England Women takes Tri-Series

NEW ZEALAND 137/9: 20 Overs   Bates 31    Hazell 2-20, Ecclestone 2-26, Brunt 2-26

ENGLAND    141/3: 17.1 Overs   Wyatt 50    Kerr  2-22, Bates 1-17

England win by 7 wickets 

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England openers Danni Wyatt & Tammy Beaumont leading hosts to victory   Credit: Cricket World

England Women produced a dominant display to win by seven wickets against New Zealand in the Vitality IT20 Women’s Tri-Series Final at Chelmsford on Sunday, as the World Champions continued to assert their dominance in this tournament and see the hosts lifting the Tri-Series trophy.

Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine both got the ‘White Ferns’ off to a great start in their Innings, as the English bowlers were finding it hard to get the ball into right areas and saw the New Zealand openers punishing them. Bates and especially Devine – have both been standouts with the bat and looked like they were building towards a big total until Katherine Brunt finally made an important breakthrough for England in the fifth over of the contest, as she trapped Sophie Devine LBW for 31.

Brunt then repeated the trick again on Katey Martin two balls later, as she went for 2 and saw New Zealand 57-2. Amy Satterthwaite and Suzie Bates then put together a handy little partnership on for the tourists, as the tourists began to rebuild their Innings thanks to the batters. Sophie Ecclestone then got the prized wicket of Bates, bowled for 31, and soon saw Danielle Hazell trapping her fellow Lancs teammate LBW in Amy Satterthwaite for 19, as the England bowling was taking over.

England’s World Cup final hero last year in Anya Shrubsole – then saw the Middlesex bowler having Maddy Green lofting a shot towards captain Heather Knight for 8 and have the Kiwi’s in a spot of bother at 97-5. Katie George then claimed the wicket of Jess Watkins for 5 as she picked out Amy Jones stood by the boundary rope.

Anna Peterson was then the next to go – as she made 7 before Danielle Hazell spun one to bowl the New Zealander out to collect her second wicket of the match and see the hosts taking over. England’s most improved player of this Tri-series has been that of Sophie Ecclestone and the Lancashire spinner managed to get a slight edge off Leigh Kasperek and into the gloves of Sarah Taylor stood behind the stumps too take the catch to see her out for cheaply.

Amelia Kerr tried her best to help force the score along for her team – after she played a lovely lofted shot to the boundary before Hayley Jensen was then run out for 9, following a good throw to the non-strikers’ end and saw Nat Sciver breaking the stumps to see the ‘White Ferns’ nine down. England used just five bowlers in their bowling attack and saw Danielle Hazell as the pick of the bowlers, with the spinner taking 2-20 in her four allotted overs.

The hosts were set a target of 138 for victory and saw the openers making early inroads through Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont, as the England duo was easing towards the total with Wyatt reaching her half-century. Unfortunately, following her fifty, the very next ball she faced saw the opener playing at a shot and saw the ball loop up a see Leigh Kasperek juggling the ball a few times before finally holding on to the ball and help to dismiss Wyatt for 50.

In came wicketkeeper extraordinaire in Sarah Taylor, as she came out to the middle and played some brilliant shots as she and Beaumont moved the England total along, but the Tri-Series top run-scorer in Tammy Beaumont- then saw her attempting to hit Amelia Kerr for six, but didn’t get all of it and saw Amy Satterthwaite taking the catch to see the opener dismissed for 35.

Kerr then got one to spin by Taylor and bowl her out for 12 and that saw the youngster taking two in two balls, to have England three down for 102 – while still needing another 36 runs from 43 balls for victory. Heather Knight and Nat Sciver were the two to finish the job off England, with Sciver hitting the match-winning runs to have the home side winning by seven wickets.

Katherine Brunt was named the player of the match with her two important wickets in the New Zealand Innings when things getting away from the hosts, while Sophie Ecclestone took home the player of the tournament thanks to her fantastic bowling performances throughout the Tri-Series and was a breakout series by the Lancashire spinner.

The sides renew acquaintances next Saturday when they meet in the first of a three-match ODI series starting at Leeds, Emerald Headingley before then heading to Derby and ending with the third match at Leicester’s Grace Road.

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Scorecard from ECB.co.uk

 

 

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Clinical Huskies Storm to Victory

huskiesCARDIFF HUSKIES 8 – 3 MANCHESTER MAYHEM OJZq-Vh6_400x400

Cardiff executed a brilliant game plan to send their opponents back home empty handed, as the Manchester Mayhem continued to be at a loss of finding an answer in a bid to cure their travel sickness in the league this season – as the Huskies forwards fired the home side to an 8-3 victory at the I.A.W in South Wales, thanks to a hat-trick by Ty Christopher, a brace from Paul Furber and further efforts from Josh Campbell and Russ Willey.

The hosts started the much brighter of the two to start with – with Paul Furber putting the Huskies ahead with a goal just five minutes of play and saw Manchester really struggling to contain the Cardiff attackers for much of the opening period of play. Mayhem needed their goaltender in Dougy Hankinson to make some good stops as he kept his side in it.

Late in the first, it saw Manchester being denied a chance on goal with a clear passage on goal – as the referee blew play dead due to a borderline offside call that went against the visitors and had the Mayhem side nor too happy with the decision.

Minutes later, Cardiff’s Tyler Christopher doubled the hosts lead just prior to the end of the period, as the Huskies deservedly led heading into the break. In the second, it saw the Mayhem coming out much the better than they did in the first, but their finishing left a lot to be desired and saw shots flying high and wide of the Huskies net, while up at the other end they were still going in, as Paul Furber grabbed his second of the game for a 3-0 lead.

For most of the middle stanza, the Mayhem gave as good as they got, and enjoyed long spells of possession with the puck – but they failed to test Gareth Rees in the Cardiff goals. Manchester then conjured up a goal right out of nothing through Rob Allen at 19.22, as the Manchester forward threw the puck on goal from the right-hand boards’ on the blue line and saw it nestling in the back of the net.

That goal seemed to spark the side to live, and soon after it was a one-goal game, with Karl Nicholson then putting the puck home for a 3-2 game and saw the visitors right back in the game.

Dean Lahan then put Cardiff on the power play after he served a delay of game call and the home side capitalised with Paul Furber grabbing his second goal of the game with a rising shot to beat Hankinson over his head to restore the two-goal lead at 4-2. 

Early in the third, Cardiff increased their lead to 5-2, thanks to a Tyler Christopher effort as he grabbed his second to see the Huskies flexing their goal-scoring muscles a bit more. Josh Campbell made it six with a close-range effort minutes later and effectively at that point put the game out of reach.

Rob Allen pulled a goal back for the Mayhem – but it was scant consolation, as the forward netted from an extremely tight angle to make it 6-3. There was a case to say that the scoreline was a tad harsh on the Mayhem, as they had looked equal to their opponents for the best part of the contest and could arguably say were better at times too, but it seemed to come down to their inability to find the net – something, that Cardiff had no trouble with at all.

In the dying minutes of the game, Manchester capitulated and led to Tyler Christopher used his stickhandling skills to great effect to make it 7-3 and completing his hat-trick, while Russ Willey put the exclamation point on the win and putting the final nail in the away sides’ coffin with an eighth goal to round off the contest. 

As the final whistle blew to signal the end of the contest, it saw the Mayhem coach in Pete Hagan seething as he headed to the changing room and was clearly not pleased with his side. What made the loss worse for Manchester, was that it would have given them a great chance to put more distance between themselves and Cardiff, ahead of their next two games with the bottom of the table Sheffield should they take both games. 

Buttler’s Brilliance Helps England to Whitewash Aussies

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Jos Buttler leaps in delight as he leads England home   PIC: EPA

ENGLAND 208/9: 48.3 Overs – Buttler 110*      Richardson 3-51

AUSTRALIA 205 ALL OUT: 34.4 Overs – Head 56   Ali 4-46

Lancashire’s Jos Buttler’s produced a stunning man of the match performance to help see England pull off an incredible one-wicket victory over the old enemy in Australia on his home ground of Lancashire’s Emirates Old Trafford, as the Red Rose man finished with an unbeaten 110 to help seal a historic 5-0 series whitewash over the Aussies.

The win was the first-ever series whitewash over Australia in a one-day form by England as this side proved that can not only win big but much like they did at Trent Bridge with a world record score, they also showed that they could gut it out in tight games too.

Having already sealed the series win two-games prior, it seemed like the final game would be a formality for the hosts, after their destructive performances against the Aussies in the previous four matches.

A near sell-out crowd watched on as England’s bowlers showed how devastating their attack can be. To begin with, the openers in Aaron Finch and Travis Head got the tourists up to 60-0 before the wickets then started to tumble.

The Australians pairing seemed intent to target Joe Root in the early part of the Innings, with Finch despatching one of Root’s deliveries for six and saw England captain Eoin Morgan bringing on spinner Moeen Ali, and it paid immediate dividends.

Ali managed to get one to stay low and grip a bit on the Old Trafford track, as it helped to bowl out Finch for 22 and soon saw him picking up his second wicket of the over, with the attempted sweep by Marcus Stoinis who was caught by Jake Ball and see departing for a duck.

Opening batsman Travis Head was going about his innings pretty well having just brought up his fifty, but he was next to go having chipped a Liam Plunkett ball straight up towards Eoin Morgan and the England captain was happy to make the catch and see Head leave for 56.

It then saw the start of the Jos Buttler show for England, as he stumped Marsh for 8 to see the Aussies struggling along on 97-4 and in deep trouble again. Australia had just reached triple-figures before a suicidal single by Tim Paine saw Buttler showing quick awareness to brilliantly pick up the ball and throw down the stumps at the other end while twisting, to see the end of the Australian captain for 1.

Alex Carey then decided to go after England’s part-time spinner in Joe Root and helped to move the scoreboard ticking along. Sam Curran then came back into the attack following his poor opening spell of bowling, and with his first ball back in the attack – he managed to get Carey edging behind for 44 and the very next ball saw Ashton Agar inexplicably leaving a ball that went on to hit middle and off and sent the stumps cartwheeling and the Aussies too, at 159-7.

Kane Richardson then hit a quick-fire 14 before confusion between himself and D’arcy Short, saw Richardson trying to get back in time, but Buttler was quick as a cat to whip the bails off for a runout. Adil Rashid then claimed the wicket of Nathan Lyon for 1, after the ball kept low and struck the Australian on the leg in front of the stumps for an easy LBW.

Moeen Ali then claimed his fourth wicket of the Australian Innings, after he bowled Billy Stanlake out for 2 and saw the tourists posting what seemed like a very below-par total of 205 all out in 34.4 overs, on what was a very good Old Trafford pitch. Ali was the star man with the ball, with the Worcestershire-man taking 4-46 in 8.4 overs.

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Finch departs for Australia   (AP: Mike Egerton/PA)

At the turnaround, it had many already seeing the game as a foregone conclusion and having England just easily going to knock the runs off – however, as it transpired, that was as anything as far away from what would actually happen.

Australia made an immediate breakthrough in the England run-chase, as Jason Roy was bowled for 1 by Ashton Agar and saw the spinner getting one to skid through and dismiss the opening batsman.

Billy Stanlake then got a pair of Yorkshiremen out cheaply, as firstly, Jonny Bairstow played a shot on to his stumps for 12 and then had Shaun Marsh taking a catch off Joe Root for 1, while Eoin Morgan was dismissed for a duck sandwiched in between.

With Australia trying to work their way back into the game, it saw England hoping that Jos Buttler – on his home ground, could help to build a partnership with Alex Hales. Just as it seemed like the pair had managed to weather a storm of sorts, Hales then went chasing a wideish delivery by Richardson that saw Paine taking the catch in his gloves to see the back of the Nottinghamshire man for 20.

At 50-5, England was in deep, deep trouble after 13 overs bowled and needed a big partnership. Jos Buttler was desperate to have someone to help steady the ship with him out in the middle, and when Moeen Ali came out he looked a good candidate to do it.

However, Ali got a leading edge from the third ball of Marcus Stoinis opening over to see England six down for eighty-six and staring down the barrel of an incredible batting collapse.

Sam Curran was the next man out, as he made 15 from 20 balls to see England at least down into double figures in their run chase, but sadly Curran became Kyle Richardson’s second wicket-victim in the Innings.

Liam Plunkett then needlessly went after an outswinger on his first ball faced, to see England eight down and needing someone to come out and engage their brains, not like Plunkett.

With 92 needed from 123 balls, that looked a long way off for the hosts, with England looking down and out. When Adil Rashid came out to the middle, it saw that total looking beyond them but with Jos Buttler still there at the crease, it was always possible.

Buttler then looked to take the game by the horns and lead his side to the total, no matter what. As the television cameras kept focusing on England’s number eleven in Jake Ball watching on from the home changing room, he looked nervy watching on and hoping that he wouldn’t be needed to come out.

As Jos Buttler was piling the runs on for England, he had some great support from Rashid, who was chipping in when he could and it saw the Australians looking short of ideas and looked like the impossible was on. With 11 needed from 26 balls – Rashid got a top edge that saw the ball fly down towards third-man and saw Billy Stanlake diving forward to make the grab and set-up a tense finale.

That saw Buttler needing to be the hero from there on in as he smashed a six to bring up his hundred. Meanwhile, all eyes were on Jake Ball and the first two balls he faced – he could easily have been out and had the Manchester crowd and England dressing room breathing a sigh of relief. Ball, then managed to find the gap and get a single and moved England toward their target and needing a further six runs.

The batsmen then ran for two and saw the next over, seeing Buttler trying to maneuver the ball into the gap and looking for two, but the Lancashire man hit it so well, that it was cut off for a single and the look of anguish on his face was visible. It meant that Jake Ball had to keep the ball out and drew a louder and louder cheer with every dot ball that registered.

It then saw Jos Buttler back on strike and he refused to take a single, but the very next ball he struck a four to the boundary and helped secure an unlikely victory for England and complete a whitewash in the ODI series.


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Taken from ESPN Cricinfo:

British draftee Kirk selected by Arizona in NHL Draft

In what has been a great couple of years for British Ice Hockey following the national side winning back to back promotions from Division 1-A to then joining the hockey’s top table this year, they now can boast to having the first British player to be drafted in the NHL since Tony Hand back in 1986.

That draftee in question is the English-born and trained player in Liam Kirk. Kirk, who rose through the ranks of the Sheffield Academy in South Yorkshire, saw the Rotherham-native soon joining the Sheffield Steeldogs in the now-defunct English Premier League and then on to their bigger brothers in the Sheffield Steelers of the British Elite League.

The 2016-17 season saw the young left-winger making 19 appearances for the Steelers, although most of those appearances were sat on the Sheffield bench. It saw him joining the Steeldogs who play just a mere stones-throw away from the arena where the Steelers play and ice at the smaller venue of Ice Sheffield.

It turned out to a be very good move indeed for him, as donning the Steeldogs colours in the EPL, he registered an impressive 45 points in 38 games and was effectively his debut season. He netted 20 goals and 25 assists that season. 

Despite some ‘people’ calling the EPL a poor standard of hockey, it has given the Elite League some players down the years that have seen them becoming stars in the league. Plus a fair few iced for GB during their successive promotions to the top, so maybe it not as poor as certain people will have you believe.

Last season saw the Steelers head coach Paul Thompson giving him far much more ice time and it saw him revel with it as well, as Kirk posted 16 points from 52 games, with 9 goals and 7 assists to name, in what was a rare bright spot on a poor season for Sheffield. 

He also represented Great Britain in three different level groups last season, with him playing in the World U-18’s and U20’s Junior Championships and had some productive numbers as well. December of last year saw the World U20’s taking place up in Dumfries, Scotland and saw the Sheffield man scoring seven goals and seven assists in the five games.

In April, he scored four goals and picked up three assists for the U-20’s in Estonia, while he also played a part in the successful GB team that gained promotion to the elite level of International hockey over in Hungary. 

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Sheffield Steelers British star Liam Kirk drafted by Arizona Coyotes  –  NHL. COM

Kirk made a good impression on some teams during the NHL Draft combine in Buffalo earlier in the month, with Detroit being one side, in particular, that was impressed by the Englishman and what he brought. Fans and players from up and down the country wished him luck at the Draft in Dallas, and it was projected that he would be selected sometime in the 6th round of this year’s draft. 

As the second day of the 2018 NHL Draft got underway at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, it saw later in the day the 6th round starting up and having hockey fans in the UK glued to streams and social media and waiting to hear the announcement of the left-winger being selected.

One by one, teams passed on him and saw the sixth round come to an end and had many fans on British hockey forums wondering if the British player would be selected at all. 

However, On Saturday, June 23rd at 14.41pm Dallas time (19.41pm British time) the announcement came through.

“The 189th overall pick in the NHL Draft, the Arizona Coyotes select…Liam Kirk”. The selection no doubt will have saw Arizona’s twitter account swell a fair bit from the British Isles with following the announcement. Should Kirk make it to the main Coyotes roster though, he will have some sort of bond with a fellow Brit and GB team-mate and left-winger in Brendan Perlini – as Perlini was born in Guildford and had his dad play eight-games for the Toronto Maple Leafs back in the early 80’s and ice for the Guildford Flames in the UK.

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Taken from NHL Network

After selection, he spoke to a reporter on NHL.com and summed up his feelings; “I don’t have any words for it,” Kirk, a forward, told NHL.com from his England home via telephone. “I’m just very excited and really emotional. It’s been a long day, but I’ve been waiting for it. We’ve been watching on a live stream as every pick is made, and I was getting a little more nervous every time.

“Then finally, I got the message saying it’s happened, and my phone has been blowing up nonstop. It’s amazing.” 

 

 

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

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.