Banners on the Road – Wightlink Raiders vs Milton Keynes Thunder 28/1/12

Wightlink Raiders 10-2 Milton Keynes Thunder

Murray x 2 Goode

Facey Maile

Rand

Strawson x 2

Annis

Hopkins

Rounding

Larter

 

Thanks to the weird scheduling of the EIHA and the Bison having 2 Sunday games in a row I fancied another trip to one of my favourite rinks over on the Isle of Wight. Somehow I managed to convince my wife to join me for her first taste of Isle of Wight and ENL hockey. As she’s not beaten me silly for such an action it’s time to give you the lowdown on that night. For those who don’t remember the last trip to the Isle of Wight it was a close fought clash between two of the heavyweights in ENL 1 South as the Raiders squeaked out a 5-4 win over Chelmsford Chieftains. As you can see from above, it wasn’t a repeat performance.

 

The game: I’d been told by my Raiders supporting friends coming into the game that the Thunder were sort of a bogey team for the Isle of Wight this season with 2 wins despite not being highly favoured. The first 10 minutes or so gave a fair idea as to how the game was going to go. Whilst the Raiders didn’t score in the first 10 minutes they dominated the play, controlled the possession and snuffed out the majority of the attacks from the other side. Once the Raiders cracked David Cassidy in the Thunder net there’s only one way that the game would go. Cassidy, usually so reliable looked shaky and his defence didn’t help him out a great deal. At 2-0 at the end of the first period, the Thunder had a chance to get back into it but in my heart I didn’t see them doing it and sadly for them I was right.

37 seconds into the second period when Joe Rand managed to fool Cassidy into shifting too far across his net to be able to complete the wrap around and make it 3-0, it pretty much killed the comeback. 4 and 5-0 came by the time 26 minutes were on the clock. Cassidy was replaced by Patrick Russell who looked a bit more solid but he couldn’t really stop the onslaught. Russell’s shutout lasted all of about 4 minutes before the 6th goal went in and the 7th followed 35 seconds later and MK finally called a timeout to try and regroup. The Thunder finally got on the board when they caused a bit of chaos in the Raiders defence. With Liam McAllister flopping about, the puck found it’s way to Harrison Goode who had most of the net to shoot at.

With the shutout gone, McAllister gave way to Dan Weller-Evans to start the third period and unfortunately for the young man the first thing he really ended up doing was getting the puck out of his net. A terrible line change from the Raiders saw Steve Maile race in and put the puck 5 hole to make the score 7-2. Luckily for Weller-Evans he recovered to make some good saves and his colleagues woke up and didn’t let such an event happen again. Goal 8 came on a delayed penalty when somehow Dom Hopkins was allowed to sneak in and one time a shot in. Goal 9 a minute later saw Grant Rounding walk out of the corner unopposed and had a year or so to pick a spot and back hand the puck past Russell. Damon Larter finished it off with a blueline blast on the powerplay.

It was a fun game to watch but not a classic for the ages. I can only imagine how it felt travelling back on the MK Thunder bus after it. I had cheesy curly fries and hockey so I was ok.

 

The Raiders: Normally in a blowout there’s little to take from the game in terms of lessons to be learned. I’ve watched the Raiders a couple of times in the ENL and they looked deadly on this night. They were helped to a degree by the Thunder being a bit lackluster (more on them in a bit) but the execution was what was impressive.

They never really took their foot off the pedal and slacked off, they kept going for 60 minutes. With player/coach Jeremy Cornish suspended and watching from the stands, all 3 lines contributed to the success of the team on the night. Whilst they didn’t play together much on the night, the line of Richard Facey, Joe Rand and Connor Pollard are great to watch at this level and are just such an attacking threat it was a surprise to see them split up. Aaron Strawson also scored a couple of nice goals. Kieran Annis got man of the match though I have to confess I didn’t notice him as much as other players.

On a personal note it was nice to see Dan Weller-Evans play in a competitive game for the first time. I’ve known Dan for a little while since he was at Basingstoke and I’m glad he’s getting a chance to develop on the island. Neither he nor Liam McAllister were overly tested though both had a couple of hairy moments. The difference for them was their defensive unit in front of them were more on the ball.

The Raiders can be pleased that they got the monkey of their back about performing to their potential against the Thunder. They need to be sure they can perform at that level against better sides.

 

The Thunder: This was my first time seeing the Thunder so I’ll get this out of the way now. OH MY GOD is David Cassidy huge! Seriously he’s the tallest person I’ve seen play hockey live. I called him “a Transformer come to life” to MK Thunder goalie and fellow Pucks Across the Pond writer, Rob McGregor only to be told he has tattoos of the Autobot and Decepticon symbols on his arms.

Sadly for Cassidy this is a night that he’ll likely want to forget. Whilst his defence didn’t help him out…well, at all really, he looked shaky. A couple of goals were as a result of rebounds dropping right in front of him. From what I understand of him though, it was a bad night of the office and these happen. Patrick Russell as well would probably want a couple of the goals back (Strawson going 5 hole on him for one) but he looked the better of the two netminders on the night and made some very good saves in the 27 shots that he faced.

The rest of the Thunder team didn’t really cover themselves in glory sadly. Steve Maile stood out as one of the better players but go himself into penalty trouble and when he expressed his displeasure to one of the officials in an adult fashion, his night was done. Nidal Phillips picked up man of the match though I confess I didn’t see him do a great deal. Individually I think the Thunder players looked OK but as a team it didn’t work on the night for them. As one of the lower end teams in ENL 1 South there will occasionally be days like these for MK but hopefully a team they will bounce back.

 

Emily’s view: As this was my wife’s first game of ENL, I asked her for her thoughts.

I enjoyed it. The atmosphere was very good, very friendly and warm. It was very intimate because the rink is small. I can’t tell what a good or a bad game is as I don’t know a lot about hockey. What stuck in my head was the goalie was enormous.”

 

Overall: As always I enjoyed myself on at Ryde. As Emily said, the welcome is always warm and friendly there. The game highlighted the differences between the top and bottom of the ENL 1 South as a league. Not that the MK Thunder aren’t professional in their attitude (they are and their jerseys are awesome) but they don’t have the resources that of the Raiders. The team with the more talented players who played better, won. That’s not always the way in hockey but it was on this night. As ever I got the £18 ferry/train/game ticket so it works well financially.

For the Raiders it’s another big win to add to the confidence bank. For the Thunder, it’s back to the drawing board but you can’t judge one team on one bad loss against a good team.

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