Lambert crowned Britain Champion

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(L-R – Dan Bewley, Rob Lambert, Craig Cook)  Picture – Ian Charles Photos

King’s Lynn’s Robert Lambert became the new British Champion at the National Speedway Stadium on Monday night, after the Stars rider went through the card unbeaten to lift the famous trophy and secure his wildcard spot at this year’s British Grand Prix in Cardiff.

The meeting got off to a bang with the two Dan’s in former British champion Danny King and home track favourite Dan Bewley having a good battle out front – King made a good start as opposed to Bewley, who was left at the back, but he soon cut through the field and was chasing down the back wheel of the Leicester and Ipswich rider but King held on for the opening win.

Robert Lambert who came into the meeting fresh from winning a silver medal with Great Britain at this weekend’s Speedway of Nations final in Poland and it saw Lambert starting with a convincing win and setting the quickest time of the night too, clocking a time of 60.62 in heat two.

Steve Worrall made his return to the shale just six weeks after breaking his leg in a crash for Scunthorpe back in April and was still struggling with his leg during the course of the meeting. Worrall made a good start before Jason Garrity caught him on lap two and would go on to take the victory.

After the track grade, it saw Cookie coming out again, following his disappointing third place in the race before – and he stormed to victory ahead of Richard Lawson. Lambert took his second race win of the night in heat seven- after Steve Worrall once again led, but a lack of fitness hampered his chances and saw both the King’s Lynn man and Rory Schlein coming through for first and second.

Scott Nicholls needed eyes in the back of his head to keep Dan Bewley at bay in heat eight, with the Rye House rider holding on for the win and seeing the home rider just leaving himself with too much to do to get passed. Both Jason Garrity and Danny King picked up their second race wins of the meeting to see them still in contention at the top.
Heat eleven saw Richie Worrall being excluded for his chain breaking on the starting gate, which then led to the son of the former three-time winner of this competition in Andy Smith’s son Jack Smith, taking a reserve ride. Sadly for him though, Jack lasted half a lap before being excluded for bringing down Rory Schlein on the back straight and then saw the Wolverhampton man taking the win in the rerun.

Not long after, the announcement of Steve Worrall being forced to withdraw came out and saw the St.Helens racer really struggling on his return with the effects of his leg injury still causing problems. Two wins on the bounce one after another for Rob Lambert saw him remaining unbeaten in his first four rides and qualifying straight through to the grand final with still a race to be ridden.

Craig Cook then kept his qualifying hopes alive in heat fourteen with a win, before the championship really started to heat up with a three-way battle involving Kyle Howarth, Richard Lawson and Chris Harris fighting for the lead. ‘Bomber’ Harris almost stole victory at the death from Howarth, after he blasting his way around the outside and was just short of the finishing line.

A fifth win in a row for Rob Lambert saw him finish on 15 points from his qualifying heats and was to be joined by Craig Cook who finished on 11 points and saw both riders avoiding the semifinal.

In heat twenty, Dan Bewley needed to win his final race if he was to claim a semifinal berth in the meeting, and it didn’t out well, as not for the first time in the meeting – it saw the Aces and Workington rider last out of the traps but soon powered his way into second behind Josh Auty and saw the two riders trading places before the Cumbrian racer held on to take the win and make it through.

The semifinal line-up saw a Belle Vue ”past and present’ theme to it, with seven times British champion in former Aces captain Scott Nicholls, two former Belle Vue Colts riders in Jason Garrity and Kyle Howarth and the current terraces favourite in Dan Bewley.
Garrity made a good start and led coming off turn two, but Nicholls came by him into first and led the race until Howarth stormed underneath and shoved his opponents wide off turn three to have all four close together. Nicholls regained the lead before coming under pressure from both Garrity and Bewley – to which both went either side of him on the back straight to pass the former Grand Prix man and book their place in the grand final.

Everything seemed to point to a Robert Lambert victory beforehand, so when the tapes went up it saw a shock start for Dan Bewley who hadn’t gated all night and was leading the maximum man off the opening turns. Lambert then passed him down the back straight to move in front before Bewley came up the inside to retake the lead. Craig Cook then got involved and came up the inside of Lambert too but that wasn’t for long, as the King’s Lynn rider blasted by both Cook and Bewley to take the lead and become the British Champion for 2018.

Victory for the the Great Britain rider sees his stock rise following his Under-21 title victory earlier last month and then was followed up with a silver medal as with GB in the Speedway Of Nations and now can add a British Final triumph to his 2018 season.


1. Richard Lawson (Somerset & Lakeside) – 1, 2, 1, 1, 1 = 6
2. Danny King (Leicester & Ipswich) – 3, 0, 3, 1, 1 = 8
3. Rory Schlein (Wolves & Ipswich) – 0, 2, 3, 3, 1 = 9
4. Dan Bewley (Belle Vue & Workington) – 2, 2, 0, 3, 3 = 10 2ND
5. Josh Auty (Scunthorpe) – 1, 1, 2, 1, 2 = 7
6. Lewis Kerr (King’s Lynn & Glasgow) – 0, 1, 2, 2, 0 = 5
7. Robert Lambert (King’s Lynn) – 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 15 MAXIMUM WINNER
8. Kyle Howarth (Wolves & Sheffield) – 2, 1, 2, 2, 3 = 10 (Q)
9. Ashley Morris (Wolves & Newcastle) – 1, 0, 1, 1, 0 = 3
10. Chris Harris (Rye House & Glasgow) – 0, 3, 2, 0, 2 = 7
11. Adam Ellis (Swindon & Lakeside) – 3, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 3
12. Scott Nicholls (Rye House & Peterborough) – 2, 3, 1, 2, 2 = 10 (Q)
13. Craig Cook (Belle Vue) – 1, 3, 1, 3, 3 = 11 (QF) 3RD
14. Richie Worrall (Poole & Glasgow) – R, 2, M/(JS – X), 0, 1 = 3
15. Steve Worrall (Belle Vue & Scunthorpe) – 2, 1, 0, (KB – 0, JS – 0) = 3 (Withdrawn)
16. Jason Garrity (Scunthorpe) – 3, 0, 3, 2, 2 = 10 4TH

17. Jack Smith (Sheffield & Belle Vue Colts) – X, 0
18. Kyle Bickley (Workington & Belle Vue Colts) – 0

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Para Hockey: Nicholson Treble Helps Mayhem In Victory

Manchester Mayhem  3 – 1 Cardiff Huskies 

The Manchester Mayhem finally broke their duck in this season, thanks to a Karl Nicholson hat-trick that saw the Mayhem taking a 3-1 win over the Cardiff Huskies at Altrincham’s Planet Ice rink, in what was a tough and physical encounter between the sides. 

Manchester welcomed back two players who missed out last season due to injuries in forwards Pat Bailey and Dom Cosgrove, plus they also gave a debut to Canadian International Peggy Assinck for the clash with the Huskies. Both teams entered the fixture on the back of heavy losses to leaders Kingston and a draw away at Peterborough. 

Play in the first was dominated by the goalies, with Cardiff’s Gareth Rees and Manchester’s Dougy Hankinson both making some superb saves to deny the forwards with a string of brilliant stops. Ty Christopher went very close for the Huskies inside the opening minute of play with a shot that rang the pipework. 

Christopher was denied twice by Hankinson from a double-save soon after, as the netminder kept the Cardiff attacker at bay. A chance then fell to Pat Bailey who got behind the Huskies defence but couldn’t beat the goalie and saw Rees making the initial stop and then saw a wayward shot missing the target.

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Mayhem’s Anthony Booth fending off Hannah Farmer of the Huskies    Credit – 98 Yetiiis Photography

The big-hitting started with a huge collision with Bailey lining up Cardiff’s Josh Campbell to put the attacker off at the last minute as the home side got caught out while on a power play. Both teams were creating chances but just weren’t able to find an end product and see a scoreless first.

Play in the second was very scrappy – with both defences smothering the others attacks for much of the period, that was until Karl Nicholson grabbed the opening goal of the game with a quick release that beat the goalie to put the Mayhem one up at 22.23. 

Later on in the period, it saw the feistiness starting to come out more between the two sides following Pat Bailey and Gareth Rees exchanging words following the Manchester man going after a loose puck that was still loose under the netminders’ glove and saw the Cardiff goalie none too happy with the whacks he was receiving.

Nicholson had a great chance to put the home side two up after he broke away up ice on a breakaway, but it saw his shot saved with the helmet of netminder Rees and made an awful crack that brought a whistle. Manchester did eventually double their lead at 27.27 – as a second goal in the period for Karl Nicholson saw the Mayhem forward shooting from range and had it looping up over the goalie for 2-0.

As the game headed to the third and final period, it saw two-goal forward in Karl Nicholson going close again with a blast around the defence and in on goal but Rees came up big yet again to stop him. Cardiff then pulled a goal back to make it 2-1 through Ty Christopher, as the forward picked up the puck at neutral ice and bamboozled the Manchester defence before firing home. 

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Rob Allen keeping his eyes on the puck                    Credit –  98 Yetiiis Photography

That goal gave the Huskies a type of second wind in the game and forced the tempo on the home side and drew panic within the Mayhem ranks for the next few minutes, and was seriously under the cosh. Manchester’s coach Pete Hagan then called a timeout to try and steady the ship and settle his side down after the Huskies scored, as the hosts seemed to have taken their foot off the gas.

Those words seemed to have an immediate effect on the Mayhem and had the hosts regaining some control of the game and saw their new signing Peggy Assinck, shoring up the back line for Manchester, plus she wasn’t shy in shouting instructions from the penalty box having collected a delay of game call.

With Cardiff still pushing for a tying goal in the contest – it saw the home side managing to kill the game off thanks to Karl Nicholson completing his hat-trick with a shot that took a deflection off Andrew Swinfen and end up in the net to seal victory for Mayhem and took the wind out of the Welsh sides’ sails with over a minute an a half left.

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Cardiff coach Andy Brown spoke on the performance of his side, by saying:

Personally, I think the side played well in parts, we controlled the game in certain areas and our rookies got a good chunk of ice time. We missed a few key players and as a result, some of our linking play went awol, but on the whole, I think the result was fair and Manchester took their chances”.

When asked if the missed chances cost them, he answered; “Yes, our missed chances did prove costly, we seemed to break through a lot and get to the red zone, but couldn’t seem to get the puck between the pipes. We were shooting from all angles in the attacking zone but could never seem to actually score. Thus we will work on this for our next game Vs Sheffield.

For Manchester,  they recorded their first win of the season to see them leapfrogging Cardiff into the third spot and after the game, Mayhem coach Pete Hagan seemed happy with his teams’ performance;

“It was a tough game and the last two games we have had has given us a bit of bad luck….and I think it showed in our play. Hopefully, this will boost the boy’s confidence and hopefully, it can kick-start our season”  

He also touched on the welcomed returns of Pat Bailey and Dom Cosgrove, saying; “I think they got into it, a little rusty, but hopefully that’s blown the cobwebs off and can get back in it. As the game wore on, they got more into it”.

On the performance of new signing Peggy Assnick, he was full of praise, saying; “Peggy helped stabilise the D, her experience really showed and hopefully, we get to see a few more games out of her during the season”.

 

 

STANLEY CUP Preview

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Memorial Day in the United States will see the traditional meeting of ‘East v West’ facing off, as the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals gets underway with the Western Conference Champions Vegas Golden Knights taking on the Eastern Conference champions the Washington Capitals. In what will be one of the most fascinating finals in recent times, one thing is for sure about this year’s final and that is a new name will be etched onto ‘Lord Stanley’s’ trophy with both sides looking to land their first-ever Stanley Cup triumph.

The two conference champions met twice over the regular season, with the Golden Knights prevailing both times as they won 4-3 on Christmas Eve in Washington and then shut the Capitals out 3-0 in Las Vegas back in early February. Something that both sides have shown in their quest for the cup is not having any ‘fear’ and with the two sides facing different sorts of adversity in their respective playoffs runs, as the two have come through it all.


 


1200px-Vegas_Golden_Knights_logo.svgFor the Vegas Golden Knights, they had to go through two teams with plenty of Stanley Cup experience and Cup final credentials to boot in the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks. There is an argument to say that the playoffs in the Western Conference side of things have been rather poor, with two of the first round matches seeing ‘clean sweeps’ happening and have occurred more over the past three years.

The flip side to that argument is that since the Lockout season of 2005, the West have lifted the Stanley Cup more often than their Eastern counterparts have, as the West hold a 7-5 advantage, though this was prior to the Detroit Red Wings  moving over to the East due to the alignment change in 2012-13 season. This year though sees one of the most unpredictable Stanley Cup Finals for a long time and hasn’t a clear odds-on favourite. 

For what has seen a number of first’s for the new boys to the National Hockey League this season, the Golden Knights opened up their first-ever playoff series at home at the T-Mobile Arena against the former champions from 2012 and 2014 in the Los Angeles Kings. It has to be said, that the series was a let-down and lacked any real drama at all, with the only note of the short series being an overtime winner in game two for Vegas. 

After what was a walkover against the Kings in the first round, the Knights then headed north of Los Angeles and another Californian side in San Jose. The series started much in the same vein as the previous one for Vegas, as they demolished the Sharks 7-0 in the opener and looked like the home side was going to be too strong.

Game two saw Logan Couture of San Jose netting a game-winner in second overtime to inflict a 4-3 loss on the Golden Knights before Vegas returned the favour in game three with a 4-3 win in overtime to take a 2-1 series lead. A shutout by San Jose tied the series at 2-2, however, two strong performances by the Golden Knights in games five and six culminated in a 28-save shutout for Marc-Andre Fleury and moved the Vegas Golden Knights to their first Western finals.

The Western Conference finals pitted the Golden Knights against another side for who the conference finals was a new experience as well, in the Winnipeg Jets. The remaining Canadian side in these playoffs took the series opener at home with a 4-2 win, while in game two the Golden Knights hit back with a 3-1 win as the series shifted to ‘Sin City’.

Winnipeg then found themselves coming up against a brick wall in Marc-Andre Fleury and saw the Canadian goalie proving to be a game and series winner on his own with a couple of brilliant performances between the pipes.

Back to back wins at the T-Mobile Arena saw the Golden Knights needing just one more victory to reach their first Stanley Cup final and they would have to close the series out on the road in a noisy and passionate Winnipeg building. A boisterous crowd in Manitoba was silenced when Alex Tuch got Vegas on the board early until the Jets drew level late on in the first through Josh Morrissey.

Midway through the second, Ryan Reaves scored what turned out to be the series-clinching goal for the Golden Knights, while Fleury was forced into making some important saves late on in the game to deny Winnipeg a tying goal and eliminated them from this years postseason. 

Vegas has gone through these playoffs spreading the goals around and had made it very much a team effort in their run. Ex-Florida Panthers Center Jonathan Marchessault has been a key guy for the Golden Knights as he leads the way for his team with 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) and has a plus/minus of +10 in their 15 games so far.

Meanwhile, right-winger Reilly Smith has posted 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) and former Columbus Blue Jackets Center William Karlsson has also been outstanding for the Western champions, with the 25-year old Swede putting up 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) and +9 too. It hasn’t just been their attack that has posted good numbers for Vegas, their defence has been rock solid too. It has seen them conceding just 27 goals, yet on the attack, the defence has tallied 16 strikes and accounts for 38% of the Knights goals.

Of course, though, the standout player of the postseason has been that of Marc- Andre Fleury between the pipes for his side, with Fleury posting a save percentage currently of (.947%) and also leads the way in the goalie standings with four shutouts. 


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In the Eastern Conference, the Washington Capitals will play in what is only their second Stanley Cup final in franchise history, following a 20-year wait since their last visit in the finals which ended in a sweep for the Detroit Red Wings back in the 1997-98 season. 

Following a stuttering start to their playoffs campaign that almost saw them facing an elimination game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, the Caps’ bounced back with four straight wins to set-up a meeting with their arch-rivals in the Pittsburgh Penguins. In what turned out to be an unsurprisingly physical and brutal matchup between the sides, it saw the Capitals Tom Wilson being highlighted following a couple of ‘highly questionable’ big hits towards the heads of a couple of Penguins players in the space of two games. 

In game two, a high shot on Pittsburgh’s Brian Dumoulin saw Wilson claiming after the game that he was ‘just backchecking’ on the hit, while the following game saw him making contact again to the head of another Pittsburgh player, this time in Zach Ashton-Reese and left the Penguins man with a broken jaw and concussion. The league handed out a three-game suspension and saw him forced to miss the rest of the series.

Washington though didn’t need him going forward, as they finally put their hoodoo against their rivals to bed. After suffering at the hands of Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury over the years, it saw another Evgeny coming to the fore in Kuznetsov, but this time, it was in the red of Washington. An overtime winner by the Russian in game six saw the Capitals advancing on to the Conference finals. 

In the Conference finals, they faced the best side in the Eastern conference in Tampa Bay and saw an epic seven-game series between themselves and the Lightning. Both sides failed to win either of their home games in the first four games of the series and we had to wait for game five before a team could finally win on home ice.

Tampa Bay took a 3-2 series lead with them to D.C, but Braden Holtby would prove to be the key man late on in the series for Washington, as the netminder produced a couple of stunning performances to deny the Lightning and forced a game seven back in Tampa, where the Capitals defeated the Bolts’ to progress to the finals. 

Looking at the numbers posted by Washington, Evgeny Kuznetsov is the Cap’s top scorer with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) to his name, while his fellow countryman in Alex Ovechkin, has 22 points (12 goals and 10 assists) as the two Russian have led the Capitals in the points scoring. Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson have backed them up with 16 points each, while T.J Oshie has 15 points in the postseason with 7 goals and 8 assists.  

This final has a lot of interesting subplots to it. Such as, who will lift Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time in their respective franchise’s history. Will Vegas become the first-ever expansion team to win the cup in their Inaugural season? – Can Washington break the ‘Fleury’ jinx that the netminder has over them in the playoffs gone by, plus can Fleury become the first goalie since Billy Smith of the New York Islanders sides of (1980-82) to win three straight Stanley Cups?

One thing for sure though, it should be a great finale to the NHL season and hopefully not a dull affair. 

Women’s Para Ice Hockey World Cup – update

The Women’s Para Ice Hockey World Cup for 2018 in Ostrava, Czech Republic is rapidly drawing to a close and after eighteen games of Para Ice hockey action, it’s time to take a look back at the tournament so far. At the time of this blog, the Final itself and the two semi-finals will not have taken place yet.

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Day one of the ‘Elite Division’ saw an absolute cracker of a contest to get the World Cup off to a bang, as the North American neighbours in Team Canada and the United States played out a seven-goal thriller, with the nation from the ‘Stars and Stripes’ pipping their foes north of the border to a 4-3 win.

It saw the Canadians lead 2-1 after the opening period of play, but the Americans reversed that scoreline in the second stanza to take a 4-2 advantage into the third period. Canada’s Nandini Sharma made it a tense finale with 51.3 seconds left in the game, but the US managed to hold onto the win and draw first blood in the tournament.

Canada didn’t have time to dwell on the loss, as they played the second of their two-games of the day against Team Europe and saw the side from the ‘Great White North’ firing on all cylinders with a thumping 13-0 thrashing to split their opening group games. Christina Picton led the way for the Canadians with a hat trick, while Raphaelle Tousignant, Emilie Robitaille and Jessica Matassa all collected a brace of goals in the rout.

Day two saw the US playing twice, as following their 5-0 in their first game against the European side, it then saw them facing off again against the Canadians and had a different outcome this time around to the previous day. A lone goal was by Canada’s Raphaelle Tousignant in the second period was the difference between the two and saw a split in the Round Robin series between the two hockey powerhouses.

On day three, Europe suffered losses in both their games against the US and Canada. It didn’t see the European side getting off to the best of starts in either game to be honest, as the first match saw the Americans taking an early four-goal lead with less than eight minutes played and had the side looking to stem the flow of goals being shipped. Much to the relief of the European side, they managed to see the rest of the first period out and all of second too and had them entering the final period trailing by those four early goals. However, the US made sure that they weren’t going to be blanked for another period of play and they managed to score a fifth for a 5-0 win.

Much like in their previous game at the start of the day against the United States, Europe once again found themselves behind the eight-ball pretty early on, as they fell four goals behind yet again in the first period. The Canadians managed to find the back of the net once in the second stanza to lead 5-0 going into the third and the final period. Canada found the twine four more times to win 9-0 and finished top of the standings with a goal difference of plus 22.

Saturday will see a deciding game between Team USA and Team Canada in the World Cup final, as it will also be a rematch of four years ago when the Americans lifted the first-ever World Cup thanks to a devastating performance by Kelsey DiClaudio who netted four times to beat the Canadians in their own backyard.

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This tournament has also presented a chance for players to grow their skills alongside the Main Event of the Women’s Elite Division, as the ‘Developmental Division’ has been introduced at this World Cup and has been an entertaining part to this tournament as a whole.

As said previously, this year’s World Cup features over ten countries taking part in this festival of Women’s Para Ice Hockey with eleven countries alone being involved in the Development Division.

 

Great Britain was able to ice two sides in this tournament, with d the GB team dubbed ‘GB Fangs’ fall to the Norwegians 5-0 in their opening game. GB Claws’ suffering a similar fate to what the ‘Fangs’ did, with a Finnish/Swedish mixed side handing the British side a 4-2 loss.

Meanwhile, the hosts were one of three joint sides in competition as had the Czechs joining forces with Croatia and in their first outing played out a 1-1 with the Netherlands.

The remaining game of the day saw the three mixed side, as a team made up of Australians and Scottish players recorded not only a 2-0 win but registered a shutout against France in the process.

 

Day two saw Norway and Holland playing out a thrilling game with the Norwegians edging the Dutch 4-3 to maintain their 100% start to the tournament. 

For the Great British duo, it saw both ‘Claws’ & ‘Fangs’ recording 2-1 victories in their respective matches. As the Fangs defeated the hosts and also saw the ‘GB Claws’ side beating the Aussies and Scottish side by the same score. 

Another side with an unbeaten record coming in the second day was the mix of players from Finland and Sweden, as the Nordic brotherhood racked up a comprehensive 9-0 win over France to remain perfect.

 

On the third day, Norway won 3-1 over the Croatia/Czech Republic team to move on to 6pts, while GB Fang’s shutout the Netherlands 1-0 to and trail Norway by two points in the standings.

The Great Britain Claws picked up a 2-1 victory over France, while the Nordic duo of Team Finland/Sweden remain with an unblemished record of three wins from three as they beat the Australia/Scotland squad 5-1.

Schedule:

GOLD MEDAL GAME / World Cup Final:

Canada v USA


 

Women’s World Cup Para Ice Hockey is coming

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This week sees the start of the second Women’s Para Ice Hockey World Cup taking place in Ostrava, Czech Republic, as this competition will boast more than 10 countries participating in this event. The organisers and players as well, have spoken off trying to expand the competition and in doing so highlight the Women’s game to which it is has attracted some attention from around the world as part of the Agitos Foundation. The Agitos Foundation is the leading global organisation that helps to changes lives and make everything contributing to an inclusive society for all with Para Sports being a key element in that plan.

The inaugural competition took place back in 2014 at Brampton, Ontario, Canada and on that occasion, it saw the United States of America being crowned the first World Cup winners of the tournament, as they beat the Canadians 5-1 in the final. Back then it saw the World Cup being played between three sides, with USA, Canada and European side.

At this year’s event, it sees the competition having two separate divisions taking place over the course of the six-day event. There is the Women’s Elite division, which is the same three sides as last time, with the best players from the US, Canada and Europe facing off against each other twice in a round robin style group, and where each side will have one day where they play two games. 

Meanwhile, the other side of things, sees a ‘Women’s Development Division’ running alongside the ‘Elite division’ of the competition with 8 teams battling it out. The hope of the development division it to give those participating a chance to learn and gain experience for future events and expand the game globally and the World Cup as a whole moving forward in the future. 

Countries taking part are Australia, France, Netherlands, Scotland, Norway and also two sides that have joint countries in the lineup – with the home nation in the Czechs teaming up with Croatia, while Finland and Sweden make up a Scandinavian duo. The remaining two sides in the division are from Great Britain and split into two teams with GB Fangs and GB Claws. 

On Saturday there will be an All-Star game taking place, with those players involved in the development division set up getting some ice time and also see the tournament culminate in two semifinals with the losers playing a Bronze medal game, while the winners advance to the Gold Medal game. 

 

Manchester hammered on opening night

Manchester Mayhem  1 – 9  Kingston Kestrels

Sunday evening saw the opening league game of the British Para Ice Hockey League taking place, with a clash of the champions from last year as the playoff champions the Manchester Mayhem welcomed the league champions in the Kingston Kestrels to Planet Ice Widnes and saw a nightmare game for the home side.

Last September saw the Mayhem inflicting the only defeat upon Kingston in the whole campaign last season, following a 3-2 win over the men from Hull in the playoff semi-finals and saw their opponents clearly not forgetting about it either. It saw the Kestrels dishing out a big bowl of revenge served Ice cold in the form of a crushing 9-1 win, with Kingston’s Matt Clarkson netting a magnificent seven in the game. 

In truth though, the game was not as one-sided as perhaps the scoreline suggests it was, as the contest was pretty even. Arguably, Manchester was shading the puck possession but they just weren’t able to make much with it at all and struggled to generate hardly anything by the way of shots. With the home side unable to make any inroads on their opponents early doors, that in turn allowed Kingston to take the lead through a long-range goal by Matt Clarkson, as the GB man just simply threw the puck on net and it somehow managed to get by Dougy Hankinson in the Manchester goals for a 1-0 lead with 5-53 gone.

 

Manchester finally got behind enemy lines soon after, when a pass off the side boards by Karl Nicholson caught the Kestrels defence flat footed and looked to have put Anthony Booth through on goal, but the Kestrels goalie in Ian Houliston read the play and came out of his crease to get the whistle. The visitors then doubled their lead thanks to a Matt Woollias strike at 10-42, when an attempted clearance in the Kingston zone was knocked down by Dean Lahan but sadly the puck fell perfectly to Woollias who went up ice to fire it in and open up a two-goal advantage. 

Just before the first period drew to a close it saw Matt Clarkson grabbing his second of the game for 3-0 with 11.3 seconds on the clock. The goals that the Mayhem was conceding was basic defensive errors and were made to pay for such a lack of defending.

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Woollias makes it 2-0 with a neat finish

In the early stages of the second period, it saw another unlucky bounce going against the hosts, as this time Graham Wilson tried to clear his lines but saw the puck being kept inside the Manchester zone due to the lineman stopping the clearance and have the puck ricocheting straight out towards Matt Woollias who then bided his time before teammate Matt Clarkson skated into the zone and unleashed a shot that went high into the net and put the Kestrels 4-0 up, with Clarkson bagging himself a hattrick. 

Manchester managed to create a couple of half chances themselves, but their attacks lacked any real threat in front of goal. When the Mayhem did get into decent positions it saw them coming up against a brick wall in Ian Houliston who was brilliant throughout in goal for the league champions.

Four-nil then became five-nil at 19-32 after a puck was flipped high into the Mayhem zone and led to a bit of panic, which in turn led to a collision involving two Manchester players in their own zone and Matt Woollias was quick to capitalise on the advantage and despite the efforts of Karl Nicholson to block the effort, instead it saw the shot deflecting off Nicholson’s stick to deceive Dougy Hankinson in the Mayhem goals. 

Mayhem’s captain Karl Nicholson nearly broke the Kestrels defences with 9.09 left to play in the second, but the Great Britain man could only fire his shot straight at the keeper. Minutes later, it saw Simon Berry firing the puck in deep and saw the puck taking a bad bounce off Dean Lahan sledge and came out to Matt Woollias but on this occasion it saw Hankinson was equal to the forward and made the save.

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Anthony Booth denied by Kingston’s Ian Houliston

In the third and final period of play, it saw the home side coming out the quickest and looked to pile the pressure on from the off. Anthony Booth kickstarted a mini-wave of attacks for the Mayhem, as firstly he broke clear after dispossessing a Kingston defence at centre ice but he was unable to convert – then literally seconds later it saw a 3 on 0 advantage for the hosts, but Rob Allen could only shoot tamely at goal and had teammate Karl Nicholson extremely bemused.

Almost a minute later from that incident, the Mayhem finally managed to get themselves on the board as Anthony Booth smashed home from in front of goal to make it 5-1 with 12.31 remaining. Manchester carved out another chance for themselves soon after, but once again Houliston came to the rescue of the opposition to shut them out. 

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Anthony Booth celebrates goal the Mayhem

Matt Clarkson then took his tally in the match to four at 35-58, after more poor defending allowed Clarkson to freely shoot on goal and have the forward putting home the rebound. Thirty-five seconds later, and it was a replay of the last goal, as Clarkson once again picked up the puck and saw him heading up ice saw his first shot saved but wasn’t be denied a second time and he made it 7-1.

Two further strikes by Matt Clarkson saw the Kestrels finishing with nine goals in the game, while the Mayhem tried to avoid being hit for double figures in their opening game. Manchester will now take this gap in the league to regroup and hit back in their next game in a couple of weeks time where they travel down the A1 South to face the Peterborough Phantoms on May 12th.


 

 

City see off Arsenal In League cup final

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Vincent Kompany lifts another trophy for Man City PIC: wjla.com

ARSENAL  0 – 3 MANCHESTER CITY

A stunning cup final performance by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City saw them richly rewarded with silverware as the runaway leaders beat Arsenal at Wembley Stadium 3-0 to lift the Carabao Cup. Goals from Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva helped to see the club lifting their fifth League Cup trophy in their history and third in five years.

It was a week that started badly for City after they had been dumped out of the FA Cup away at Wigan last Monday, so it was a good chance to redeem themselves after their shock loss. Arsenal came into the final on the back of a home loss in the Europa League and their last domestic game saw them coming out second best in the North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur. 

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Sergio Aguero lifts it over Aspinas for the opener: Pic: FiloPost

City started well in the contest, as Leroy Sane had a shot blocked in the area after two minutes gone and had the Blues on top. Arsenal had the best chance of the game coming their way when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saw his shot in front of goal saved by Claudio Bravo in the Manchester City goals, as Aubameyang looked to be in an offside position. 

Nacho Monreal then appealed for a penalty in the 13th minute of play, when the Spaniard spun around in the area and tried to claim a foul off Vincent Kompany when there was no contact and had the referee unmoved by his pleas. The deadlock was broken after 18 minutes on the clock when a long ball upfield by Bravo saw Argentine striker Sergio Aguero getting on the end of the kick and chipping David Ospina in the Arsenal goal for 1-0.

German defender Shkodran Mustafi had got a little bump off Aguero in the build-up, but the referee was not interested at all. City looked the better side and saw them just unable to make their attack play count as they tested their opponents. 

Aaron Ramsey attempted a low free kick from long range that saw Bravo dealing with the shot and easily dealt with. City skipper Vincent Kompany then showed signs of his old self as he chased down hard Aubameyang, before outmuscling the Arsenal striker to stop the Gabonese International.

Both sides wasted good chances in the half and had the Citizens nearly making it 2-0 before halftime when Aguero put a ball into the area and over the outstretched arm of David Ospina and have Kevin De Bruyne volleying his effort into the side netting.

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City captain Vincent Kompany goes wild after scoring for 2-0 Pic: IrishTimes

Early moments of the second half saw a chance falling to Vincent Kompany and his shot was blocked and just went past the post. Claudio Bravo then nearly got punished for his error on 53 minutes, when the Chilean keeper came running out to clear away and saw him completely miskicking.

City doubled their lead minutes later after captain Vincent Kompany diverted the ball home after Ilkay Gündogon driven a ball into the Arsenal area and have the Belgian showing his delight and passion in his celebration. David Silva completed the victory for City with less than a half hour to play after Danilo played a ball through for the man dubbed ‘Merlin’ by Manchester City fans, and the Spanish International fired across goal and into the far corner for a 3-0 scoreline.

As soon as the third goal went, it began to see the Arsenal end of the stadium quickly starting too empty and have the Gunners fans unhappy with the performance of their side, as they were outplayed, outclassed and out-fought by a determined and focused Manchester City side. As the final whistle blew it saw the travelling fans from the North West enjoying their trip down south and winning yet another cup and seeing Pep Guardiola continuing his habit of trophies and winning finals in his managerial career. 

For Pep’s men they still have a chance of a ‘treble’ with the destination of the Premier League title looking all but over you’d say, so their last trophy to go for is the Champions League and sees them in good health as they hold a 4-0 lead over Basle of Switzerland after their first leg tie in Switzerland a couple of weeks ago. Before that though, City face Arsenal again this coming Thursday night and then meet Chelsea at home in the teatime kick on Sunday.