British Hockey Is back! Yes, that’s right our weekends are back
for the next 6 weeks with the NIHL Streaming Series Spring
Cup!!! So, what does this mean?
Following the success of the Autumn series the Autumn Series
Winners Sheffield Steeldogs and Autumn Series Runners Up
Swindon Wildcats are now joined by the Bracknell Bees,
Romford Raiders and Telford Tigers. With the Planet Ice
facilities around the country having their ice taken up Milton
Keynes Lightning, Peterborough Phantoms, Basingstoke Bison
are not part of this tournament which is a shame as both the
Autumn Series and Spring Cup are seen as the stepping
stones to getting league action back on track for England.
With current GB players Ben Davies, Josh Batch, Matt Myers joining Swindon and Ben O’Connor, Ben Lake joining Steeldogs for the Autumn cup. The NIHL Series became one of the hottest prospects for the British EIHL players. Swindon Welcomed home Nottingham Panthers’ Jordan Kelsall as well as Jordan Marr backing up Brother Renny in between the Pipes for Aaron Nell’s side.
Sheffield eager to keep up their winnings ways after sealing the Spring Cup tourny well and truly brought out the big guns - their top line featuring Steelers Captain Jonathon Phillips, Steelers
defenceman Davey Phillips (no relation…just a happy coincidence), Giants’ Ben Lake, Jason Hewitt and Liam Kirk. I think seeing Ben Davies go head to head on the face off dot against Jono Phillips is worth the £12 alone! Type in the GB France goal from Slovakia and you’ll see what I mean ��.
Saturday 13 the ticked around and at the Swindon Link Centre both teams lined up for the National Anthem, with 1930 edging closer it was hockey night in Wiltshire. The pace was dictated in the opening couple of minutes with both Swindon and Steeldogs getting some very early chances but both teams having different tactics Dogs taking a much more offensive option compared the Cats who capitalised on loose pucks and breakaways. This was a game that was waiting for goals and it didn’t take too long for the teams to get one. Unfortunately for Aaron Nell it was Steeldogs’ with a shorthanded goal from Liam Kirk who snuck it past Renny on the far post assisted by Ben Lake and Ben O’ Connor within the opening 2 mins.
Like we saw in the Autumn series, and in seasons past Swindon are not a team to be taken lightly with a narrow goal margin. The Wildcats although lost the initial face off were able to quickly regroup and start to push back against the Steeldogs. Captain Bullas being the ever-present threat in the shooting lanes with Toms Rutkis able to generate plays from the centre ice meant that the Dogs had to keep the Cats in check. D man Tyler Plews a visible presence on the blue line made sure that the Cats could rely on the puck being kept in the zone. But a mismanaged shift change gave the
‘Dogs the opportunity to take the play back to the Cats defensive zone with Jono Phillips taking the shot but unable to convert due to Renny closing the angle down on the GB Captain.
Shortly after the Cats went on a powerplay then a 5 on 3 after Jono was sent into the Bin at 12:50. Looking to address the goal line, Cats then went on a flurry – only to be countered by savvy plays from the dogs including shots being blocked by veteran Forward Craig Elliot and Nell being denied by the Goal post. Despite their chances the ‘Cats were unable to convert any of their shots on goal, with the penalties elapsing and the Dogs back at full strength the Yorkshire side nearly made it 2-0 from
Alex Graham, being denied at the last moment by Renny Marr who managed to stop the puck from creeping over the line!
Back to the action and it was Swindon’s Matt Myers who nearly made it coast to coast with a one man charge against the Steeldogs, with the saves coming thick and fast it was the Dogs who took it back down the length of the ice back down to the Ctas defensive zone. However, with some skilful marking of key players Cats were able to break out with Malaszinski after a 1 on 2 he was forced behind net, passing to Myers who passed the puck to a waiting Nell who buried the puck at the near- post drawing the scores level with 6 mins left of the period.
The scores remained 1 all until the end
of the period with the only notable event being a
penalty being called on Swindon with 48 seconds
left on the clock.
With the Match night Reporter grabbing an
interview with Liam Kirk, Kirky gave his verdict on
the game so far: “The play was really good, great
tempo to the game with both sides I think we
(Steeldogs) were outshot in this period.” He then
added that “I am looking to use this tournament to
keep my development up and to take this back to
the OHL later in the year. This is due to the NHL
entry contract being dependant on me performing
well at that level”.
With the second period looming Aaron Nell lined up his PK unit of Myers, Kelsall, Batch and
Malaszinski – a unit which can control the play coupled with offensive firepower that some teams can only dream of; however, it was the dogs with the man advantage took the initiative – parking themselves in the Cats defensive zone. The cats were able to pass the puck to a waiting Josh Batch who cleared it from the zone, being picked up by Aaron Nell in the dogs’ zone who duly converted his chance taking the puck off the wall making it 2-1 to Cats at 20:40! Again, the period had lots of chances for both sides, Ben Davies going on 1on 1 and Davey Phillips trying his luck with a bouncing shot from the blue line but none of them could convert them with the skills that were on display.
With big body blocks from outfield players (both forwards and defenceman) this was a very differentgame to the previous Autumn series – like the commentator said it looked more like a Cup final game rather than a mid-season fixture! Just like the first period both teams were itching to get on the scoreboards, however just like the first period the goal came from a broken Swindon Play with a Kelsall shot being denied, it was Liam Kirk who gave the Dogs the equalizer goal assisted by Davey
Phillips (2-2). Things got slightly worse for the Cats as a high stick call on Nell meant they were back on the PK, Kelsall again trying to get on the scoreboard was denied by Zimzodra. Back to the other end of the rink Ben O’Connor was denied by Marr’s cross bar, Cats were briefly back to full strength but then on a too many men call with a poor shift change.
The period also saw the first piece of Puck luck for the Cats, Dogs saw a goal waved off by thereferee and Marr denying the dogs twice in quick succession with both a rebound and a glove save from a Ben O’Connor slapshot. With the Cats seeing their chance they were able to move quickly past the dogs forward line, taking their place in the dog defensive zone the cats were able to cycle the puck trying to find a hole in the dogs’ defence. Tyler Plews keeping the Cats in play stopping the puck with one hand on his stick was a highlight! However, the Cats couldn’t convert and were soon
on the back check back in their zone, Hewitt firing an absolute laser over the Crossbar and Marr again pulling out highlight reel saves one after the other with only and icing call stopping the play.
Despite the ‘Dogs efforts the Cats were able to keep the scores at 3-2 closing the period in their own zone.
With the match night host interviewing Swindon’s Captain Sam Bullas, Bullas remarked that;
“It’s a great game so far with the GB and Elite teams, the pace is fast and has a great tempo.”
“I think it’s great that we have our younger players playing with some of the GB National team, time spent playing alongside players like Ben Davies, Jono Phillips and players that I consider heroes Matt Myers and Davey Phillips is a fantastic opportunity.”
“Considering that we have only had 1 and a half’s week of ice is even more remarkable, I know a lot of players without Ice and I think that we are very lucky here in Swindon with the organisation”
With the score line at 2-2 and neither side giving an inch, everyone tuned into the stream were in fora treat. Although the dogs won the opening face off it was the Cats who were able to get the first shot of the period, however a rebound save picked up by Hewitt meant that the dogs were able to return the favour driving deep into the Cats zone. After a testing shot by Davey Phillips followed by a Dogs’ icing call it was young Liam Kirk who as able to get his hattrick goal with a tight angle beating Marr at the far post (3-2). Back at the dot and chances from Nell and Malaszinski denied again by the
dogs, another chance came in from a long pass by Goodchild but Kelsall being offside meant it was back to square one for the Cats. Bullas again leading the charge way into the Dogs shooting zone meant that the Steeldogs couldn’t rest on the score line, Alex Graham again went on the attack but looked to over stick handle with pressure put on by Marr and his D men. After some scrappy play from both sides it was Dog’s who went ahead with another Kirk goal a carbon copy of his first and second of the night beating Marr at the far post with Jono Phillips assist (4-2).
Wildcats responded with a goal late on the period coming in from Aaron Nell with 0230 left in the period (4-3), looking to build on this and following a ‘Cats timeout Renny Marr was pulled for an extra skater for the face off. After a number of attempts to start the play the Cat’s and Dogs fought in the shooting lanes of the Dogs’ net, with the shout going just wide of the Cats’ goal and an icing call – the play was restarted and the puck broke free and landed on Ben O’Connor’s stick – the GB Dman duly adding the fifth and final Dog’s goal of the night (5-3).
With just over 70secs left on the clock, the cats went all out
– Toms Rutkis picking up the puck at centre ice diving in
between the two Dogs defenceman and firing an absolute
laser past the Dogs’ Netminder making it 4-5 to Swindon.
The action didn’t relent in the last-minute double saves from
both netminders meant that both teams were not counting
down until the final whistle…and to think this is the first
game of the Series!!!
Final Score: Swindon Wildcats 4 – Sheffield Steeldogs 5
Man of the Match: Swindon: Renny Marr Steeldogs: Liam