Goodnight and Good Luck – Liam Chong

And so it came to pass the one of the longest running rumours of the summer came to pass. It does occasionally happen in British hockey you know! Either way the Bison faithful to bid farewell to #92 as Liam Chong has he leaves Basingstoke.

 

What have we lost?

We’ve lost a forward with a lot of potential. Chong was a fan favourite from the word go in Basingstoke for his speed and tenacity. Chong is not the biggest of guys in terms of height but plays bigger than his size and he is quite a well built lad which when coupled with his speed made him effective across the lines. He was used mainly in a very useful combination with Jacob Corson-Heron on the third line but Chong also saw time on the second line in a useful combination with Viktor Kubenko as well as occasionally playing with Steve Moria. Chong saw a decent amount of powerplay and penalty kill time as the season went on, his speed proving very useful on the PK forecheck.

Liam is a very skilful forward; he has good hands, good wheels and a very good shot which at 20 means he’s not stopped developing his skills yet. Chong’s skills and versatility allowed options in the forward ranks as he could play on the checking line or a more scoring focussed one.

 

Where has he gone?

Liam was (finally) announced this morning by the Manchester Phoenix

http://www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk/news/s/2106_phoenix_sign_promising_young_british_forward

Not the most extensive of press releases but to the point at least. I think Hand’s quote about Liam is pretty much spot on; great hands and great potential.

 

Who replaces him?

In a basic sense, Andrew Melachrino is the obvious answer as he takes that spot on the wing of the third line. That said with the way Sheppard coaches and the way the lines are made up, movement between 2nd and 3rd lines won’t be as prevalent as movement between 1st and 2nd. That’s not to say players won’t get their chance but the Moria like experimentation and line shuffling won’t be something you see as often so we won’t really see a player get moved about as much as Chong did.

 

Final thoughts

Well, we all knew it was coming. Once the club had made clear that there were only 2 imports left to sign the news that Liam was off to Manchester only seemed more likely.

Chong’s a player that plays a very honest, straight forward player. He’s not an agitator, he goes out and speeds around the ice like there’s no tomorrow, he works hard every shift, he finishes his hit; later, rinse and repeat. I think Moria’s style of coaching benefitted Liam as in his first full season of EPL play he got used in pretty much every situation across every line in a variety of circumstances which will only help the game. I said at the end of the year that in a season where the team underachieved, Chong was one of the players who could justifiably come out of the season with his head held high. I don’t think he scored as many points as he would have liked given his time playing with people like Kubenko but it that’s one minor downside to an otherwise decent first season at EPL level.

The move to Manchester will surprise some and not others. I’m not surprised really; playing for Tony Hand aside, Manchester is close to that pocket of EIHL sides up in the north of England which gives greater opportunities for things like two way call ups and impress coaches as they’re not having to travel miles to see him. Chong’s moved for hockey before (he played in the states as a teenager) so moving to a big university city like Manchester for 8 months of the year won’t be too much of a burden for him I’m sure. The only issue for a young Brit in Manchester is how they are used.

Some Manchester fans won’t thank me for saying it but Tony shortens the bench in a jam, the third line gets left off the ice. Now Liam’s proved that he’s capable of second line minutes hopefully he doesn’t get used as just another checking forward but if that’s the role he finds himself in he won’t get on the ice for key situations like he did in Basingstoke. I’d like to think Chong won’t get lost in that shuffle but it remains to be seen. If Manchester have the similar injury issues they did last season who knows what will happen.

All the best to Liam as he heads up north, a pint is yours if you and Heron drop the mitts.

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