Banners On The Road – Wightlink Raiders vs Streatham Redskins 6/10/12

Wightlink Raiders 6-2 Streatham Redskins

Watkins                    Balmer

Annis                        Hopkins

Facey

Hanzal

Brown

Murray

 

With the Bison not having a home game till next Saturday and after Wednesday night’s multifaceted debacle, I needed to restore my faith in hockey a touch. With the Wightlink Raiders at home, I took the chance to hop over the water to get my hockey fix this weekend but also because there was something I wanted to see. There is 1 game I never wrote up for this blog which was a game at the start of last season between these two teams. Wightlink won 14-0 and it was…well it wasn’t good. That said over the summer Streatham had re-tooled the lineup and were expected to make a few waves in the NIHL South 1. I was interested to see the changes they had made. It was certainly more of a contest this time around.

 

The game: After Wednesday night I was greeted by my friend who told me “we’ve only got 1 official here and it’s one of the linesmen”. I was delighted, it was a 100% increase in officials from what I’d seen the other night. The game eventually faced off 5 minutes late when the other two officials, Messers Evans and Thrower joined Mr Bevis on the ice. The late start didn’t mean we left late. More of that to come.

The game started out relatively evenly as both sides were feeling each other out. The Redskins started out with a very smart bit of coaching by matching former Raiders defenceman Dom Hopkins against Raiders import forward Jiri Hanzal. Redskins however weren’t getting many shots off and it looked like it would only be a matter of time before Wightlink would score. Then against the run of play there were behind.

Streatham gained the zone and with the Raiders not closing their opponents down, a pass across the seam found Steven Balmer who’s one time shot found a hole in Matt Colclough to give the Redskins the lead. I said to my friends that the Raiders needed to hit back quickly to re-exert their dominance. 29 seconds later…

Off the face off the Raiders second line of Watkins, Cornish and Facey charged into the Redskins zone and put good pressure on their opponents. The puck was turned over a couple of times each way before the Raiders won it back and a shot from Watkins clipped the glove of Sanderson in the Streatham net and trickled over the line to even the score.

The Raiders had their tales up and wrenched control of the game back. 4 minutes after their first, their second came. With the Raiders 3rd line taking a faceoff in the Streatham zone, Steve Gosset won the faceoff back to Kieran Annis who shot over the shoulder of Will Sanderson, screened by his own players, Wightlink’s players and one of the linesmen.

The Raiders were now buzzing around and whilst in the line for cheesy curly fries Jeremy Cornish passed to Richard Facey who finished neatly past Sanderson with 2 seconds to play in the period; 3-1 and the Raiders never really looked back.

The second period started much like the first ended, with the Raiders looking to press home their advantage but they didn’t seem to be able to pull the trigger on their chances, the best being when Hanzal was put in behind the defence but his shot went into the chest of Sanderson. Redskins were still having their chances as well to the point where with Colclough out of position, a Redskins player missed the open net from inside the crease. Eventually the Raiders managed to get the puck back in the net. The puck was worked round to Damon Larter who shot on net, apparently took a tap from Robbie Brown that I didn’t see and fell to Jiri Hanzal to tap into the net.

The game was falling into a bit of a pattern of attack one way, attack the other with minimal results. Then Dom Hopkins charged up the net and let a shot go that went right through Matt Colclough again and into the net. Suddenly out of nowhere it’s 4-2 and the Raiders fans around me were getting a bit nervous again.

That finished the scoring for the period and the game finally saw some penalty calls after that (more on that in a bit too) but the Redskins couldn’t press home the turn in momentum.

The third period saw the balance swing back towards Wightlink; Hanzal’s great work set up Robbie Brown who’s one timer sailed across the front of the net. The next time they tried it though, it worked. From behind the net, Hanzal fed the puck to Brown who shot from a tight angle. The puck hit Sanderson on the shoulder and deflected into the top corner. The goal was announced with Gosset as the scorer then Craig Tribe who wasn’t on the ice and finally to Brown.

The third period felt positively penalty laden, 3 of the game’s 5 penalty calls were made in the 3rd and all 3 of them against the Redskins. Shortly after Mr Bevis took a slapshot to the joy department, the Raiders were on the powerplay and made Streatham pay. Cornish fed the puck back to the blueline and Alex Murray drove it home. The goal was credited to Cornish who had a quick word with the officials to get it changed.

After that the game wound itself down and there wasn’t much to report. The game ended earlier than any I’ve ever been to on the Isle of Wight but then when the ref turns up late and wants to catch the early ferry, I’m not exactly surprised.

 

The Raiders: A win is a win and looking at the stats sheet, Raiders fans won’t be overly disappointed; 6 different goal scorers, 5 even strength goals and 1 goal from 3 on the powerplay is not a bad return on the night. Jeremy Cornish had a 3 assist night including a 10 minute sit down for questioning a call that Mr Evans missed but everyone else saw. However Richard Facey was the right choice for man of the match for the Raiders as he stood out from the crowd for his gritty and skilful play as well as his goal which was very well taken. I was interested to see how he’d do without his foil from last season Joe Rand but Facey appears to have come along well. How he’d do at EPL level would be interesting to see but he appears to have moved himself into the upper echelon of players in the NIHL.

It wasn’t Matt Colclough’s greatest night in net and he’ll probably want both Redskins goals back but he also made some very good saves to go with it. All of the defensive corps played well but were a touch at fault for the 1st goal where someone should have been covering Balmer in the slot but such is life, you can’t win every battle but they did win the war.

I think the one thing that let the Raiders down on the night was all the errors and turnovers that littered the game. Raiders did enough on the night to beat a Redskins side that they outclassed but they can’t allow that many errors against the Romfords and Chelmsfords of the world or they’ll be punished.

Hanzal is not a direct replacement for Rand as an import and certainly isn’t as noticeable on the ice but it’s the little flashes of brilliance as to why he’ll be at the top end of the scoring charts at the end of the season. He’s not as physical but his hockey sense is brilliant and he’ll be great at this level.

It was also the first game in Raiders colours for Joe Denness who signed for the club this week. He didn’t get a shift until Cornish sat his misconduct penalty but gave a good account of himself. He did find the back of the net. Sadly it was when a Redskins defender checked him into it but he wasn’t afraid to mix it up.

 

The Redskins: This was a much better performance from the Redskins than the last time I saw them. They didn’t bring a full roster with them sadly but looked a much better unit than last season which made for a much better contest. Sadly the Redskins still lacked the quality of the Raiders in terms of having that killer edge in front of the net.

Dom Hopkins was an easy choice for man of the match for Streatham as he was their best player but some distance. His goal was a typical Hopkins goal, that being be blasted it as hard as he could goalwards. If anyone on the Redskins was going to know where to find a hole in Colclough it would be the man who played with him.

I also though Tyrone Miller had a decent game on defence and put himself around a great deal. Miller was always a good defenceman at EPL level and very much looks it at this level too. He’s never a massively high scorer but positionally sound.

Streatham also have an interesting looking 3rd line agitator in Evander Grinell who almost had Cornish running after him at one point after an elbow. Teams do need those 3rd liners prepared to do the hard grind but also look decent going forward which Grinell did. He could be on to keep an eye on.

I think Streatham’s biggest issue with climbing higher up the table is that whilst they have a good solid group of players there who play their system well, it’s that extra quality they’re lacking still. Sanderson gave up goals that he shouldn’t have given up (though he did make some good saves too) and when Wightlink upped the tempo, the Redskins couldn’t keep up. That said it’s a promising development from what I’ve seen in the past.

Also, one other gripe for Streatham. I’m never against jersey advertising, you only have to see my Rostock jerseys to know that but when your club logo is hidden on the shoulder and the team name is a small patch on the front that I can’t read, your sponsor logo on the front is too large. You’re not called Rockies Bar Belfast. It’s a shame really as the colour scheme and font for numbers and names on the back is really excellent.

The fans who came over though? Top quality all the way.

 

Overall: Honestly? I’ve watched better games of hockey on the whole but this was still enjoyable. Mr Evans refereed it in his “unique” style that I have to say whilst I was reassured to see that he does it everywhere and not just in Basingstoke, I don’t enjoy watching him officiate games. He nitpicks constantly about tiny things like players having their jerseys tucked in but then spent the first 35 minutes not calling anything in any direction in what seemed to be an attempt to catch the 8:47pm fastcat back to the mainland. When there was finally a stone cold call, it was missed and Cornish given a misconduct penalty for stating the obvious. I don’t like moaning about refs but when you’re impacting on my enjoyment of the game, I can’t help it really.

The better team won on the night but thought Wightlink should have won by more if, as mentioned above, they’d cut out some of the errors. Streatham have moved on and appear to be going in the right direction but still have a way to go.

The cheesy curly fries were superb as always but if you see adverts for a “limited edition Mars caramel” then steer clear. It’s just a Mars bar without the nougat in it.

Wightlink remain unbeaten in the league and will hope to use the momentum for their next game today (Sunday) in Cardiff. Streatham have to regroup but know they can give some of the bigger teams in NIHL 1 South a bit of a run for their money.

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