be down but they're certainly not out. This was a great spectacle of ice hockey, all action, heavy hitting and end to end and just what a cup final should be.
Sunday night, and it was Cup Final, part 2. With Chieftains taking the narrowest of leads from Riverside on Saturday, the thrilling spectacle of ice hockey was all set to continue in the second leg at Gillingham. And with the score poised at 4-3 in favour of Chieftains, everybody in a packed Silver Blades knew that the first goal would be crucial.
As the puck dropped on the first period, both teams carried on where they left of the night before, playing good, flowing, end to end hockey. Referee Stephenson didn't take long to stamp his authority on the game, calling Lillis for a trip in the first 5 minutes. Chieftains set up the Powerplay in the Invicta zone, but alas nobody could find a way past Damien King. A big hit in the corner by Grant Bartlett saw the Chieftain forward sitting a minor penalty for boarding and the Dynamos set up camp in front of Sonny Phillips. They too were left frustrated as the young Chieftains nettie closed the door on every shot. The fans from both teams were making themselves heard as they tried to egg on the teams to find a breakthrough. They were made to wait until 16:09 before the deadlock was broken, the goal going to Invicta as Nick Lewis tucked away a juicy rebound from Grutridge's initial shot. 1-0 to the Dynamos, which tied the match at four apiece on aggregate. With less than two and a half minutes left on the period, Cameron Bartlett found himself in trouble for a hook that happened right in front of the referee, and with 41 seconds remaining, Sean Barry joined him in the naughty box for slashing. Unable to convert on the 5 on 3 powerplay, the period ended 1-0 in favour of the home side.
Chieftains started the second period with 1:19 of Sean Barry's penalty left to kill. It seemed an easy job, however, as Invicta could barely get set up in the Chieftains zone. Just over six minutes into the period, 'Mos import Adam Rehak hit Callum Wells hard behind the play at the back of Phillips goal. Taking exception to this, Wells wanted to have a little chat with him. Cue Invicta tough guy Mason Webster who stepped in and the pair of them dropped the gloves. A short game of handbag throwing ensued during which Wells got in some good punches and quickly took Webster to the ice. The fight bagged both Wells and Webster 2+2+2 for roughing, with Wells also getting and extra 2 minutes for a slash on Rehak before the melee, putting the face off to the right of Phillips' goal. Just 9 seconds after the restart, a defensive error by the Dynamos powerplay unit saw the puck fall nicely on the blade of Huska's stick, who was then allowed to skate at King and made no mistake burying the puck for a short handed marker, tying the game and giving Chieftains the go ahead goal in the tie. 3 minutes later, with Harrison Lillis in the penalty box again, this time for holding, Jake Sylvester slotted home a powerplay goal with assists from Huska and Danny Hammond, the period ending with Chieftains leading 2-1 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate.
The third period started with Invicta knowing they had to somehow get themselves back into the game with an early goal, and they were playing like they meant it too. However, the Dynamos Wall Bangers were silenced at 43:55 when Grant Bartlett skated down the left wing at speed and centred the puck to a waiting Brandon Ayliffe, who had an easy slot in with King well out of position. 3-1 on the night, 7-4 on aggregate, many thought that was the game. But three minutes later, with Matt Turner for Chieftains sitting out a tripping penalty, Nick Lewis again picked up a rebound slotting the puck past Phillips' right skate for a powerplay goal. The Invicta fans were alive again as they could feel their team get back in it. Mid way through the third period, the teams changed ends because of lighting issues at the aging Silver Blades rink, and just after the restart penalties were called on Ondrej Zosiak for the 'Mos and Sonny Phillips for Chieftains, both for slashing. Although both teams came close, neither could manage that finishing touch on the 4 on 4. With 1:05 remaining in the game, and a face off coming deep in the Chieftains zone, a time out was called. When the teams came back for the restart, Invicta goalie Damien King remained on the bench, in favour of an extra attacker. Chieftains got the puck and shot down the ice. The puck bounced off the right post. Invicta retrieved the puck and attacked again. Chieftains regained control and shot the puck down the ice and missed the goal. Icing called. Chieftains again took control of the puck and shot down the ice again. The puck bounced off the left post. This time, however, Grant Bartlett chased the puck down the ice and sent the rebound across the line to finish off the Dynamos.
With the Barmy Army leaving the building, all that was left was for Chieftains to celebrate a 4-2 win on the night and an 8-5 victory in the Cup Final, lifting their second piece of silverware of the season.
17 March 2017
It's The Cup Final Weekend
The NIHL S1 league season has ended, and the play offs are imminent. But before that, there's the small issue of the cup final to decide.
Invicta Dynamos visit Riverside on Saturday 18th March in the first leg, with the 2nd leg at Gillingham the following day. Going off whole season form, Chieftains have to be favourites to take the silverware. But, Dynamos are coming into the tie as not only one of only two teams to win at Riverside this season, but are also the only team to have done it twice. Invicta dominated Chieftains in the group round of the cup winning both games. But in the league it's been a different story, with a 2-1-1 record in favour of the Champions. Chieftains are coming into the tie on the back of a 14 game winning streak. However, the last points they dropped were at the beginning of January in the double header against Invicta. The 'Mos last 13 games since that double header they have a 6-6-1 record in all competitions. Statistically, at least, Chieftains should take the win.
But, ice hockey is far from a game of statistics. Gillingham is a notoriously difficult rink to win in, so Chieftains will have to come out all guns blazing on Saturday at Riverside and take a reasonable lead to Gillingham on Sunday. If Chelmsford can go into the 2nd leg with a 3 or 4 goal cushion, then I can't see how Invicta would be able to come back from that, even with their army "wall bangers". But, if Invicta can make it a third win at Riverside, chances are they can take that to Silver Blades and hold on to it. A draw on Saturday night and it really could go either way on Sunday.
All we can say for sure is that it's going to be a weekend of fast paced, hard hitting end to end ice hockey as both teams will be giving it their all to make it their night. Invicta have been advertising it at "Our Time", Chieftains will beg to differ.
Face Off at Riverside on Saturday is 5:40pm, while at Silver Blades on Sunday it's 5:15pm We will be at both legs and so will media giants 482days so come and tap us on the shoulder and say hello.
LET'S GO CHIEFTAINS
13 March 2017
The final weekend of the 2016/17 league season saw our Champions having a night off on Saturday, resting up for a trip to Streatham to face the Redhawks on Sunday for the second successive weekend. While all Chieftains league games since winning the title in early February have been glorified training sessions, positions 2 to 6 in the league have still been very much up for grabs right up until the last day. And with Streatham right in the thick of it as they battled hard to steal the runners up spot from Invicta Dynamos. Needing a win to guarantee 2nd place, and with a 6-3 home defeat at the hands of Chieftains a week earlier to avenge, the Londoners were determined to take the spoils at the High Road. It was clear from the first face off, however, that Coach Easton was in no mood to do the Redhawks any favours - even if it would've been at the expense of the 'Mos. It took just 2:10 for Jake Sylvester to put the first goal on the board, with assists going to Ollie Baldock and Sean Barry. And just 59 seconds later, Darren Brown fed Matt Turner for the Chiefs 2nd goal. The period saw every Streatham attack into the Chieftains running into a Chieftains player or his stick to stop the advance dead. On the rare occasion the 'Hawks players were getting through, Sonny Phillips in the visitors goal was standing tall. At 16:27, the red light of glory was once again lit as Cameron Bartlett converted Brother Grant's pass. And at 17:41, the Streatham faithful were truly silenced as Grant Bartlett this time sent Juraj Huska on goal, with the second assist going to Sonny Phillips. At the buzzer with the Chieftains holding a stonking 4-0 lead, the Streatham fans feared (and the Chieftains fans hoped) that a walkover was imminent. It was looking like a long, long night for Streatham.
With both sets of fans thinking the rest of the game may turn out to be merely a formality, the second period started and whatever the coach had said in the intermission team talk had clearly worked as Streatham had Chieftains on the back foot from the drop of the puck. It took just 1:10 after the restart for Sean Scarborough to dash any hopes Phillips had for a second successive shutout. And at 25:37, retiring Captain Joe Johnston gave the home team hope as he halved Chieftains lead. After not bothering to call any penalties at all in the first half of the game, Referee Jurijs Solovjovs made up for it in the closing minutes of the 2nd period. First penalising Callum Wells after he brought down a speeding Streatham forward who only had goal on his mind. At 36:32 George Norcliffe making Chieftains pay as he converted the man advantage. And, at 39:18, the home fans erupted as Jack Tarczycki fired from the slot to tie the game at 4. Streatham could almost taste that 2nd place. With just 6 seconds of the period remaining, Ref Solovjovs struck again as he tossed Callum Best from the bench for a 10 minute misconduct penalty, which completely baffled the fans and teams alike (not that the Chieftains contingency were complaining). We can only assume Mr Solovjovs took exception to the manner in which Callum banged the boards with his stick!
With the game very finely poised at 4-4, the game was all set for a grandstand finish. And that's exactly what the fans were rewarded with as, for the next 10 minutes, both teams played good end to end hockey with both Phillips and Colclough making outstanding saves. At 50:34 ,however, the deadlock was broken as young Brandon Ayliffe grabbed the puck and went speeding down the right wing like a greyhound and centred the puck to a waiting Matt Turner who made no mistake in bagging himself his second goal of the night. Chieftains then fought to kill off another Streatham powerplay, this time Ollie Baldock serving the time for an almost identical trip as Callum Well's . Fortunately, this time, Streatham were frustrated. With 1:10 remaining on the clock, and a face off deep in Chelmsford territory, Streatham called time out. After a 30 second chat and refreshment break, the teams returned - the Redhawks net ominously empty as Matt Colclough remained on the bench in favour of an extra attacker. Luck wasn't on Streatham's side, though, as Alex Staples and Grant Bartlett combined to send Liam Chong skipping through the Streatham defence to shoot into the empty net. Streatham confirmed in 3rd place as the final buzzer brought down the curtain on not only a thrilling game but also a thrilling league campaign. Final score from High Road, Streatham 4-6 Chieftains.
The win leaves Chieftains topping the league by a massive 18 point gap over Invicta Dynamos. And, having dropped just 4 points all season, a 93% points percentage. Focus now shifts to this weekend's cup final against Invicta. First leg is at Riverside on Saturda 18th March, face off 5:40pm, second leg in Gillingham on Sunday night, face off 5:15pm. Bring your voices, bring your drums, bring whatever you can and make some noise for your Champion Chelmsford Chieftains.
10 March 2017
League Finale Weekend
It's the last weekend of the NIHL S1 league season and, although the title has already been decided, there's still lots to play for mid table. Chieftains have a night off on Saturday then head to Streatham for the second week running for their final game of the season. For Chieftains, it's nothing more than bagging an extra couple of points and another win. And so far this season in all competitions, Chieftains have a 5-0-0 record against the Redhawks and will be looking to sweep the series. So whilst players that may be carrying injuries might get a bit of a rest ahead of next weeks cup final, Coach Easton will still be expecting his players to give their all for the whole game to take the current winning streak to 14. However, Streatham are still in with a chance of stealing 2nd place of Invicta so will certainly not be wanting to conform to Chelmsford's game plan.
Meanwhile, at the foot of the table, Milton Keynes and Bracknell now have a couple of weekends off before the play offs as they've both completed their league schedule and finished 7th and 8th respectively. While Bracknell will be resigned to the fact that they will once again be facing Chieftains in the first round of the play offs, MK's opposition won't be confirmed until Sunday evening.
In the middle of the table, it really is a case of anything could happen. Every team from 2nd to 5th could drop a position, while every team 3rd to 6th could move up a position. But for any of that to happen, most teams will need to win out but will still be depending on other results going their way.
Invicta are currently holding on to 2nd just two points ahead of Streatham, who have a game in hand. The 'Mos also have the night off on Saturday, then welcome Solent Devils to Gillingham on Sunday night. Even a win against Solent, however, won't guarantee them 2nd spot, if Streatham win both their games they will finish level on points with Invicta but Streatham have the tie break by 6pts to 2.
While Invicta are enjoying their night off, Streatham make the short journey North of the the Thames to Lee Valley to take on London Raiders. Raiders are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games so the 'Hawks will surely fancy their chances here. Especially as we believe key import Marek Nahlik is still out injured and JJ Pitchley has just been handed a 2 game ban which will see him sidelined for the weekend. Sunday against Chieftains, they will be wanting to avenge last week's 6-3 defeat and send retiring Captain Joe Johnston off in style with a last night league win.
Oxford, currently 4th, could still go either way. If Streatham come unstuck both nights, 3 points could do it for them and see them sneak up into 3rd place. But the Stars are facing a tough trip to an in form Solent, who have won their last 4, on Saturday and then host London Raiders on Sunday.
Speaking of London Raiders, currently they're sitting in 5th position, and will need all 4 points if they're to leapfrog Oxford, and will need at least to points to keep the surging Solent Devils at bay.
That said, for Solent in 6th place, it's not going to be an easy weekend. With a record of 1-1-1 against Oxford this season, I think Saturday's game will be too close to call. And a road trip to Gillingham to take on Invicta in their final game on Sunday. Back in September in Gillingham, Dynamos took the points with a narrow 5-3 win. However, both games in Solent have resulted in home wins. Again, another tough one to call.
My predictions for the league finale, Invicta will have their Barmy Army on their side in Gillingham and that may be enough to boost them to victory over Solent. That will leave Streatham needing all 4 points and, while I can see them beating London, it's going to be a big ask to take 2 points of the streaking Chieftains. Oxford, however, could come away with a winning weekend but if they're to move up into 3rd they will still have to rely on Streatham dropping at least 3 points. London, with their wobbly form, I can see taking nothing from the weekend and will be desperately praying that Solent also slip up. While on the South coast, the devils could possibly take the points off Oxford, but I really can't see them beating Invicta at the Ice Bowl on Sunday. Overall, at the end of Sunday night, I expect the league positions to remain as they are.
6 March 2017
The final home game of the league season brought bottom placed Bracknell Hornets to Riverside in what will be a practice run for the first round of the play offs in just a few weeks time. Hornets not having beaten Chieftains since November 2010, the home fans were expecting a rout. But, since the guests at Riverside brought more travelling fans than frequent some of their home games, it seemed that the Berkshire outfit had aspirations of causing a big upset on the night the champions were officially presented with the league trophy. In the end, both sets of fans were treated to some great hockey - though most of it was from one team. From the first face off it was clear Chieftains would be dominant, every Hornets trip into the Chieftains zone resulting in a Chieftains counter attack. And the home fans didn't have to wait long as Jake Sylvester opened the scoring at 4:13 unassisted. Young Bracknell stopper Nate Gregory, getting the start over the more experienced Danny Milton, did well to keep the home side at bay for almost 11 minutes, until Juraj Huska doubled the lead at 15:08, with assists from Sylvester and Barry. Bracknell surely thought things weren't going that bad when the period ended with Chieftains taking a modest 2-0 lead into the break.
The 2nd period started much more sprightly for Chieftains, Matt Turner only making the Chieftains faithful wait 2 1/2 minutes after the restart before skating into the Hornets zone, deking Gregory out of his pads and firing through the 5-hole from the hash marks. Less than 6 minutes later, Grant Bartlett stole the puck from a Bracknell forward and skated unchecked into the slot right in front of the young Bracknell stopper and from point blank range only had to pick a hole to aim for, choosing just above Gregory's right shoulder taking the lead to 4-0 at 28:59. Then, at 35:13, that big productive forward line struck again, Huska once again ending the superb build up play from Sylvester and Baldock making the score 5-0. By this point, Ben Clements in the Chieftains goal was starting to look bored as the vast majority of Hornets attacks never actually made it much further than the blue line. The period ending 5-0, this one was all over bar the shouting.
The final period started as the previous one ended, the sixth goal of the game coming at 43:47, when a Sean Barry shot from the blue line was saved by Gregory but, a split second before he could get his glove over the rebound, Jake Sylvester popped up and poked the puck from under the looming glove and into the net for his second of the night. A little over four minutes later and Danny Hammond added a seventh, and the home fans could almost taste double figures. Bracknell applied some pressure and eventually it paid off as import Michal Oravec ended Clements' hopes of a shutout at 54:43. Not to be outdone, just 20 seconds later Huska bagged his 6th hat trick of the season, assisted by Baldock and Chong. And, less than a minute later, Danny Hammond skated from his own defensive zone, around the back of Gregory's net and slipped the puck just inside the post for his second of the night. One minute later and cue Callum Wells from the blue line to add the last goal of the game, giving the home side a spectacular 10-1 victory.
Not the worst defeat Bracknell have been handed by Cheiftains in recent years, having gone down 15-0 at Riverside a year previously, credit must go to the Hornets who, in all fairness, never give up even in the face of such adversity. And, the match over, Richard Carpenter of the EIHA presented the players, coaches and staff with their individual medals then handed team Captain, Anthony Leone, with the NIHL S1 league title for the 5th year in succession, much to the overwhelming delight of the fans.
3 March 2017
With the penultimate weekend of league hockey looming, Chieftains look to further increase their points tally. With 3 games to go they are looking good to end the season with a whopping 52 points. This weekend sees Chieftains travel to Streatham on Saturday night. In the four previous meetings between the two so far this season, Chieftains have come away victorious - albeit by a narrow 2-1 margin in two of the games, which surely makes the champions favourites to take the points here. That said, Streatham are pushing Invicta for 2nd place so will be hoping they can pull off an upset.
Sunday Chieftains return to Riverside for the final home game of the league season against Bracknell Hornets. This game couldn't be more dead rubber for anyone as the result won't benefit anyone in the league - neither teams position can be changed by a win nor will the result affect the any of the other teams in he league. But it's safe to say that Chieftains will be playing for points and Hornets will be playing for pride. You'd have to fancy a Chieftains win here as you'd have to go back to December 2009 to find the last time Hornets recorded a win over Chieftains.
Also at Riverside this Sunday, Chieftains will be officially be presented with the league trophy and, as with the previous few games, it's kids for a quid night again. Doors open at 5:30 for a 6:30 face off, come on down to Riverside and celebrate with your Chelmsford Chieftains.
Chieftains aren't the only team playing this weekend, however. In their quest to make the NIHL S2 play offs, Warriors host London Haringey Racers at Riverside on Saturday, with the return leg at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.
In the WPL, leaders Chelmsford Cobras head to Slough for their penultimate game of the season. Still sitting pretty at the top of the Women's Premier League, the Cobras go into Saturday's game 2 points clear of 2nd place Streatham Storm. But, with Storm having a game in hand over the Cobras, and Cobra's final game of the season being against Storm at Riverside in May, the WPL race is all set for a thrilling finale.
1 March 2017
Here at Ice Cold Photography HQ, our main purpose was originally providing great action photos ice hockey to local fans of their favourite team. Over the last two seasons that's progressed somewhat. Even so, we have never sought, nor expected, to win any awards for our efforts. So we are chuffed to announce that we have today received what is arguably THE most sought after prize in the NIHL and, quite possibly, British Ice Hockey today. That prize being the 482days.com #piamg mug. We weren't expecting it so we didn't have an acceptance speech prepared but let us just assure the nice folk over at 482days that we will love it and cherish it and look after it and most definitely drink lots and lots of good strong coffee from it. And finally, thank you to every player who scored a goal on the weekend that I correctly guessed the total amount of goals over a weekend. It means a lot.