Tag Archives: Josh Waller

Playoff Pressure Mounts in Guildford

Coming into the week, the Flames had never won an EIHL game in Altrincham. They were also yet to beat Fife, but were yet to lose against Dundee. So with just 2 points taken out of 6 from last week, should this really come as a surprise? Well, the short story is that the hunt for a regulation win in 2019 continues.

Wednesday night against the Manchester Storm was always going to be an uphill challenge, as it is well documented that the Flames struggle on the smaller ice surface, and after being heavily outshot 15-6 in the first period, to go into the break just 1 goal down certainly wasn’t the end of the world.

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Baldwin looks to spark the Flames into life at the start of the 3rd period. Credit – @MattyC1981/Manchester Storm Facebook

The second period was not so kind. Storm came out even stronger, and outshot the Flames 20-11, but the game looked dead and buried following a huge turnover by Davies which saw the Storm double their lead, and then add a spectacular third from Long.

An angry Calle Ackered spoke to Storm TV as he came off the ice and said “We know we can score 3 goals in a period, no problem!”, and they came very close as Reddick netted 2 goals in the final period but it was just too little too late and the Flames left empty handed.

Fife came to the Spectrum after a poor run of form but quickly took the lead through a Cazzola powerplay goal. Foster levelled things up shortly after and at the first break, although even on the scoreboard and the Flames heavily outshooting Fife 19 shots to 8, the Flames were not looking at all comfortable and were playing with very little confidence.

Yet again, the second period was one to forget for Guildford. Bloodoff scored early on, and despite again outshooting Fife, another terrible mis-control, this time from Jez Lundin, saw Schaber go through unchallenged on Carrozzi to add a third with just 3 minutes remaining in the period.

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Credit – GuildfordFlames.com/John Uwins Photography

The Flames finally fired back into life when Crooks scored at the mid-way point of the third – A goal which lifted both players and supporters and saw the Flames go on a late push to try to level the game.

The usually strict duo of Hogarth & Rose let the game flow as much as he could, letting numerous questionable plays go unpunished; A Kevin King crosscheck, mid-ice, in clear view of both officials and a long way from the puck, which sent a Fife player to the ice being the pick of the bunch, but with just 1:01 remaining in the game, Crowder was called for holding and Stoflet was called for roughing, meaning the final minute was to be a 5-on-3 in favour of the Flames.

A timeout was called, Carrozzi was pulled and the 6 Flames skaters played numerous passes to open up a shooting lane, until Reddick found Watters:

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A 5-on-4 powerplay continued until the final buzzer, and it continued into overtime where the Flames saw the lions share of possession, but it was Bulmer who fired home the winner which saw Fife keep their 100% record against the Flames.

A 5am coach trip to Dundee followed immediately after, and after a scoreless first period, Dixon told Stars TV how happy he was to go into the break without conceding given the day of travel.

The second period for the Flames was surprisingly successful, and they took a 1 goal lead through John Dunbar into the break. Whilst the scoreline was a positive one, truth be told, it probably should have been more. The Flames were dominant and Dundee were clearly missing the trio of Andersson, Bissonnette and Bouchard.

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Marquardt netting the game winner in overtime. Credit – Derek Black

The third period was a more even affair, and the Stars equalised through Corcaran with 7 minutes left on the clock. John Dunbar then took a penalty with just 1:25 left on the clock.

Luckily for the Flames, the pressure from Dundee didn’t lead to a goal, and the game went to overtime, where yet another big error was made.

This time it was the bench, rather than a player though. As the Dunbar penalty expired and the teams skated 4-on-4, Ferguson took the puck into the offensive zone to hold up play for a Flames line change. The Flames only sent 2 men onto the ice rather than 3, which meant Ferguson had to retreat with the puck, allowing Dundee to change their line. Not long after, Marquardt fired past Fullerton to pick up the 2 points and the first win over the Flames this season.

Guildford Flames Logo

There is a strong case that in all 3 games, 3 substantial errors have good-as decided the game. Whilst that statement may be harsh in regards to the bench error in Dundee, individual errors happen weekly across the league, and to see 2 of the errors punished with goals has been harsh on the Flames. Especially when you take into account how Coventry scored their overtime winner at the Spectrum.

The Lundin error was remarkably similar to the Ackered error the prior week – Both went to control the puck, both saw the puck slide out of their reach and both could only look on in horror as their mistakes resulted directly in a goal. Davies fanned on a pass as he was waiting for a hit, leaving McMillan a free puck to pick out a teammate to score live on TV.

These are freak accidents which are relatively rare, but its sums up how things are going in Surrey right now.

The top line of Watters, Reddick and Dunbar are still arguably the best line in the league. Individually, the going has been tough. They are the 3 highest points scorers on the team, but Watters has yet to find his consistent scoring touch he had prior to his injury. Reddick has struggled in the faceoff circle despite his recent points streak, and the prolific Dunbar has just 2 points in his last 5 games.

The second line is finally settled and looking good. In fact, Jamie Crooks has looked like a new signing – His December form has carried into January, his increased physicality has resulted in many good turnovers and his linemates now actively look to set him up for his excellent one-timers. TJ Foster still struggles with backchecking, but his stickhandling and vision is undeniable. But he seems to have multi-point nights followed by a blank. And Ferguson has picked up a team best of 9 points in his last 5 games, indicating he may well be coming back to form at long last.

Unfortunately though, the third line is anyone’s guess on any night. What was Janssen, Ritt & Davies has seen both King and Waller step in due to injuries across the roster; the latest of which is a long term injury to Evan Ritt. When settled, Janssen, Ritt & Davies have been a horrible line to play against as both Davies and Ritt are like dogs with a bone.

Import limits mean the Flames cannot play the 4 line hockey they would like, but there are 3 more forwards who feature most match nights – Kevin King, Josh Waller and Richard Krogh.

Much has been said about Kevin King. Is he having a bad season? By his own standards, yes. But this is a man who was once captained by Las Vegas Golden Knights defenceman, Brayden McNabb – A season where he outscored another Golden Knight, forward Cody Eakin, and ex-NHL (current DEL) forward, Matt Fraser. Like Ritt and Davies, King is more than happy to get into the dirty areas and play physical. Saturday night against Fife was a prime example, and the experienced forward is far more capable than his current back up utility role suggests.

Josh Waller and Richard Krogh are the future of GB hockey. You will be hard pressed to find a single Flames fan who doesn’t want that statement to be “The future of the Guildford Flames”. The same description used for Ritt, Davies and King can be used for Waller and Krogh – They also play with no fear and will mix it up with anyone to force a turnover and create a play. Both are proven point-getters through their junior careers so far both at club and international level.

Moving onto the defence, and the latest pairings we are seeing:

Craige & Ackered

Ackered is the highest goal scoring D-Man in the league, and is so for the second season running. Flames Captain, Craige, was the highest point scoring D-Man overall last season, and currently sits 5th overall this season. The pairing is just a few games old, but they are more than familiar with eachother, as the top powerplay pairing. Ackered has without doubt improved on his defensive game over the summer and has been vital to keeping the score down at times. Both would walk into any team in the league, but there is a dark side to each man which is having an impact on the team currently.

Both men like to jump up on the play of course (hence their points returns), but this leaves the Flames painfully short at the back. Numerous times over the past week, Dunbar & Reddick have found themselves as the defensive cover following a turnover. And Ackered’s desperation to avoid a hit has lead to turnovers behind the Flames net.

Craige has struggled all season however, despite many blaming his old defensive partner for the issues. And whilst that comment will leave a number of fans wide-eyed, the truth is in the numbers, as Craige has been on the ice for at least 1 goal against for the past 10 games in a row (dating back to the 1-0 shoutout on Boxing Day Vs. MKL) and sits bottom of the Flames +/- standings with eyewatering -16, despite regularly being in the points. There have been regular mis-placed passes as he looks to create a play, creating dangerous turnovers in his own zone and despite playing with his trademark smile, he looks like a man bereft of confidence at this point.

Lundin & Abt

Jez Lundin’s recent demotion from the first line pairing sums up his season so far. He has found himself playing the unwanted scapegoat role, occupied in 17/18 by Kevin Phillips. With a -14 rating at time of writing, the criticism isn’t necessarily unjust to a degree, but the experienced Brit who earned himself a Team GB call up last season is another who appears to be lacking in confidence. But the mistakes he makes aren’t dissimilar to what many others are making – Mis-controlling a puck whilst attacking, jumping up on the play and losing possession and the obvious one of following the puck and not being aware of a forward coming in to pick up a cross-ice pass or rebound. Being a Brit in an import dominated league makes him hugely important to the Flames, and hopefully alongside Jordan Abt, he will rediscover his form of last season.

Jordan Abt is hard to notice on the ice and is seen as someone who doesn’t do much. He has 5 points so far, and just 30 penalty minutes, but what speaks volumes for him is his -2 rating. With Craige’s unwanted record discussed, Abt had something going himself – A run where he wasn’t on the ice for a goal against for 5 games: A run which ended against Dundee on Sunday.

Lindhagen & Baldwin

In a team full of negative +/- ratings, Eric Lindhagen’s own rating looks like a typo. The man who can play forward and defence… And probably run the lines whilst doubling up as the timekeeper currently sits on a +6 rating; helped in part by his 12 points. To put it into perspective, not only does he lead the team but the closest player to him is Evan Ritt, who sits on -1. He suffered against Manchester on the smaller ice and he picked up a couple of poor tripping penalties against Fife, but overall the ex-Panthers man has been immense for the Flames.

And the same goes for Corbin Baldwin. Unsurprisingly, his +/- is just -3 and although the big stay-at-home D-Man has just 5 points to his name, he certainly wasn’t signed to score goals. But here is where a common misconception lies – He also was not signed to play the role of a common goon. The most accurate description I have seen for Corbin Baldwin came back in July from Liam Stewart:

Baldwin isn’t the quickest guy in the team but he plays his role excellently. He is constantly in the shooting lanes or marshalling forwards towards the boards, and whilst his play most certainly lacks the physicality which Paul Dixon alluded to when he signed, he has shown on numerous occasions that he is willing to put his body on the line every night, be it by blocking shots or by keeping order on the ice by simply offering the occasional knuckle sandwich, and when required, as in Manchester mid-week, he is willing to drop the gloves for the better of the team.

Finally, the netminding trio of Travis Fullerton, Chris Carrozzi and Mike Will.

All 3 netminders have done a good job this season overall – Both starters with an over 90% save average and Mike Will has been called on just twice when the Flames have had a really bad night.

With both Fullerton & Carrozzi pushing eachother to be better each night, it is hard to find much fault in either netminder. Carrozzi has seen much more game time, but Fullerton came into the team after a long absence midweek and performed superbly.

In closing on this impromptu review, the above would suggest that the forwards are not an issue, the netminding isn’t an issue, which leaves the defence. Lindhagen, Baldwin and Abt don’t appear to be the issue either, so I guess the question to the plight of the Guildford Flames is this – Is it:

A) The offensive prowess of Craige & Ackered are masking defensive frailties?

B) It’s all Jez Lundin’s fault?

C) There actually is no issue at all?

 

Regardless – The Flames remain in the playoff spots for the time being, and this Wednesday is arguably the biggest game of their EIHL history – The Challenge Cup Semi Final against the struggling Nottingham Panthers.


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Flames Pick Up First Win In 2019

The Guildford Flames picked up their first 2 points of 2019 with a closely fought win in overtime against the MK Lightning – A game which could have so easily gone the other way.

The Flames were far from their best but restricted MK to just 5 shots in the first period, however, following what looked to be a good penalty kill, the defence let Golovkovs skate through the middle of the ice to give MK a 1 goal lead going into the first break.

The second was a different story, and MK should have been out of sight on the scoreboard. Following a big 5-on-3 penalty kill, MK piled on the pressure. Chris Carrozzi pulled off a couple of excellent stops, but there was nothing he could do as MK hit the bar, and another 2 efforts hitting Carrozzi’s right post. It was the Flames who picked up the only goal of the period though, as Jordan Abt fired home a Kevin King rebound with just 3:34 left in the 2nd.

Guildford Flames Josh Waller Patrick Killeen
Credit – GuildfordFlames.com/John Uwins Photography

Into the third, and there were changes for the Flames as TJ Foster replaced Evan Janssen on the first line, but it failed to provide the change of momentum the Flames needed. Despite the Flames powerplay unit looking ineffective, they did finally manage to score with just over 10 minutes left on the clock and with just 2 seconds left on the man advantage, as the puck fell nicely to Davies; who converted from a tight angle. MK deservedly equalised with under 4 minutes to go through Baillargeon, sending the game to overtime for the first time this season at the Spectrum.

After an edgy start to the overtime period, fortune again favoured the Flames as TJ Foster was caught in a 2-on-1 situation which MK failed to capitalise on. Following a line change and a Flames attack, John Dunbar was then caught on ice, unable to change on the fly as MK pressed for the winner. Ferguson forced a turnover from Wallace and a very tired Dunbar picked up the loose puck, took it the length of the ice, lifted it over a sprawling Armstrong and Ackered fired home to tie up the points.


What was key to MK’s success in shutting down the Flames was their discipline in defence. They maintained their formation and didn’t let the Flames set up on the point. In contrast, the Flames found themselves chasing the puck into the corners, leaving at least 1 player with half the zone to himself at times. On another night against another team, the Flames would have been on the end of a heavy scoreline.

Another area of concern for Dixon will be the faceoff circle. Uncharacteristically, the Flames struggled all night and found themselves chasing shadows on numerous occasions. Overall – A much needed, but arguably, lucky 2 points for Guildford. MK will be very disappointed to have lost, but do go away with a very well deserved point.

Guildford Flames Logo

There is both good and bad news for the Flames going into next week. The good being that they will be able to get a full week of training in for the first time in a few weeks. The bad news is that the U20 world championships start next Sunday, which means that both Josh Waller and Richard Krogh will be leaving for the week – They will miss at least 3 games. Whilst both Watters and Ritt trained on Friday, it remains to be seen how likely it is they will be restored to the lineup when Coventry come to town. The worst case scenario? Flames will be down to just 2 full lines.


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Guildford Flames – November Review

Three full months have now been completed in what is a seven month regular season. It seems absurd to think that time-wise we are nearly at the halfway point already! 26 competitive games have been played, and the Guildford Flames have matched results of the prior month as they registered 6 wins in 9 games.

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Credit – Olly Birth Photography

All game highlights can be found in this article.

The Flames started the month with a fully fit, but bloated roster. With the addition of TJ Foster, the Flames had to sit 1 import skater, and after a bit of a slow start to the season, the undoubtedly talented Jamie Crooks was the man who found himself sat in the stands.

The first game of the month saw the Flames travel to MK Lightning, where with just 0.3 seconds left in overtime, Calle Ackered fired home a trademark rocket to pick up the 2 league points. The following night MK came to the Spectrum for the final Challenge Cup game – This time, the Flames were much more convincing and in winning 5-2, they eliminated MK from the competition.

The following weekend saw the Flames take a huge 6-5 win away from the Steelers at the FlyDSA Arena in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season, then fall short against a very well drilled Nottingham Panthers side, who were undoubtedly fired up after being shut out at home the night before by the Belfast Giants.

And then came the Storm double header…

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The Storm marketing team went in hard on this one following the debacle at the Spectrum at the end of October. And Dixon’s opposite number was also keen to make his feelings known ahead of the weekend.

Storm Head Coach Ryan Finnerty: “We won’t need much motivation for this game. They provided that for us in the last minute of the game down in Guildford I know my guys will be fired up for this one…”

The Flames had to make changes to the lineup due to a groin injury picked up by Evan Janssen, and after a week of build-up, Saturday in the Storm Shelter saw the most disappointing result of the month. Not only did the Flames squander a 2 goal lead, Jordan Abt was on the receiving end of a big (but clean) hit, which saw him sit the rest of the month out with whiplash.

The following night saw the return leg at the Spectrum, and despite being down to just 5 players in defence, the Flames avenged the narrow loss with an 8-3 thrashing, scoring 6 powerplay goals to rub salt into the wounds of a Manchester team who once again failed to maintain discipline on Spectrum ice.

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Credit – Olly Birth Photography

The final week of the month saw the Flames with another big win, this time live on Freesports, as 2 quick goals in the 3rd period saw the Spectrum side come away from the Skydome with 2 more league points.

3 days later they faced the Glasgow Clan for the second time this season as they took the long trip up to Clangus country and for the second time this season, the Flames shut out the Clan.

Finally, the red hot league leaders, the Belfast Giants came to town. It was a valiant effort which saw numerous chances close for the Flames but the luck of the bounce just wasn’t there. Trailing by just 1 goal in the final minutes, Fullerton was pulled twice, and both times the Giants scored. A 4-1 loss was most certainly not reflective of the game.

Another key change half way through the month saw the new King – Ferguson – Foster line split up, meaning that Davies would join King & Ferguson on the second line whilst the immensely skilled TJ Foster join Evan Ritt & Jamie Crooks on the third line.

Both Carrozzi and Fullerton have seen significant runs in the team over the month, and both have been in great form, playing their part in each of the Flames victories over the month.

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Credit – Olly Birth Photography

The return of Jamie Crooks has been a huge positive – 4 points in his last 5 games is the form so many expected. TJ Foster has been even more impressive with 8 points in his last 5: A tally only matched by John Dunbar. Evan Ritt & Kruise Reddick have both picked up 6 points in the last 5 and Calle Ackered is still firing them in.

And once again, Waller & Krogh have looked good despite being limited on ice time. Waller picked up an assist and both he and Krogh have shown no fear whatsoever as they mixed it up along the boards with some irate Storm players, and despite taking some big hits, they remain undeterred and are more than willing to get straight back into the tussle. The fact that Richard Krogh got bumped by a Storm player in the handshake line says all you need to know about how effective he was.

So, despite the Belfast loss, the Flames are looking better as each week goes on, and the team now looks like it has real depth.

Celly

Credit – Daniella West

And now we come to the Flames fan’s voted Player of the Month award. In September, this man was voted 3rd overall. In October, 2nd overall, and this month he goes one better once again and takes a well deserved win with 42.78% of the votes. He has arguably been the player of the season so far:

Calle

Congratulations, Calle! It goes without saying, you were a firm fan favourite coming into this season off the back of an incredible first year with the Flames. It seems like you have not only picked up where you left off last season, but many feel you have been even more impressive this season – How do you feel the season is going for you so far?

“Thank you very much! Yeah I feel that I have got a good start so far and hope we can continue to win games and be successful as a team. After a good summer with a lot training I feel stronger on the ice and that really help me to develop my game. I have such a big passion for hockey so I just want to be better every day!”

December is going to be a real busy month with 13 games. The team is in a good position in the league, plus the Challenge Cup quarter finals are just around the corner – How is the mood in the camp, and given your extended minutes on the ice, how are you feeling physically? Are there any games in particular that you are looking forward to in December?

“December is really busy as you say but we are prepared and looking forward to it. I’m feeling good physically and mentally but of course it’s very tough with all the travel we do. I’m looking forward to the Belfast game on December 8th a the Spectrum. I have friends coming that weekend so it’s always extra fun to play in front of your friends and family when they are here. And of course the challenge cup games.”

Once again you are averaging over a point per game this year. Your trademark slapshot has been leaving numerous opposition players in a lot of pain; some of which have even missed games after being hit – Given your points return, do you find that you are getting more attention, or are you getting a little more room when you wind up a shot these days? Some players look terrified when you’re about to shoot!

“I love to shoot the puck and I actually don’t feel that I get more space. The other teams always try to be very close to me so sometimes it’s hard to get an open spot.

“To all Flames fans – I really appreciate your support and involvement during the games! Love to play in front of you and keep going! Hopefully we will have another successful year together.

“Go Flames!”

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This month is the big one. With 13 games in December which sees the 5th placed Flames take on the teams currently occupying the rest of the top 7, it will be a month which will make or break the season for them.

The Panthers visit the Spectrum on the 1st to kick the month off, followed by a trip to the Blaze on the 2nd. A tough midweek trip to Cardiff is then followed by the return of the Giants to the Spectrum on Saturday 8th.

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Six games in eleven days then follow for the Flames – Firstly, midweek Challenge Cup action at the FlyDSA, then it’s up to Scotland to face the Fife Flyers on Saturday 15th, then they drop into Nottingham on their way home for another tough game. Wednesday 19th sees the second leg of the Challenge Cup game at the Spectrum against the Steelers, and then there’s more Steelers action as the Flames once again return to the FlyDSA on Saturday 22nd. And if that’s not enough of a challenge, the Cardiff Devils then come to the Spectrum on the 23rd.

And there is no break for Christmas as such – Boxing day is the start of an MK double header (away, then back home the next night).

The last game of the year is the 30th December as the Cardiff Devils visit the Spectrum once more to complete a gruelling schedule.

Wow.

December will be tough for all the Elite League teams. The league cannot be won, but a poor month could well see teams out of the running. And amongst that – The first trophy up for grabs is in the knock out stages. For fans of the Guildford Flames, such a stern test will without doubt be season defining one way or another.

Full calendar available here via GuildfordFlames.com

November Highlights

Saturday 3rd – League

MK Lightning 1 – 2 Guildford Flames

Sunday 4th – Challenge Cup

Guildford Flames 5 – 2 MK Lightning

Saturday 10th – League

Sheffield Steelers 5 – 6 Guildford Flames

Sunday 11th – League

Guildford Flames 1 – 4 Nottingham Panthers

Sunday 17th – League

Manchester Storm 3 – 2 Guildford Flames

Sunday 18th – League

Guildford Flames 8 – 3 Manchester Storm

Wednesday 21st – League

Coventry Blaze 2 – 4 Guildford Flames

Sunday 24th – League

Glasgow Clan 0 – 3 Guildford Flames

Sunday 25th – League

Guildford Flames 1 – 4 Belfast Giants

Featured Image – John Uwins Photography

Guildford Flames – September Review

September was as mixed as it could be for the Guildford Flames. 8 games, 4 wins, 4 losses. Broken out by competition: 4 league games, 2 wins, 2 losses. Exactly the same record in the Challenge Cup.

Continue reading Guildford Flames – September Review