23 Years as a Manchester Ice Hockey – Part 2 (Phoenix Years 2003-2017)

Carrying on from part one to which the Manchester Storm had gone bust and saw no hockey in the city, we now start Part 2 in 2003…

Following on from the Storm’s collapse in the Autumn of 2002, a group of Manchester hockey fans got together called FOMIH (Friends of Manchester Ice Hockey) looked to try and keep the sport alive in the city and saw the newly formed ‘Manchester Phoenix’ rising out of the ashes of the Storm, and into the brand new ‘Elite League’ that was the predecessor to the Superleague. The Elite League was meant to be a league that would give British players more chance and saw virtually every team in the league with a 70% lineup of homegrown players. Looking back as a whole on the club now, they were the British Ice Hockey version of the old tv show ‘the Littlest Hobo’ due to the team having so many different homes over their 14 years, that bounced around place to place and more impressively, they still had fans travelling with them till their dying day. Some of the rinks they used once or twice, but overall, they would use SEVEN different rinks down the years that they would call home.

They were as followed:

  • Manchester Arena (2003)
  • Blackburn (2003)
  • Ice Sheffield (2006-07)
  • Deeside (2006-07/ 2015)
  • Altrincham Ice Dome (2007-15)
  • Fylde
  • Widnes

The Phoenix as a club financially, was on the other end of the big money scale spectrum in terms of what the Storm was, as back in the Superleague days Manchester had a big wage budget over the years, whilst Phoenix had one of the modest bankrolls, yet played on one of the biggest ice pads in the league for their inaugural season at the MEN Arena. However, playing out of the arena came at a price, quite literally for the club and its owner Neil Morris, as they had to pay for every seat in the Arena for EVERY game and made for financial suicide. This led to the side needing to look elsewhere for a home and saw them left with no other option but to move out. The team was coached by ex-Durham, Sheffield, Nottingham and Storm forward in Rick Brebant, as he became the first player-coach in the clubs history. In February, Brebant headed back home to Canada and saw ex Cardiff Devils coach in Paul Heavey taking over the responsibilities of the club and led Manchester all the way to the playoffs finals weekend in Nottingham, where they were thrashed 6-1 by the hosts Nottingham in the semifinals.

Following that, the club mothballed for two seasons and saw the city going two years without a puck being dropped in anger and had to wait till the start of the 2006-07 Elite League season for the Phoenix to fly again. The team were under new management now, with Great Britain legend Tony Hand taking charge of the team and saw the side having to play out the majority of their season on the road at Ice Sheffield and Deeside for their ‘home’ games until their new barn was ready in Altrincham. After two postponements to opening night at their new rink, it saw on February 25th 2007, the first game taking place at the brand new ‘Altrincham Ice Dome’ as it was then called, with the Phoenix losing their opening game to the Basingstoke Bison and saw just less than a 1,000 fans allowed into the game due to there being only one side of the rink available to sit in and saw the rink being a building site for the rest of the season. For the first couple of seasons, I struggled to be a regular down there due to not having a job at the time and kept up to date with IH-UPDATES that would give you updates every 30 seconds. It took two years to finally see my first win at the rink, as I think it saw 8-10 before finally seeing a win against the Edinburgh Capitals.

The first game at the Altrincham Ice Dome – Phoenix TV

 

Manchester made it through to their first ever major finals in 2009 with appearances in both the British Knockout Cup and Challenge Cup finals, as they faced Belfast in both finals and lost out in both to the Northern Irish outfit. Their league form suffered greatly too due to their success in the cups, as fixture congestion saw them playing three or four times a week just to fulfil their fixtures and saw tiredness proving key and slid down the table. When it came to post-season playoffs, the Phoenix always seemed to always come up short in their playoff quarter-final ties, as defeats to Cardiff, Sheffield and finally Nottingham in their final Elite season saw them unable to punch a bit more above their weight. Their loss to the Panthers seemed to come full circle in a way, as with them having lost out to them at their first playoffs weekend in their debut season, the Phoenix would fall yet again to Nottingham in the last one.

Looking back at some of the players that iced during the Elite era, it saw a mix of skill and physical players in the squads over the years. Players like, George Awada, Miroslav Skovira, Mika Skytta along with Mark Bultje and Mike Morin (both of who played for the Storm previously). Brett Clouthier, ‘Super’ Joe Tallari, D.A.B (David-Alexandre Beauregard) and Johan Molin. Both Beauregard and Molin would move to Nottingham a season later in their respective seasons.

Shortly after losing to Nottingham, it saw dissension amongst the ranks in the league, and with Edinburgh, Hull, Newcastle and Manchester all unhappy at things, it saw Manchester joining Basingstoke in the EPIHL (English Premier Ice Hockey League) with the Phoenix looking at stabilising themselves and looking to stay within their means. That first season in the EPL saw the club going through a transition phase and shock to the system to some fans, as a few fans didn’t like the standard of hockey on offer and saw a few picking and choosing Hull or Sheffield games in the top flight instead,

 

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Ice Sheffield

One noticeable thing I saw when I became a regular and transitioned from Elite to EPL was the difference in attitudes from the two leagues fanbases. Over the years I saw the Phoenix fans and players bonding more than any other club have and they felt very much like a family and can’t say I have seen anything come close to any other team since. It also saw me on a personal level making more friends within the game (or as the Inbetweeners would Ooooohh Hockey Friends!) and they were not just with other Phoenix fans either. Some I am still mates with now around the leagues. In the 14 years that I watched ‘Phoenix hockey’, I’ve seen the club go through it’s highest highs and it’s lowest lows. As the team moved to the second-tier of the British Ice Hockey spectrum, it saw the skill being a step down compared to the Elite, but the league was sold as mostly a British player league than a team made up of foreign players.  One main rule the league had was that only four Imports could be in a lineup for a game, yet you could still have more imports in the overall squad.

Due to holidays, I missed the first couple of home games against Swindon and Milton Keynes, as after they beat Basingstoke thanks to an Ed Courtenay hat trick, James Neil then scored the game-winner for Manchester against Swindon for their first four-points on the opening weekend. MK Lightning gave them a reality check as the Lightning led by ex-Storm forward Nick Poole saw his side winning the league and inflicting a huge 8-2 home loss on the Phoenix. The first EPL game I saw was a “War of the Roses” clash with the Phoenix against the Sheffield Scimitars (now Steeldogs) and played host to a few players now plying their trade in the top flight, namely Robert Farmer and Rob Lachowicz both at Nottingham and also saw a young Ben Bowns who is now the Cardiff and GB goalie.

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Altrincham Ice Rink

Over the years at Altrincham, I saw the home side having some barnburners at the dome, with normally the MK Lightning, the Guildford Flames and Basingstoke Bison. However, one rivalry that was a late burner was Manchester and Sheffield and didn’t really start to catch fire until the middle of the 2010-11 season. Most of the rivalry seemed to come from Sheffield themselves, as their player-coach was a Phoenix player from the year before in Andre Payette. Payette, who has always had the ‘Enforcer’ label levelled at him, saw him taking a young Sheffield team along with another ex-Phoenix linemate in Greg Wood and saw him targeting their local rivals in Manchester. Sheffield played a very aggressive and agitating style that was very much in the mould of their coach. After a few physical games against the Dog’s, it saw Hand going out and bringing in ex Edinburgh tough guy in Andrew Sharp as their ‘policeman’.

When the sides met next time, it saw Payette targeting Hand and saw Sharp coming off the bench to keep Payette in check but instead saw him almost blindsiding the Sheffield player-coach and threw a few more punches at him while he was down on the ice. He was handed a suspension for the incident and would see this battle between Payette and Sharp come to a conclusion later on in the season during the Phoenix title run-in. Late on in the season, the two teams met in Ice Sheffield and saw both Sharp and Payette dropping the gloves three times in the game, as they clearly wanted to settle the score. Manchester took home the points and after a nervous final game against Swindon at home, the Phoenix landed their first major trophy in the clubs history as they won the English Premier Ice Hockey League title. They were made to fight to the wire by a strong Guildford Flames side that year and saw three Manchester players racking up ridiculous points on the year too, as Tony Hand finished on 133 points, with 25 goals and 108 assists. Linemates in Swede Marcus ‘Toffee’ Kristofferson racked up 112 points with 62 goals and 50 assists and to finish it off just two points behind was Canadian Curtis Huppe, who bagged 110 points with 59 goals and 51 assists in the season.

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Captain Luke Boothroyd holds league title aloft

As good as the attack was that season – the defence was the unsung heroes without a doubt. With Steve Fone backing up in the nets, he had great support from his Import defencemen in Ladislav Harabin and Pavel Gomeniuk, who both showed their experience down the stretch. Meanwhile, Luke Boothroyd and Ben Morgan were massive too for the Phoenix and one signing that doesn’t get much credit from that title-winning side was Joe Miller, as he made his return to the Phoenix fold from the Peterborough Phantoms and scored a vital game-winning goal down at MK in the run-in.

The Phoenix failed to defend their crown the following season and in truth, it was a bit of a disappointing season despite finishing second to Guildford in standings. Another Playoffs Weekend came around and saw Manchester meeting old foes in Sheffield at the semi-finals stage, and despite letting slip a two-goal lead late in the game, it saw them overcoming them in a thrilling shootout as former Sheffield man Stephen Wallace scored the winning penalty shot to take Phoenix into their first final. Sadly, they couldn’t build on their heroics the night previous and a visibly tired Manchester side was lambs to the slaughter for the eventual winners in the red-hot Slough Jets.

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Playoff Winners 2012

The 2011-12 season saw Manchester making a big signing in former NHLer Robert Schnabel, as the 6″5 Czech defencemen made an impact on the side after a bit of a slow start to his early Phoenix career. It saw also a return to the playoffs weekend in Coventry and had the Phoenix looking for redemption after last year’s final loss and were forced to show their grit and heart to prevail in yet another epic semi-final, this time against the Basingstoke Bison, as Manchester won a shootout thanks to James Archer’s penalty shot for a 5-4 win to set up a final against Guildford. Games against the Flames were always entertaining affairs and purely hockey based between the sides. This was to be the year of the Phoenix, as goals from Luke Boothroyd, semi-final hero James Archer, Tony Hand and two goals from ‘the man from the Czech Republic’ in Michal Psurny helped seal their first and only playoff title and second trophy in three years with a 5-2 victory at the Skydome Arena.

Manchester was still sailing on a crest of a wave when the new season started up and saw them going on to win their second league title after a thrilling ‘winner takes all’ game against the side that pushed them all the way in the Basingstoke Bison. Phoenix went into the clash knowing that they needed to win by two clear goals to effectively clinch the title as only goal difference was against them. The Phoenix did just that, as they won 5-2 to lift the title and set them up for another run at the playoffs. For the third season in a row, Manchester reached the grand final having disposed of Swindon in overtime thanks to a Frankie Bakrlik goal and see a battle between the league champions and the EPL cup winning Basingstoke Bison in the final. Sadly for Manchester, they lost out to the Bison 5-3.

Things then seemed to change in the EPIHL as we knew it then. As with the Telford Tigers being taken over, it seemed to see a split between Planet Ice/SilverBlades rinks and Wayne Scholes who owned RED Hockey UK and had purchased the Telford Tigers. He also brought 49% stake in struggling Bracknell and a 34% stake in the Manchester Phoenix, with both clubs looking for investment. Politics off-ice saw seemed to have the hockey taking a back seat throughout the season. On the ice, Manchester struggled and finished in their second-worst position since joining the EPL in sixth place. After their miracle victory down at Basingstoke to make their fifth trip in a row to the playoffs weekender, the 2015 playoffs weekend would soon become a weekend that no Phoenix fan will ever, ever forget! The Saturday evening saw the side beating the Milton Keynes Lightning 7-4 to book their place in the final for a fourth successive time. Looking back now, it saw the happiness I had for Ice Hockey waning and I have never really recovered from.

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Deeside Ice Rink

Just as the dust was settling and fans were streaming out of the Skydome Arena in Coventry after an entertaining couple of semifinal games, literally seconds after the Phoenix had beaten MK to reach what would be their last ever playoff grand final – a post was put on a website called the ‘The Hockey Forum’ and saw someone called ‘Sledgewomble’ and someone that had links to the rink operator Silverblades that the Phoenix played out of in Altrincham, posted an ‘Official’ statement by the company the Manchester Phoenix had been evicted from Altrincham with immediate effect and that no senior hockey would be played there the following season. That evening saw me sat in a Premier Inn (other hotels are available) with friends who were all on their laptops trying to get to the bottom of this developing story. 

What should have been a joyous and fun occasion for all Manchester and hockey fans too in Coventry instead, it saw a huge dark cloud hanging over it. The announcement looking back now really seemed to set the wheels in motion for would be the end for the club. The final saw a loss to Peterborough but to Manchester fans that were the furthest thing away from anyone’s mind. The ‘Phoenix Faithful’ was left to wait anxiously on what the future held for the club and where they would play! A few weeks removed from the playoffs weekend, a meeting was held for fans to attend at the Mercure Hotel in Manchester City Piccadilly Gardens. News had gone to press about the team moving back into central Manchester and saw the club looking at new possible venues. One spot eyed up was a disused building on the edge of SportCity and seemed ideal for fans.

With the announcement, that the side was carrying on playing, a vote took place as to where the fans wanted to watch their hockey from, as Morris said he had spoken to both Ice Sheffield and Deeside about playing their games there. The majority of the fans voted for Deeside, North Wales and so it saw them going back to where the Phoenix played half their Elite games at back in 2006. With talks ongoing about this new potential rink happening, Deeside became their adopted home for the 2015-16 season and soon saw the attendances slowly falling away. Despite the crowds, the Phoenix made their maiden EPL Cup final bow against big-spending Telford Tigers, and to no-one’s’ surprise at all the Tiger came out on top and saw Manchester having to play out their home leg in Telford due to no ice availability for the club. That would prove to be the closest that the side would ever get close to in challenging for honours and now it was just battling to survive.

To make matters worse for the Phoenix, the Storm name had been reintroduced to British hockey following the demise of the Hull Stingrays and that this new side would now be playing out of the Altrincham rink. Understandably, bringing back something much loved previously in people’s childhood had stirred up serious emotions and saw bad will between fans of both clubs. 

 

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Widnes Ice Rink

With North Wales being far out of the way for me to travel and with no transport too, my hockey took me to see the new Storm, but I still kept tabs on the Phoenix and would try to make sure I attended as many games as I possibly could with at least 8-10 games over the course of the season. It was around this time that I noticed that I was getting cold-shouldered by a few at the Phoenix, as they knew I was watching the Storm and was seen as a traitor for going and in hindsight, I do see their point. However, going to both was helping me with my ill-fated journalism future and I felt so awkward. I would go to Storm games and be like an outcast with me not knowing anyone there and then when I went to Deeside I felt like the black sheep of the family.

It was also a period in my life too where I was struggling badly with my depression and anxiety – and at times made me feel so bad and low that I wanted to stop going to hockey games and even worse. As you can tell, this situation wasn’t helping me at all and I just became worse and felt like a guilty person. A year after everything kicking off, I had hoped that things would improve but with both teams struggling and Phoenix now playing out of their sixth venue and building that quite frankly was not remotely ideal for second-tier hockey in Fylde near Blackpool, the club was on its last legs now it seemed. With the planned rink not coming off, it saw the Phoenix being effectively given their last rites and had them looking to play out what would be their final two games nearer to home and saw Widnes Ice Rink being their seventh and final home.

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Fylde coast Ice Arena    

Many people thoughts that their last game would be a 7-0 shutout loss against the Peterborough Phantoms which featured ex-Phoenix players in James Archer and Slava Koulikov. The big picture was bleak and saw Manchester Phoenix Ice Hockey club looking to have played their last game on ice and saw both fans and players themselves in tears together. The sight of Phoenix stalwarts in James Neil, Luke Boothroyd, Steve Fone, Robin Kovar, Ben Wood all in floods of tears really brought it home that was a real ‘end of an era’  and also a heartbreaking sight to see. After the game, captain Luke Boothroyd was asked to say a few words to the fans but he was choked up and devastated with emotion that he literally couldn’t talk. A couple of days later saw the side given a slim glimmer of hope to rectify their problems and see an extended stay of execution so to speak, but in truth, it was always a long-shot and saw the club unable to attract any new investors to the club.

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James Neil, Luke Boothroyd being consoled by teammates after the initial final game

Sadly, none was forthcoming, and so the team took to the ice for the final weekend in their history, with games against Bracknell and then on January 29th 2017 against the Swindon Wildcats, the Manchester Phoenix took to the ice one final time. In the lead up to the weekend, it saw the club trying to buy themselves more time and were forced to release all their import players in order to just keep the side afloat for a little bit longer and saw the club drafting in  guest players from the Bradford Bulldogs, Deeside Dragons, Bristol Bulldogs and the Blackburn Hawks. 

In what were the last embers of an Incredible and emotional ride with a team that I spent most of my life supporting, it did see something of the club returning to its roots in a way and going back full circle. Back in 2003, the original side was a bunch of young local upstarts in the area and saw a young 20-year old from Manchester called ‘Mark Thomas’ (who would make his name at Sheffield and with Team GB in the future) being the first ever player in Phoenix history to score for the club. Fast forward 14-years later and a young 21-year old in Myles Dacres of the Bradford Bulldogs, saw him scoring what proved to be the final ever goal from a Manchester Phoenix player, and in doing so, saw him writing his name into Phoenix folklore and end with a youngster scoring the first and last goal in the clubs incredible history. 

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Final Game Phoenix v Swindon Wildcats

A brave performance by a very youthful side saw them losing 11-3 and even had Robin Kovar scoring against his former club, just days before he was released by the club and was took on by the Wiltshire outfit. After all, was said and done, and the final player in a Phoenix jersey stepped off the ice for the last time, it saw supporters hugging each other in the cases for many, too be the last ever time they would see their friends at hockey or even come to a game again. 

However, I don’t want to end on a sad note as upsetting as I found doing this blog at times. Looking back over the good times, saw me thinking about the friendship that I built up and in some quarters have lost too, but in those happy times, I met some rapscallion characters over the years, ranging from Ben Knight who recorded the clubs podcast every week, to Alex Seewald who would produce it at Playoffs weekend. Mark Woodcock the Coyotes fan from the infamous podcast segment (What’s in the flask) fame or better known as ‘The Angry Budgie. Nigel McFarlane from the Bolton Press who would regale us with intellectual chat…on occasions, Arron Mortimer the Guildford fan, Thomas the Newcastle fan and of (6-4 in Overtime fame) and Pete Hagan, also Tambo (Jim Piper).

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Live PLAYOFFS Show from Coventry in the Old Windmill Pub

Other notable mentions go to ‘Mags’, Brenda, Chelle, Nichola, Yvonne, Graham and Matt the ‘doormen’, Nadia and Dave Ireland (Man of many hats..literally!) Emily Mort, Stuart Kilburn, Mr Predictor, Mrs Trellis from N.Wales (HOORAY!!!) Dave and his ‘Garden tips’, The Jenkinson family and Max and Pete. Plus people that just turned up at times in Paddy from ‘A View From The Bridge’ podcast fame and Alex from the BBC as he was known. During the years, we had a laugh doing the podcasts and when I tried to stand in – I was scared Sh*tless!!

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Special T-Shirts made for the Podcast live show

However, the live shows in Coventry at playoffs finals weekend will always be favourite memories, having Anthony the Bison fan from ‘Banners On the Wall’, Swindon friends Joe and Ben, Dan from the Peterborough Phantoms and not forgetting MK ROB! Though my personal ALL TIME favourite memory being the ‘Sneaky Russian Night’ where are al downed Absolut Vodka between period breaks and as a non-drinker I had 6 shots and stand upright.

 


 

ROLL OF HONOUR:

ELITE League KO: Runners-up 2009

ELITE League Challenge Cup: Runners-Up 2009

EPIHL League Champions: 2010-11, 2013-14

EPIHL Playoff Champions:  2013

EPIHL Cup: Runners Cup 2014

 

Retired Numbers:

#9 Tony Hand MBE

#17 Dwight Parrish

 

 

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23 Years as a Manchester Hockey Fan – Part 1 (Storm Originals 1995-2002)

2ndlogoThis month will see me celebrating 23-years of watching the game known as Ice Hockey and dating back to 1995 when my adventures of the game began and have seen me travelling around Britain and the World, with games in the United States and Germany. Growing up a Manchester Ice Hockey fan hasn’t exactly been the easiest experience, as over them twenty-three years, I’ve watched two of my teams go bust (Storm Originals and Phoenix) and been thrown onto the scrapheap with the rest of other fallen British Ice Hockey teams that are now sadly no longer with us. I was 9-years old when my parents took me to my first-ever game at the new newly built Nynex Arena Manchester (now the Manchester Arena) to watch Ice Hockey and see this brand new team that played out of this shiny new building in the heart of city called, the Manchester Storm or as Jon Hammond would say “ALLSPORTS Sponsored, MANCHESTER STORM!!!

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Manchester Storm British League Div 1 Champions/ Playoff Group A winners – 1995

PIC: StormHistory

 

It was on November 12th 1995 that I first went through the doors of the Nynex Arena to watch an Ice Hockey game and I have to be honest that I do actually recall a chunk of the whole first experience. A few days prior to the game, I had watched the Storm playing on Sky Sports against their main rivals from down the road in the Blackburn Hawks, as they were crushed 12-9. Despite the scoreline on the night, It still made me want to go and see a game, but in truth, I had literally no idea what to expect first time out as I knew nothing about the game, and as some would say now, I still don’t. The whole experience was new and felt very much ‘Americanised’ with the whole set up. As the clock on the big video wall or counted down and got to around seven minutes, it saw the arena plunged into darkness with only two big searchlights going the arena. It then saw the video wall playing the noise of two doors opening and the clip of Michael Keaton from ‘Beetlejuice’ appearing on screen and saying the immortal words, “It’s Showtime!” and the door noises would then slam shut again.

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From there the screen would then play a video that features words with letters missing and would then fill in the blanks to the crowd slowly clapping their hands as the message would finally spell out “Welcome to the Manchester Nynex Arena”. The main intro video would then play with a couple of the Storm players featured and end with one of the non-Storm players shooting the puck and seeing the camera zooming in on the puck into the netminders glove and see the mask suddenly morph into the Storm logo with ‘Thunder’ by Prince being played over the video.
The night itself, I recall sitting in the corner and above a drop to which I was terrified off, thankfully, we moved seats and enjoyed the Storm beating the Telford Tigers 9-5. And, if memory serves me correctly, a certain Mr Hilton Ruggles scored six of the nine goals for the Storm. After the game, I was asked if I wanted to go back and I must have said yes. From then on I just fell in love with the sport, as it became my new favourite sport, well, until Manchester City won a game and I can tell you now that didn’t happen very much back in the day.

 

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Storm Season Ticket:      Credit:  In The Crease

 

We then made going to the hockey a family tradition, to which we went to every home game possible and from looking at an old programme I have to hand, we saw a further seventeen games that included three in the playoffs against Slough, Swindon and Dumfries. As their success grew, so did their attendances and broken British attendance records in the process. After watching the Storm blowing away their competition in year one to win the British League Division One title and playoffs group too, it made the next year more exciting.

Credit: Storm History

The new season saw Manchester joining the top-flight and entering a new British ‘Superleague’ that featured the likes of the Cardiff Devils, Nottingham Panthers and the Sheffield Steelers to name but three. Having watched the side thrash teams with ease like the infamous 26-3 victory over the Solihull Barons, this new league would prove to be far tougher and competitive league to be in and saw Manchester struggled with the big boys. Prior to their debut in the top flight, it saw them having an Invitational Tournament to which a late, late win over French club H.C Rouen saw the Storm winning their own competition. They opened their league campaign at Sheffield and were hammered on Sky tv 6-1 with Brad Zavisha netting their first goal in the Superleague. A trying season saw them having a couple of exciting game, with Bracknell standing out as they trailed 3-4 with two minutes to play until goals by Mike Morin, Nick Poole completing a hat trick and Brad Zavisha scoring late goals to win 6-5. However, the biggest highlight came when they beat Sheffield 6-2 in front of a British league record crowd of 17,245 in the final league game of the season.

 

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Superleague champions     Pic: In The Crease

 

In 1997/98, Kurt Kleinendorst came to Manchester to replace John Lawless as the new head coach who was relieved of his duties and saw the teams’ fortunes dramatically change and began to chase honours. The Storm narrowly missed out on the league title by three points to the eventual champions in the Ayr Scottish Eagles. Manchester then went one better the following season, as they were crowned Superleague champions and became the first-English side to win the Montieth Bowl after Ayr and Cardiff had been the previous two winners of the league. Going to the Ice Hockey was the highlight of the weekend for most of my childhood, while football was my first love growing up and definitely for my entire my youth and teenage years. That said, my weekends were normally going Speedway to see the Belle Vue Aces on Fridays, Basketball with the Manchester Giants (who also played at the Arena) on Saturday nights, while the afternoon was football with Manchester City or non-league with Droylsden and Hyde United FC. The thing with Manchester is that is a very big sports orientated city, and it can be both a blessing and curse at times for sides in the area.

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SELLOUT GAME

Back in the day, I had many ‘hockey heroes’ or just players I like watching over the Storm originals era, players like; Hilton ‘the Poacher’ Ruggles, ‘Six-Shooter’ Shawn Byram, Johnnie ‘Vegas’ Finnie, Frank Pietrangelo, Kris ‘Killer’ Miller, Mike Morin, Pierre Allard, Jeff Jablonski, ‘the Wildchild’ Stefan Ketola, ‘Tormentor’ Jeff Tomlinson and my favourite player ‘the Rock’ Brad Rubachuk – a player who saw his career cut short sadly in an accident during a game down in Bracknell. Going slightly off topic for a moment, my ball hockey number when I play is number 41, due mostly to the man Rubachuk himself. So when I met him a few years ago I actually got to tell him this and his reply was “That’s awesome, and I’m honoured that you wanted to wear the number 41 because of me”, he was a real humble and friendly guy too.

 

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Players celebrating in Prague after a 4-3 win

Over the years at Arena or the ‘Storm Shelter’, I made a few friends and even brought mates from school to come down and watch a game or two. From the huge video wall playing the infamous entrance videos before the game to the goal music, the crowds that came to the Arena (mostly freebies as it turned out) made the whole atmosphere electric and incredible to be around at the time. During the early years, the team played the cream of European hockey in the European Hockey League (EHL) or Champions Hockey League as it would now be called, to where the Storm picked up some stunning results in the few years they participated in it. Results like a 3-2 overtime loss to Dynamo Moscow and then doing the double over Czech side Sparta Prague, as they shut out the Czech champions 7-0 at home and then won 4-3 over in Prague.

Following their B&H Cup success before the turn of the millennium against the London Knights in a penalty shootout – to which former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Frankie Pietrangelo stopped all five shots to help Storm winning the cup, that would prove to be the last ever trophy that the club would win in the clubs’ history. With news that ‘K.K’ was departing for pastures new and joining the New Jersey Devils of the NHL as an assistant and also saw the start of the decline for the Storm.

 

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B&H CUP WINNERS

 

Manchester’s new coach was a man called Terry Christiansen (not to be confused with one poor export from Manchester in Terry Christian, though I think he might have done a darn sight better). The new coach seemed to destroy the whole club from the inside out. As times change, I was taken less to many games as I would have liked to, as my parents decided not to waste their money any more after the awful brand of hockey that was being played out. It saw many fans staying away and voting with their feet and as has been mentioned by many ex-players in the local press at the time, they were vocal at how the coach ruined the atmosphere of the club with his methods and his lack of communication with fans and players and Arena management alike.

I did manage to attend the odd game every season while the Storm was still in existence, even up their final year which was played in front of a slightly eerie empty arena and pushing perhaps less than 3,000 or fewer. Having seen them play in front of crowds of up to 8 to 10,000 and the ‘Sell-Out’ game against Sheffield just five years previously – to now watching them playing in front of one man and his dog was really sad to see. With costs and bad running of the side amongst other things playing their part in the demise of the Storm, it saw them folding finally in 2002.


Next – PART 2: The Phoenix Years 2003

 

NIHL N1: Blackburn put six past the Sting

BLACKBURN HAWKS  6-1 SUTTON STING

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Blackburn Hawks thrashed the Sutton Sting 6-1 at the Blackburn Ice Arena on Sunday night, after a dominant second-period display by the Hawks that saw them scoring five unanswered goals against the visitors with two coming from forward Kieran Brown. The middle stanza set Blackburn on their way to victory and helped to make it four wins on the bounce and see them moving up into seventh place in the NIHL North 1 Moralee standings.

Following a win up in Dumfries against the Solway Sharks the previous night, Blackburn made a bright start to the game and saw a couple of early shots testing Warren Gilfoyle in the Sting goal. It was a fairly scrappy opening period that saw neither side really controlling and saw both cancelling the other out. Sutton had a couple of chances with the best falling to Ryan Johnson who found himself clear of the Hawks defence and tried to pull off a ‘Forsberg’ goal, but Harrison Walker managed to deny him with an outstretched right leg to keep it goalless.

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As the period went on, the home side improved and started to make inroads on their opponents as Kieran Brown skating into the Sting zone until he was clearly tripped up when going clean through, but the match official David Good didn’t give anything and was a big let-off for the away side. Minutes later, Adam Barnes was put through on goal and saw him trying to blast home and saw his shot fired high and over the bar late on. The Sutton goalie was giving up an alarming amount of rebounds in a dangerous position around his crease and saw the home side unable to make the most of the loose rebounds.

Early in the second, it saw Blackburn netting four goals in the first seven minutes of the period, with the Hawks taking over the game. Aaron Davies put the hosts 1-0 up when he fired through traffic and saw his shot fly in over the shoulder of Gilfoyle to put Blackburn ahead at 22.17, Kieran Brown then skated unchallenged into the Sting zone before unleashing a shot that found its way in the back of the net at 23.11 for 2-0. Brown then doubled his tally to make it 3-0 after a break saw Adam Barnes playing a nice pass across goal for his teammate to finish off at 24.15.

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Czech Import forward Peta Valusiak then finished off a nice finish for 4-0 put Blackburn in firm control after 28 minutes played. It was a period that saw Sutton grounded into the ice and saw the home side flying high and bouncing on the bench as their confidence was sky high. With less than four minutes to play in the period, it saw James Royds sending an unstoppable shot that flew like a rocket into the top corner of the Sutton goal for 5-0 and all but sewn the game up.

The visitors came out for the third playing for pride and got themselves on the scoreboard through Scott Morris as ended the hopes of a shutout for the Hawks at 41.16. Both sides made some big hits and saw both keepers making stops, as Walker in the home goal was called upon more than he would have liked to have been. The game saw the last word going to Adam Barnes who had done everything but score and had wasted a few chances that came his way. However, this time he found himself on goal and finished with a nicely taken strike to make it six and wrap up the game.

NIHL South: Skinns and the Bees Shutout the Bison

New-Generic-Bees-Logo Bracknell Bees 2-0 Basingstoke Bison bison_logo

Bracknell preserved their four-point league at the top of NIHL1 South standings on Sunday night, thanks to a 2-0 shutout win over their arch-rivals in the Basingstoke Bison. Since the offseason with Doug Sheppard making the move from Basingstoke Ice Arena to the John Nike Leisure Sport Complex, it also saw the most successful coach in recent times with the Bison bringing most of his trophy-winning side with him up the M3 motorway and so the lead up to the game was always going to be emotionally charged.

Coming into the Sunday game, it saw both sides in relatively good form as the Bees and Bison clash came on the back of wins for both sides the night before, with Bracknell against Streatham (1-0) and Basingstoke against Invicta (5-3). A good crowd in ‘the Hive’ saw Bracknell starting the stronger of the two with former Bee in Alex Mettam forced into making a couple of early stops from the home attackers and kept them scoreless.

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As the period went on, it saw the visitors coming more into the game and testing former Bison goalie in Dean Skinns and much like Mettam at the opposite end, he was doing his best to keep the biscuit out of the net. There was a bit of concern on six minutes, when Basingstoke’s import forward Michal Klejna took a heavy fall around the Bracknell crease when a collection of bodies and legs were all tackled up going for a loose puck, and Referee Steve Matthews gave a high sticks call on ex-Bison (see a recurring theme here) in Stuart Mogg.

Basingstoke had a spell of solid pressure on the home side goal and made Skinns work for his money, whether he knew much about saves or not. One passage of play saw George Norcliffe cutting down left and shooting short-side which had Skinns kicking it onto the foot of the post before making back to back saves while down on the ice to keep his old side out. The first twenty minutes were rather entertaining, with both sides playing some good hockey and didn’t see much in the way of rough stuff, as both sides seemed to be content to play hockey first than the physical side of the game.

After a scoreless first, it saw the Bees getting on the board first thought a Brendan Baird goal, as the Bracknell defenceman fired his shot through traffic and found its way by Bison goalie Alex Mettam for the 1-0 lead in the 26th minute and was a period bossed mostly dominated by the home side. The Bees were clearly buzzing following that goal and Mettam had to be on constant alert as Bracknell had their stingers up! Fair play to the young Bison side though, they managed to weather the storm from the goal and forced their way back into the game.

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In the third, it saw play being evenly spread with the Bees looking for that killer goal, while the Bison just looked to create an opening that would get them back in the game. With the game on a proverbial knife-edge with a goal separating the side, things were starting simmer and frustration was beginning to rear its head in the game and kick in with time ticking down. With just under a minute left to go in the game, it saw the game explode into life. Firstly, Joe Baird who penalised and saw a stray arm up toward the head of a Bison man as they went into the boards, but an Interference went against him and so put the away side a 6 on 4 power play with Alex Mettam leaving for the bench. Basingstoke’s PP unit couldn’t set up a play and that allowed former Manchester Phoenix forward Roman Malinik to send the puck heading up ice into the empty cage for a 2-0 game at 59.34 to secure the points for the Bees – However, that wasn’t the end of the fun of the games.

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That earlier interference call from Baird seemed to inject a feisty element to the game that had been missing throughout. Soon after the second Bracknell goal Bees Josh Martin and Basingstoke’s Michal Keljna got sent to the locker room after a scrum saw both receiving two minute roughing minors and a 10 minute Misconduct each with 18 seconds of the game left remaining, as the referee was looking to keep a lid on emotions from both sides, but there was still fireworks to come. Ten seconds later saw James Galazzi and Adam Jones trading borderline hits and finally resulted in Galazzi going for Jones and the two drop the gloves in front of the Bison supporters and while that was going on – Ryan Watt of the Bees and Jay King of the Bison squared off with Watt whacking the Bison players stick out of his hands and sending into the upper tier.

Following King’s refusal to go with Watt, it saw the ex-Bison making a ‘chicken’ gesture towards King and then followed it up asking and challenging the Basingstoke bench. The match referee had enough of his antics and seemingly lost control in the closing stages of this rivalry game and saw Galazzi given a 2+2 for roughing along with a 10-minute misconduct, while Watt picked up a ten minute for misconduct. For the Bison, Jones got 2+2 for roughing and a further 2+10 for boarding. It was a game that saw quality prevailing over quantity, as the Bison just lacked the cutting edge that a Doug Sheppard’s side, but they gave as good as they got and makes the next meeting between the sides on December 1st down at Basingstoke extra tasty.


Shots on Goal: Bees 28   Bison 23

Saves: Dean Skinns 60.00: – Bees 23/23 (100%)   Alex Mettam 59.33:-  26/27 (96.30%)

PIM: Bees  40 – Bison 40

NIHL: Hawks downed by Steeldogs

BLACKBURN HAWKS  0 – 6 SHEFFIELD STEELDOGS

An Ashley Calvert hat-trick helped the visiting Sheffield Steeldogs to relatively comfortable 6-0 shutout victory of the Blackburn Hawks at the Blackburn Ice Arena, as the Steeldogs took their chances against the struggling Hawks.

The opening five minutes of the game went by quite without any real action, with neither netminder really having to do much from opposing forwards. Hosts Blackburn then started to try and take the game forward, but they seemed to find it difficult to create anything byways of a meaningful attack.

If this had been a boxing fight, the Hawks would have been shading the contest on the scorecards due to showing more intent than say their opponents, but the Steeldogs seemed content to try and soak up the early pressure by the hometown Hawks. That pressure saw Sheffield picking off their hosts with a breakout attack that led to Ashley Calvert putting the ‘Dogs ahead near the ten-minute mark.

Sheffield’s Nathan Salem tried to squeeze his shot between post and goalie with the puck striking the foot of the post. Ollie Lomax of the Hawks took a needless ten-minute misconduct call for firing the puck at the boards near the referee and saw the match official Roy Hamilton signalling him towards the box.

The second period saw Blackburn forward Kieran Brown being one of the few shining lights of the game, as he looked to take the Steeldogs defence on, but there was only so much he could do against a team that snuffed out anything creative that the Hawks seemed to make. Sheffield thought they had scored early in the period but referee Hamilton washed it out immediately for a man in the crease.

Duncan Spiers then scored on a quick odd-man rush for the Steeldogs to make it two-nil, that was before a low driven angled shot by Adrian Palak made it a 3-0 score with 37.14 gone in the game. In the final period, Ashley Calvert scored his second of the night on the power play for a 4-0 scoreline and Blackburn were back peddling from then on in.

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Less than a minute later – it saw Kieran Brown boarding Lewis Bell from behind in front of the penalty box and saw Bell’s teammate Charles Thompson not happy and let him know it. The result was a 2+10 for Boarding and saw him heading to the locker room for an early exit.

Inside the final ten minutes of play, it began to see some bizarre calls being handed out by the match officials. Firstly, Sheffield’s Milan Kolena was hooked down when cutting in on goal and Referee Hamilton signalled towards the ‘Dogs player for ‘diving’ when a clear penalty on him. Sandwiched in between the weirdness, was Calvert completing his hat-trick with a nicely taken goal for 5-0 and left the home side frustrated with a lack of a cutting edge threat from their team.

Blackburn’s Czech forward Peta Valusiak then became the second Hawks players to head to the house for an early shower, when Valusiak seemed to put his hands up when colliding into Ben Morgan, but Morgan hit the ice in stages and amidst the boo’s from the home fans in the stands who felt he went down fairly easily, the Dogs player mimed he was elbowed once he got up.

With the official not seeing the initial incident himself, he then decided to give the Blackburn man a 2+10 for checking to the head and that brought a bemused home bench by the outcome and head shaking in the stands. Cameron Brownley soon added a sixth goal to the Sheffield goal tally late on, as the visitors claimed a win.

The victory sees Sheffield jumping above their Yorkshire rivals in Hull by a single point in the North Cup standings, while for the Hawks, it’s back to the drawing board and prepares for the visit of the Hull Pirates next weekend who put 10 goals past them on Saturday night. That is then followed by a trip up to the North East next Sunday at Billingham against the Stars.

Aces Win the Battle But Not the War

BELLE VUE ACES 50-40 SOMERSET REBELS

(Somerset win 92-88 on aggregate)

Belle Vue came agonisingly close to overturning a 14-point deficit against the Somerset Rebels, as the Aces won 50-40 on the night at the National Speedway Stadium, but despite the victory, the Rebels took the tie by four points to advance through to their first Premiership Knockout Cup Final.

Following their disappointing loss down at the Oak Tree Arena last week in the first leg, their grip on their knockout cup was loose and hanging by a thread. The Aces opened the meeting up with a 4-2 advantage from Steve Worrall and Max Fricke to which Worrall recorded the second race win in back to back meetings against the Rebels and on both occasions beat the World Champion in Jason Doyle.

Somerset then answered right back a 5-1 from Jake Allen and Aaron Summers, as the reserves opened up a 16-point lead for the Westcountry side in the tie. Stevie Worrall made it two wins in a row when powered to victory alongside Rohan Tungate to register a 5-1 advantage and make it a 12-point lead, before Aaron Summers did well to block the run of Grand Prix rider Craig Cook in Heat four, as Cook was unable to find a way past the Aussie rider in the race.

The visitors then took two advantages in a row, as Jason Doyle and Nico Covatti rode to a 5-1 before Jack Holder and Jake Allen took a 4-2 to extend their lead in the overall tie by 18-points and move the Aces behind the 8-ball, as the Rebels led on the night 28-26.

Heat 10 saw Max Fricke and Dmitri Berge riding to a 5-1 to up the Aces up 31-29 on the night and trail by 12 overall, with slim hopes still of staying alive in the cup. Another heat victory for the home side saw Cook and Berge reducing the deficit to ten points before the interval came around, as they recorded a 4-2 advantage.

Following the interval, it saw a great race between Berge and Bradley Wilson-Dean in Heat 12 that saw both riders passing each other and see the Aces man looking to have done enough to take the race victory, but instead, it saw Wilson-Dean sneaking around on the final bend to pip him on the line for a 4-2 to the visitors.

A couple of weeks ago when the sides met on television – it saw it going viral online and have had many saying it was the race of the season, but this race may have surpassed it, with no less than ten passes in the race and saw Fricke getting past Doyle on the final bend to take the race win and also have Cook following behind with a last-gasp move up the inside to snatch second place for Belle Vue and pick up a huge 5-1.

With maximum points being picked up in Heat 13, it meant that the home side needed two five-ones to win the tie. Unfortunately, despite a battling effort from the home side with Tungate and Berge holding 5-1 for a couple of laps, it saw Berge unable to hold off a fast Richard Lawson and had the Scottish rider splitting the Aces riders and sealing a finals berth for Somerset in the KO Cup Final.

Belle Vue finished the meeting with a 4-2 race advantage, as Cook and Holder had a good tussle out in front with the Aces man just having enough to beat his opponent. With Belle Vue missing out on defending their cup, they now turn their attention to the first leg of their Playoff Semi Final at home to King’s Lynn on Monday night, with the Aces hope to take a lead down to Norfolk the following week

VIDEO: Ht13 ACES – REBELS  –  Credit: CLEAN CUT SPORTS

Belle Vue Aces = 50 (88)
1. Max Fricke — 1, 2, 3, 3, 1 = 10
2. Dan Bewley — R/R (SW – 3 , JBA – R, RT – 3, DiB – 2′ = 8+1)
3. Steve Worrall — 3, 3, 0, 1′, 0 = 7+1
4. Rohan Tungate — 2′, 1, 3, 2, 3 = 11+1
5. Craig Cook — 2, 3, 3, 2′, 3 = 13+1
6. Dimitri Berge — 1, 1′, 0, 2′, 1, 2, 2′ = 9+3
7. Jonas B Andersen (G) — 0, T/(DiB – 1′), R, 0, (DiB – 2) = 0

Somerset Rebels = 40 (92)
1. Jason Doyle — 2, 3, 2, 1 = 8
2. Nico Covatti — 0, 2′, 0, (AS – 0) = 2+1
3. Bradley Wilson-Dean — 1, 1′, 0, 3 = 5+1
4. Richard Lawson — 0, 2, 1, 2, 0 = 5
5. Jack Holder — 0, 3, 3, 0, 2 = 8
6. Jake Allen — 3, 1, 0, 1 = 4
7. Aaron Summers — 2′, 3, 2, 0, 0 = 7+1

Battling Colts Can’t stop Powerful Fen Tigers

BELLE VUE COLTS  43 – 47 MILDENHALL FEN TIGERS

(Mildenhall win on Aggregate 68-111)

The curtain came down on the 2018 season for the Belle Vue Colts on Friday night, as they finished on a low note being edged out 47-43 in the second leg of their National League Knockout Cup tie to the runaway leaders in the National League in the Mildenhall Fen Tigers, as for the second time this season the Suffolk side left Manchester with another win this year.

With the Colts facing insurmountable 39-point deficit to make up from the first leg down in West Row, it saw the Fen Tigers opening up the second leg in much of the same way they did in the first leg with a 5-1 through Drew Kemp and Danny Phillips as Ben Woodhull pushed them to the end but couldn’t get by.

Paul Bowen pulled off a brilliant pass in the reserves race to beat Matt Marson as the man dubbed the ‘Pieman’ at the N.S.S, saw the Belle Vue man refusing to come off the outside line and on lap 3 saw him generating the speed and flew by Marson down the back straight to take the win, while Kean Dicken held third from Sam Bebee for a 4-2 to the Colts.

Drew Kemp and Colts Jack Smith raced each other four times in the meeting and saw Kemp taking the first of their four duels in the meeting. In Heat 6 it saw both Mildenhall reserves suffering from bike problems, as firstly, Marson had his bike ceasing up as soon as the bike got out on the track and was excluded under the two minutes rule. Bebee then came in to replace his fellow reserve and saw his bike packing up on the gate just as tapes flew up and luckily for the visitors they had Kemp riding to an easy win.

In Heat 7, it saw the Colts picking up a 5-1 with Smith and Bowen combining to take maximum points. Bowen, then came out in the following race and saw him leading the race until Danny Phillips passed him on turn two of lap 2 and then saw the Colts man trying to blast his way around the outside of Phillips but saw him hitting the deck and gift a 4-2 to the Fen Tigers.

Kemp and Smith battled out front again in Heat 9, as the Mildenhall man made it four wins in a row and the second over Smith in the match. As a result of a drawn heat, it meant that the visitors booked their place in the KO Cup final with nine races gone and saw the most anti-climactic announcement of the meeting, while the scores were level at 27-27 all on the night.

Fen Tigers Jordan Jenkins picked up two race wins in a row after a tough opening lap against Jon Armstrong and Ben Woodhull saw him overcoming both take the victory and in Heat 11, saw a very mature ride to keep Jack Smith behind him with a brilliant ride.

Belle Vue’s number four Joe Lawlor suffered an unfortunate blow in his ride in Heat 12, as a great battle with him and Matt Marson saw Lawlor getting a puncture towards the final lap and saw Marson coming under him to make the pass for victory and see Tom Woolley picking up his only point of the night as the visitors took a 4-2 advantage.

Jon Armstrong who was guesting from Coventry, saw him making a great gate in Heat 13 until Kemp again got the bike hooked up and passed Armstrong to lead. Jack Smith then passed Phillips and Armstrong in one more and saw the Colts captain looking to chase down the Tigers man for the third time and was forced to settle for second place again for three races in a row.

In Heat 14, it saw a great race involving all four riders, as the Tigers duo of Marson and Jenkins both gate ahead of Lawlor before he then split the pair on the first bend and with a 4-2 looking likely, it then saw Paul Bowen coming from nowhere to pass Marson on the opening bend of the final lap to see a shared heat.

In the final race of the night, it saw Jack Smith finally managing to beat the impressive Drew Kemp and avoid a clean sweep of race wins against him. Smith had made the gate initially before the Mildenhall man took the lead on the first bend of lap 2 and then saw Smith forcing him wide on the last bend of the same lap and then had the Belle Vue man holding firm for a win and have Joe Lawlor trying his best to catch Jenkins, but sadly couldn’t generate the speed.

Mildenhall managed to hold on for a victory and see them recording a second 47-43 victory over the Colts this season at the National Speedway Stadium and followed their win earlier at the start of August.

 

Belle Vue Colts = 43 (68)

1. Jon Armstrong (G) – 0, 2, 1′, 1′ = 4+2
2. Ben Woodhull – 1, 1′, 1′, 2, 2 = 7+2
3. Tom Perry R/R
4. Joe Lawlor – 2, 2, 1′, 2, 2, 0 = 9+1
5. Jack Smith – 2, 3, 2, 2, 2, 3 = 14
6. Paul Bowen – 3, 1′, 2′, 0, 0, 1′ = 7+3
7. Kean Dicken – 1, 1′, X, 0 = 2+1

Mildenhall Fen Tigers = 47 (111)

1. Danny Ayres R/R
2. Danny Philips (G) – 2′, 3, 3, 1, 0 = 9+1
3. Tom Woolley (G) – 0, 0, 0, 0, 1 = 1
4. Jordan Jenkins – 3, 1, 3, 3, 3, 1′ = 14+1
5. Drew Kemp – 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 = 17
6. Matt Marson – 2, X, 0, 3, 0 = 5
7. Sam Bebee – 0, 0, EF, 1, RS = 1

 

Colts keep their slim Playoffs hopes alive

BELLE VUE COLTS  58 – 32  ISLE OF WIGHT WARRIORS

Friday night saw the defending National League champions in the Belle Vue Colts keeping their hopes alive of making the playoffs after recording a 58-32 win over the Isle of Wight Warriors in their final home meeting of the regular season at the National Speedway Stadium.

The meeting started with a race win for guest rider Danny Ayers, as the Mildenhall man replaced Alfie Bowtell for the Warriors and beat Colts guest rider in Ben Wilson from Buxton and faced a surprising challenge from Ben Woodhull to take the victory.

A 4-2 from Belle Vue reserves Paul Bowen and Kean Dicken saw the host edging ahead in the meeting, and was followed up in the followed race with a 5-1 from Joe Lawlor and Tom Perry, as both Colts found a way passed Scott Campos for maximum points.

It then saw two race advantages for the home side which was sandwiched between a second race win for Danny Ayers, as the hosts led 19-11 with five heats gone.

Belle Vue then extended their lead with back to back 5-1’s in Heats 6 and 7 before the Warriors hit back with their only race advantage of the night in Heat 8.

Firstly, Ben Woodhull pulled a wheelie from tapes and saw him out of the race with Kean Dicken forced to repel the Warriors duo of Danno Verge and Shaun Tedham. Dicken seemed to have everything in order until a gap appeared and allowed Verge to dive up the inside on the final bend of lap 3 and see a 4-2.

Belle Vue then banged in a couple of 4-2 race advantages with Ben Wilson flying around the outside of Scott Campos in Heat 10, while Ayers made it three straight wins as he lowered the colours of Colts captain Jack Smith in Heat 11. In Heat 12 it saw Tom Perry going from third to first, as he blasted his way around the fence to pass teammate Kean Dicken and Scott Campos for a 4-2, to give the home side a twenty-point lead at 46-26.

Heat 13 then saw the two guest riders in Ben Wilson and Danny Ayres swapping places on the opening bends, before Jack Smith came on the outside and clipped Ayres back wheel down the back straight and moved to the front, with the Colts captain having a tiger on his tail in Ayres chasing him down, but saw Smith able to hold him off.

After the race, it saw Ayres making his feelings known to Smith and turning his bike into Smith, with more handbags heading to the pits. Back to the racing, and Joe Lawlor and Paul Bowen made it 55-29 thanks to a fourth 5-1 for the home side in Heat 14 and the night was rounded off with 3-3 after Ayres claimed his fourth race win of the night to finish on 14-points for his troubles.

It sees the victory keeping the champions in the top four for now, with Birmingham, Eastbourne and Coventry all with matches in hand on Belle Vue. The Colts round off their league campaign away this Monday night at Kent Kings and where victory may still not be enough to help them qualify to the end of season playoffs.

Next Friday sees the Colts final home fixture of the 2018 season, for now at least, as they take on the Mildenhall Fen Tigers in the second leg of their Knockout Cup, with the Colts facing a 39-points deficit from their hammering down at West Row last month.

Belle Vue Colts : 58 
1. Ben Wilson (G) — 1′, 3, 3, 1 = 8+1
2. Ben Woodhull — 2, 2′, F = 4+1
3. Tom Perry — 2′, 1′, 3, 3, 1′ = 10+3
4. Joe Lawlor — 3, 2, 1, 3 = 9
5. Jack Smith — 3, 3, 2, 3, 2 = 13
6. Paul Bowen — 3, 2′, 1′, 2′ = 8+3
7. Kean Dicken — 1, 1, 2, 1, 1 = 6

Isle Of Wight Warriors : 32 
1. Danny Ayres (G) — 3, 3, 3, 2, 3 = 14
2. Danno Verge — 0, 0, 3, 0 = 3
3. Scott Campos — 1, 1, 2, 2, 0 = 6
4. Chris Widman — 0, 0, 0, 1 = 1
5. Jason Edwards (G) — 2, 1, 2, 0 = 5
6. Dale Lamb (G) — 2, 0, 0, 0 = 2
7. Shaun Tedham — 0, 0, 1, 0 = 1

Captain Fricke leads Aces into Playoffs

BELLE VUE ACES  48 – 42 SOMERSET REBELS

The Belle Vue Aces made it four successive seasons in a row that the Manchester side has reached the end of season playoffs, thanks to a 48-42 points win over fellow qualifiers in the Somerset Rebels at the National Speedway Stadium on Wednesday night.

Aces team manager Mark Lemon spoke prior to the meeting about wanting his side to secure victory at home and not have to try and get the points they needed down at Swindon the following evening.

It saw the home side getting off a good start, following a 4-2 race advantage, courtesy of Stevie Worrall holding off the World Champion in Jason Doyle and his teammate Max Fricke taking third.

With all the matches between the Aces and the Rebels this season being highly competitive meetings, it came as no surprise that the sides negated each other early on, as three successive drawn heats saw the hosts lead 13-11.

Heat 5 saw the away side getting out on a 5-1 through Doyle and Bradley Wilson-Dean, but Belle Vue’s Rohan Tungate managed to split the pairing and see a 4-2 instead.

The Aces then responded with two straight 4-2 race victories in Heats 6 and 7, as they opened up a four-point lead. Heat 9 then saw a good race developing between Rohan Tungate and Jack Holder of the Rebels, as the two Aussie riders were tussling for second place and saw Worrall again taking the win. Sadly for the Aces, Tungate suffered a bike problem on lap 3 and brought an end to his race.

Max Fricke rode to his second race win in Heat 10, as the Belle Vue captain forced his way up the inside of Richard Lawson to take the lead and have his Aces teammate in reserve Dmitri Berge grabbing a point back in third for a 4-2.

In the next heat, it saw Berge making a great start from the gate and was joined by Craig Cook who ran wide to the fence and effectively stopped the momentum of his partner and that allowed Doyle and Wilson-Dean to come through into second and third for a 3-3.

Somerset then sent out Jason Doyle again in Heat 12 as a tactical substitute, to which the Australian took the race win thanks to his partner in Jake Allen holding up the Aces pairing of Worrall and Berge to slow the race down until the Rebels man swooped round to lead before Worrall took second and stopped a 5-1 for the away side.

As the riders came to tapes for Heat 13, it saw perhaps the race of the season by many, as Craig Cook battled with both Somerset riders in Jack Holder and Jason Doyle – for which was Doyle third race in a row – and saw the three of them passing and re-passing each for the whole race.

As the riders entered the final bend, it seemed for all the world that the Rebels had done enough to stop Cook and would score a maximum 5-1 for the visiting side, but that was until Belle Vue’s Max Fricke blasted his way around the outside of them all to steal the win by half a bike length and have a shared heat.

The Aces now needed just a 3-3 in the penultimate race to see them booking their place in the postseason playoffs. However, Belle Vue kept their fans in suspense and saw Richard Lawson taking his second win of the night for the Rebels, on way to finishing with ten points for the evening as part of a 4-2 to set up a tense finale at 43-41.

Surely the home side wouldn’t let this opportunity slip now, could they? For the last heat decider, it saw a repeat of all four riders from their classic race of just two races previous and have Swindon fans hoping that the Rebels could do them a favour and beat the Aces and see a shootout for determining the fourth spot the next night.

As the tapes went up, it saw Craig Cook making the gate ahead of Jason Doyle, but the world number one soon passed Cook for the lead and on the final bend of lap 3 saw the Somerset man getting some extra drive and riding into the air fence and falling off on his shoulder.

It was an unfortunate way to bring the meeting to a close, after what had been such a competitive and entertaining nights’ action served up from the N.S.S track once again.

Doyle was able to get up and walk back to the pits under his steam as the Aussie was excluded and saw the referee awarding a 5-1 to the Aces and see them qualifying for the Premiership play-offs.

Shortly after the final race was concluded, it saw the announcement that the Aces would take on the only side that they have failed to beat in the league, both home and away, in the King’s Lynn Stars. On paper, it seems straightforward for the Stars, as they are clear red-hot favourites to take the title.



Belle Vue Aces = 48 

1. Max Fricke – 1, 3, 3, 3, 2′ = 12+1
2. R/R for Dan Bewley – (SW – 3, MR – 1, RT – 3, DiB – 1 = 8)
3. Steve Worrall – 3, 1′, 0, 3, 2 = 9+1
4. Rohan Tungate – 2, 2, 3, 0, 2 = 9
5. Craig Cook – 1′, 3, 3, 0, 3 = 10+1
6. Dimitri Berge – 3, 2, 1, 1, 0, 0, 0 = 7
7. Mark Riss – 0, (DiB – 2), 1, 0, (DiB – 0) = 1

Somerset Rebels = 42 

1. Jason Doyle – 2, 3, 2, 3, 2, F/X = 12
2. Bradley Wilson-Dean – 0, 1, 2, 1′ = 4+1
3. Nico Covatti – 0, 0, 0, (JD – 3) = 0
4. Richard Lawson – 3, 2, 2, 3 = 10
5. Jack Holder – 3, 2, 2, 1′, 1 = 9+1
6. Jake Allen – 1′, 0, 1′, 1, 1 = 4+2
7. Aaron Summers – 2, 0, 1′, (JA – 1) = 3+1

 

Manchester Hockey teams agree ‘unique’ Partnership

The PLS Solicitors/ Victory Hockey sponsored Manchester Mayhem announced an ‘exciting’ partnership with their bigger brothers in the shape of British Ice Hockey’s Elite League side the Manchester Storm Ice Hockey Club this past Wednesday, as both sides play out of the Planet Ice Altrincham rink, so it makes sense to have both sides trying to work together and start a great partnership for all connected with Manchester Hockey.

Following their regular season programme coming to a close after their fiesty two-all game this past Saturday in Hull, it sees the Mayhem now currently occupying second place in the British Para Ice Hockey League table and can’t finish less than third in the standings.

The news of this announcement will come as a huge boost for the side ahead of their playoffs weekend next month in Widnes and will look to set the wheels in motion of big things for the club in the future. It is breaking new ground for hockey in Manchester and Britain too, that Para Hockey and Ice Hockey are seeking to work together and hopefully give this exciting sport some exposure from this unique partnership.

As part of the partnership with the Storm, the Mayhem will be helping to sell 50/50 tickets during the Elite games and will see the Playoffs champions getting a slice of the profits too made too that night. With the announcement made of the link-up, it saw the respective parties giving their views on the news:

Storm’s sponsorship and marketing consultant, Liam Hesketh said the following on the clubs website;

“Manchester Storm are excited about this partnership with our rink-mates the Manchester Mayhem, strengthening the brand of top-level ice hockey in the North West. We look forward to welcoming Mayhem players and fans to our games, and Storm fans will enjoy being able to see high-level hockey played through the summer months during the Elite League off-season.”

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Manchester Mayhem Para Ice Hockey Club   Photo: 98 Yetiiis Photography

Head coach of the Mayhem side in Pete Hagan spoke on his feelings of the partnership, saying;

“This is a great opportunity to promote our sport to hockey fans in Manchester. So on that front, it’s exciting for the sport as I believe it’s undiscovered by many…hopefully, that will change.

Hoping this shows Storms commitment to the community and to help promote all forms of hockey. It’s promoting both teams and hopefully, utilising Storms team, we can help promote ourselves and help to raise funds for us to help grow the sport.

Hopefully, we can provide another route for Storm fans to enjoy the game and participate as well. For the future, we’ve had talks about some interesting ideas and some joint projects….but gotta leave a little mystery for now lol”

What the future holds for the North West’s only Sledge Hockey/Para Hockey side in anyone’s guess, but hopefully it results in more exposure and a bright future for the Mayhem to boot.