And Fourth Shall We Go – Oliveira 4×4 Challenge Preview

The time is near; jerseys are looking at us longingly from the wardrobe, game night habits are about to be re-started and my neighbours will once again be wondering where I’ve been when I come home at 11pm on Saturday nights wearing a shirt 3 sizes too big for me.

Hockey is back and the Bison are kicking off with something which, whether you like or dislike the club is a different and fun way to start off the 2011/12 season with this charity tournament.

I have to admit to really liking this idea. Of course we need actual 60 minute practice matches as a warm up for the season and the team will get that against Guildford the following weekend but this is a fun and different way to kick off proceedings for the new season for the old fans as well as giving new fans a way in to the sport. All teams will play each other so we’ll get the chance to see new Bison players, some old favourites and possibly a few stars of the future from the ENL sides joining the fun.

The basics were laid out at the Bison season launch event earlier in the summer; games will be 20 minutes with a running clock. If games are tied or the margin between teams is 1 goal going into the final minute of the game it becomes a stopping clock. As far as we’re aware as this goes live, that hasn’t changed. The obvious bit of course being the tournament is 4 players on the ice for each side and squads for the tournament may have a maximum of two imports.

After the games are completed, an auction for the specially commissioned jerseys that the teams will be wearing will take place in the bar at the rink to raise money for Naomi House & Jacksplace Hospices and CLIC Sargent. No word as of yet as to what three of the teams will be wearing but Bracknell’s jersey design can be seen here – http://www.bracknell-bees.org/media/files/44shirt.jpg

Those basics out of the way, lets have a look at the teams taking part:

Basingstoke Bison

Your team, the home team as Bavy would say. Steve Moria did announce his squad for the tournament at the season launch event where he announced that himself and Daniel Volrab would be the Bison’s two imports for the tournament. Joining them in the forward ranks would be new signings Joe Miller, Jacob Heron and Liam Chong along with the well established Bison pair of Chris Wiggins and last season’s top EPL British goalscorer Oli Bronnimann. Only the 1 defenceman was named by Coach Moria in the form of new boy Dan Harris who joined from Whitley Bay Warriors. Bison fans will also get a first real look at two of their three netminders. Dean Skinns will be rested and Matt Colclough who joined from Wightlink Raiders will be joined by youngster Connor Standing.

Bracknell Bees

Bees fan Maria Oliveira owner of Oliveira Shoes, the sponsors of the event deserves thanks for sponsoring the event. The new look Bees (see their Standing in the Way article for more thoughts on the team as a whole) come into this tournament with the chance to make a bit of a bit of a statement before their pre-season games with neighbours Slough. After their 10th place finish last season in the EPL, it’s a new day for the Bees with Lukas Smital back at The Hive as player/assistant coach. It’ll be interesting to see if Smital plays or whether he stays on the bench but I believe Smital will play. He’s been on the posters for the tournament and has been active with a lot of other bits for the Bees over the summer. As to which import joins him, my money will be on fellow forward Peter Jasik over Martin Masa and import defenceman Sergejs Louskins.

No word as to the rest of the squad but do expect to see appearances by former Bison players Shaun Thompson, Scott Spearing, Carl Graham and Tom Annetts.

Wightlink Raiders

Last season’s ENL South 1 champions didn’t start their season too well last weekend as Jeremy Cornish’s side lost in the re-tooled South East Cup (the ENL cup wasn’t organised this season so clubs have sort of organised one between themselves) to Romford 6-1 at Rom Valley Way.

One major issue for the Raiders was their second import. Wightlink did have someone signed but they pulled out in the middle of the summer. Cornish announced the signing of former University of Toronto forward Joe Rand this past Sunday and the Raiders are pulling out all the stops to get him registered in time for Saturday. It is likely to go to the wire so there’s a possibility that Cornish could be Wightlink’s sole import for the weekend.

One person I am looking forward to seeing again is former Newcastle and Whitley youngster Nathan Taylor. If he appears, the young #20 isn’t the highest scorer in the Raiders’ arsenal but is a high energy player who is fun to watch.
It will also be interesting to see how Wightlink’s new goalie tandem of Liam McAllister and Colin McGill fare after last weekend’s thumping by Romford.

Bristol Pittbulls

To say Bristol had a tough first season in ENL South 1 was an understatement. After a really good inaugural season where they earned promotion from ENL South 2, Richard Hargreaves’ side finished 10th of 11 and won a grand total of 7 games from the 40 they played. That said, Bristol Pitbulls are in for the long haul, developing players and sustaining hockey in Bristol rather than being a flash in the pan. Former Bison Richard along with his brother Mike and a small army have built the Pitbulls from the ground up. Bison fans saw Steve Osman guest for one game last season so that’s the sort of player that plays Pitbulls hockey; one with heart and dedication.

We will likely see the goalie tandem of former Cardiff youngster Michael Crisp and home grown goalie John Dibble manning the pipes with two forward imports in the form of Swede Henrik Sahlin and what was possibly the surprise signing of the ENL summer in former Swindon forward Egidijus Bauba. For those of you who forgot, Bauba scored 52 goals in 38 games in the EPL for the Wildcats last season.

4 teams each with their own unique character come together this weekend to help kick off the new season. The clock to “go time” is ticking. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Time to get back to the old routine, Lets Go Bison!

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