This is the follow-up article (to Part 1) which will highlight another five young British that might well possess the talent EIHL employment. Continue reading NIHL: Is anybody EIHL ready? (Part 2)
When the Edinburgh Capitals confirmed they wouldn’t be returning for the 2018/9 EIHL season, many believed the Hull Pirates were the natural successor’s for the vacant 12th spot. However, after floating the idea at EIHL board level they decided to remain apart of the NIHL, for now. The management’s deferral has afforded the Pirates more time to assess their long-term options, in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the two failed ventures in British ice hockey’s top-tier. Yet, with a new ice rink reaching its completion in Leeds, time is no longer a friend for the Pirates and their EIHL bid.Continue reading EIHL 12th Spot: Third time lucky in (Kingston upon) Hull?
Much like the goalies for this year, it’s a completely new look defence for Slava Koulikov’s men, with seven new faces patrolling the blueline at the upcoming World Junior Championships Division 2A over in Tallinn, Estonia.
The seven defencemen play across four leagues, with two signed to EIHL contracts with Reece Cochrane of the Fife Flyers, Jordan Griffin of the Sheffield Steelers who’s on a two-way with the Sutton Sting and Joseph Hazeldine who’s on a two-way deal with the Nottingham Panthers and Telford Tigers of the NIHL, while five of this group took home a gold medal at the U18 tournament in April.
Bradley Bowering (16) will make his U20 debut for the side as the youngest member of the roster. The 16-year-old currently plays for the Peterborough Phantoms in the NIHL where he has spent his entire junior career with, captaining the U15 side, as well as featuring as an alternate captain for the U18 side last year where he posted an incredible 37 points in just 9 games. A good prospect as a two-way threat, Bowering may be the youngest on the team so could see a limited role this year, but the experience gained will be vital going forward for him to become a leading member of the U20 programme over the next couple of years.
From the youngest to the oldest, Cameron Pound (19) will be making his second appearance for the U20 side after he was part of the 2016-17 side, registering 3 points in 5 games as a 17-year-old, the same year he also shone for the U18 side earning the most assists and points as a defenseman, the best plus/minus overall in the tournament and also being named to the GB’s top player. The 19-year-old currently plays his junior hockey in Canada in the OJHL for the Kingston Voyageurs, after initially moving across the pond in 2013 to join the Canadian International Hockey Academy (CIHA). A solid threat at both ends of the ice, he’s got great vision as a playmaker and good breakout ability. This year he’s posted 15 points in 33 games for Kingston, leading all defensemen on the team, and there’s a real chance he could be one of the best defensemen in the entire tournament next month.
The remaining five defensemen all have earned a spot on the U20 side just a year after helping the U18 side to a gold medal last April and will all have fond memories of their last trip to Estonia.
Edward Bradley (17) and Ben Solder (18) make their U20 debuts after they both finished as the teams and the tournaments highest scorers with four points on their way to a Gold Medal.
Bradley currently plays over in Canada for the CIHA where he’s the captain of the Midget AAA side, leading all defenseman on the side in points with 17 in 21 games, after he led all defenseman in the league last year finishing with 28 points in 31 games. He’s got tremendous vision for his age as a puck moving defenseman with offensive upside. He’s got size on him already at just 17-years-old at 6’0” and coming up to 180lbs so he can use that frame well to break up plays in his own zone either by closing lanes or physically, and he could be a future U20 captain over the coming years.
Solder is another British prospect over in Canada right now, joining the Ontario Hockey Academy in 2015, and right now leads the entire U18 programme at a point-per-game pace with 11 in 11, and third among defensemen in the league behind Canadians Cooper Hood and Derek Pys. He’s a decent offensive defenceman at 18-years-old and if he can replicate his club performances in next month’s tournament, he should be one of the leading members of Koulikov’s side.
The final three remaining in the defensive ranks have all racked up game time in the EIHL over the past two-seasons with Fife Flyers prospect Reece Cochrane (17) closing in on 50 games over the past two seasons already, with 43 games. While he’s yet to get his first point in the EIHL, during his time in the SNL he has proven himself a gifted two-way defenseman with a bright future. With him spending time with the Flyers organisation who have a host of good young talent coming through, he’s in a great spot for his future development, and should have a decent future ahead of him. He’s not the biggest guy but has great offensive upside when he gets going and could be a great special team guy for the U20s in this tournament to quarterback the powerplay. He’s obviously got great smarts in his own zone and able to read the play with and without the puck very well, and his puck moving is underrated, he’ll be a key guy to keep an eye on for the U20 over the next few tournaments.
Now to the guy with the second most EIHL appearances to his name in Joseph Hazeldine (17) who has 21 appearances since making his Nottingham Panthers debut in the 2016/17 season and has featured in 15 games for the organisation this year. While splitting time with the Telford Tigers, Hazledine is establishing himself as one of the best defensive prospects in the country. He’s got decent size for his age, but once he fills out his frame a bit more will become a lot stronger as a physical player in his own zone, using his body to separate man from puck with intelligent plays to try and outmuscle opponents. A gifted two-way player, he’s on a point-per-game pace in the NIHL for the Tigers this year, already beating last years season totals he had while playing for the Swindon Wildcats. He’s in a great position to be part of the Panthers organisation right now, learning from one of the best in Britain in Steve Lee, and with another up and coming prospect Josh Tetlow, Hazledine has stacks of time to round off the edges before becoming a regular face in the EIHL.
Lastly and by no means least in Jordan Griffin (16) of the Sheffield Steelers and Sutton Sting and the latest apprentice for the Steelers, he’s got a great resumé in the national team, captaining the U16 side previously while also being part of the U18 team to take gold last year. He’s got size already for a 16-year-old and bags of energy and plays a hard game. He skates well and has an incredibly big future waiting for him once he’s able to fully develop his body as he ages as well as his game. He can hit, he can break out effortlessly and he’s not shy of joining the rush. Right now, for the Sutton Sting he’s posted 4 points in 16 games as a 16-year-old, and skated 11 times for the Steelers through the course of the year. While at 16 he may be reduced to less ice time than some of the others on this list, he’s going to be a leader of the U20 set up in a couple of seasons time, and it’s great to see so many youngsters brought in to add stability to the system and experience that could lead them over the line to secure gold and promotion.
The Milton Keynes Thunder are under threat, without much needed fundraising the team may not survive the rest of the season.
Bracknell Bees 2-0 Basingstoke Bison
Bracknell preserved their four-point league at the top of NIHL1 South standings on Sunday night, thanks to a 2-0 shutout win over their arch-rivals in the Basingstoke Bison. Since the offseason with Doug Sheppard making the move from Basingstoke Ice Arena to the John Nike Leisure Sport Complex, it also saw the most successful coach in recent times with the Bison bringing most of his trophy-winning side with him up the M3 motorway and so the lead up to the game was always going to be emotionally charged.
Coming into the Sunday game, it saw both sides in relatively good form as the Bees and Bison clash came on the back of wins for both sides the night before, with Bracknell against Streatham (1-0) and Basingstoke against Invicta (5-3). A good crowd in ‘the Hive’ saw Bracknell starting the stronger of the two with former Bee in Alex Mettam forced into making a couple of early stops from the home attackers and kept them scoreless.
As the period went on, it saw the visitors coming more into the game and testing former Bison goalie in Dean Skinns and much like Mettam at the opposite end, he was doing his best to keep the biscuit out of the net. There was a bit of concern on six minutes, when Basingstoke’s import forward Michal Klejna took a heavy fall around the Bracknell crease when a collection of bodies and legs were all tackled up going for a loose puck, and Referee Steve Matthews gave a high sticks call on ex-Bison (see a recurring theme here) in Stuart Mogg.
Basingstoke had a spell of solid pressure on the home side goal and made Skinns work for his money, whether he knew much about saves or not. One passage of play saw George Norcliffe cutting down left and shooting short-side which had Skinns kicking it onto the foot of the post before making back to back saves while down on the ice to keep his old side out. The first twenty minutes were rather entertaining, with both sides playing some good hockey and didn’t see much in the way of rough stuff, as both sides seemed to be content to play hockey first than the physical side of the game.
After a scoreless first, it saw the Bees getting on the board first thought a Brendan Baird goal, as the Bracknell defenceman fired his shot through traffic and found its way by Bison goalie Alex Mettam for the 1-0 lead in the 26th minute and was a period bossed mostly dominated by the home side. The Bees were clearly buzzing following that goal and Mettam had to be on constant alert as Bracknell had their stingers up! Fair play to the young Bison side though, they managed to weather the storm from the goal and forced their way back into the game.
In the third, it saw play being evenly spread with the Bees looking for that killer goal, while the Bison just looked to create an opening that would get them back in the game. With the game on a proverbial knife-edge with a goal separating the side, things were starting simmer and frustration was beginning to rear its head in the game and kick in with time ticking down. With just under a minute left to go in the game, it saw the game explode into life. Firstly, Joe Baird who penalised and saw a stray arm up toward the head of a Bison man as they went into the boards, but an Interference went against him and so put the away side a 6 on 4 power play with Alex Mettam leaving for the bench. Basingstoke’s PP unit couldn’t set up a play and that allowed former Manchester Phoenix forward Roman Malinik to send the puck heading up ice into the empty cage for a 2-0 game at 59.34 to secure the points for the Bees – However, that wasn’t the end of the fun of the games.
That earlier interference call from Baird seemed to inject a feisty element to the game that had been missing throughout. Soon after the second Bracknell goal Bees Josh Martin and Basingstoke’s Michal Keljna got sent to the locker room after a scrum saw both receiving two minute roughing minors and a 10 minute Misconduct each with 18 seconds of the game left remaining, as the referee was looking to keep a lid on emotions from both sides, but there was still fireworks to come. Ten seconds later saw James Galazzi and Adam Jones trading borderline hits and finally resulted in Galazzi going for Jones and the two drop the gloves in front of the Bison supporters and while that was going on – Ryan Watt of the Bees and Jay King of the Bison squared off with Watt whacking the Bison players stick out of his hands and sending into the upper tier.
Following King’s refusal to go with Watt, it saw the ex-Bison making a ‘chicken’ gesture towards King and then followed it up asking and challenging the Basingstoke bench. The match referee had enough of his antics and seemingly lost control in the closing stages of this rivalry game and saw Galazzi given a 2+2 for roughing along with a 10-minute misconduct, while Watt picked up a ten minute for misconduct. For the Bison, Jones got 2+2 for roughing and a further 2+10 for boarding. It was a game that saw quality prevailing over quantity, as the Bison just lacked the cutting edge that a Doug Sheppard’s side, but they gave as good as they got and makes the next meeting between the sides on December 1st down at Basingstoke extra tasty.
Shots on Goal: Bees 28 Bison 23
Saves: Dean Skinns 60.00: – Bees 23/23 (100%) Alex Mettam 59.33:- 26/27 (96.30%)
PIM: Bees 40 – Bison 40
The Hull Pirates have moved quickly to secure the services of Kevin Phillips following his departure from the Guildford Flames just 2 days ago.
Whilst Phillips would have had options to remain in the Elite League, the Beverly born defender has taken the decision to move back home and join his first ever junior club.
Kevin Phillips: “Getting to play back where it all started for me is huge. There’s no better feeling than icing in front of your home crowd, and there is no better home crowd than Hull!
“Just to be clear, I am here to win, I believe that Hewitt has built a team that will win and I can’t wait to be a part of it”.
With Hull expected to move up to the Elite League next season, the move comes as little shock. Already expected to pick up multiple trophies this season and with ambitions of the quadruple, Hull could be unstoppable with Kevin Phillips’ calibre and experience.
Pirates Head Coach Jason Hewitt: “For us to pick up someone of Kev’s calibre is huge. He gives us great experience on our D core and is a guy we will lean on to be a calm steady head back there for us”.
Feature image credit – HullPirates.com
With the Edinburgh Capitals death came the rebirth of the Murrayfield Racers.
Though things may have not gone to plan for the Racers, they are still going full speed ahead, competing in the Scottish National League and the NIHL North Cup in the 2018/19 season with the hopes of Elite Hockey returning to Scotland’s capital next year.