Final news from the 2019 Universiade in Krasnoyarsk: Quite a shock as the Kazakhstan team lost out to Slovakia in the semi final. Russian Federation beat Canada before going on to take gold with a final win over Slovakia who took the silver. Canada took the bronze inflicting defeat, yet again on a possibly stunned Kazakhstan who left empty handed.
Weekend Games Saturday: Solihull Barons v Blackburn Hawks Hull Pirates v Telford Tigers Solway Sharks v Sheffield Steeldogs Sutton Sting v Billingham Stars
Couple of big games today that could determine the honours conference wise with Telford, Hull, and Sheffield locked on 62 points each with Hull holding top spot on goal difference. The nearest team to the big three is Solway who are 20 points adrift on 42 points.
I am led to believe that there is an EIHA meeting today in order to attempt a restructure for next season with the the ex EPL teams forming another conference. My view is that no matter what is agreed a couple of teams in the new higher level conference will end up last or second to last in that conference and the rubber cheque books will reappear and off we go again as financial failures rear their ugly heads once again.
Back to reality and the regular season's end: Sunday Blackburn Hawks v Solway Sharks Sheffield Steeldogs v Hull Pirates Telford Tigers v Solihull Barons Billingham Stars v Whitley Warriors Nottingham Lions v Sutton Sting
It looks as if the new NIHL conference that will be the more senior of the NIHL set up will indeed come into being for the 2019/20 season with the existing top three from the present NIHL 1 north moving up to be joined by a further five teams from NIHL south plus Milton Keynes who will drop from the Elite League. Ten teams in all with the inclusion of a new team out of Leeds. The format of the new conference, I presume,is yet to be agreed. The two import rule will remain giving the British players greater opportunities to develop, but only if this new set up goes for younger players rather than just absorbing the hopefully reducing number of 'old Brits' seeking that last gasp pay packet for a couple of seasons. This move obviously has implications for the remaining NIHL 1 and 2 conferences because as it stands the NIHL 1 will be reduced to seven teams whilst NIHL 2 presently has nine. The most obvious move is for Widnes Wild to step up giving eight teams in each conference, and Widnes having won the NIHL 2 conference for the past couple of seasons. Widnes Wild absorbed a great many of the old Sheffield Spartans so are well experienced whilst having also picked up some useful players from other teams. Interesting times ahead, perhaps?
I note that a spokesperson for Widnes Wild has already informed supporters that due to there being no relegation or promotion built into the present NIHL 1 and 2 conferences that the Wild cannot move up. I personally cannot see why this would be the case as a new structure has come into being or will be up and running for the 2019/20 season. The old rules I believe will vanish without trace with the decisions made today. Widnes, of course, have very good support and they are a successful team having won the Div 2 conference and play offs last season and look to be on course for the same result this season as things stand at present. Is there some element of fear on display here given that the competition at NIHL 1 might possibly ensure that this all conquering team, at their present level might be tested to destruction in front of their adoring fans against the likes of Solway, Blackburn, Solihull and Whitley of Div 1? There are of course several other teams that will give them a run for their money including the Lions. Widnes are interested in some cup games across both conferences as that could not challenge them conference wise whilst providing some sort of gauge as to where they could fit in at Div 1 level. The relegation, promotion excuse is a poor fig leaf that hides little in the real world of NIHL hockey I'm afraid. This might be just about keeping the fans happy and the money coming in and that's fair enough I suppose.
Tigers are looking at 3rd spot as Hull and Sheffield tie on 64 points with just one game to go and that is going to be a monster game as the Steeldogs take on the Pirates in Sheffield tomorrow night. The winner takes the 2018/19 NIHL conference. Now that's a tight finish in anyones book.
Congratulations to the Hull Pirates on winning the Moralee Div 1 Conference with an emphatic 3-8 win at Sheffield tonight. Tonights Results: Billingham Stars 5 Whitley Warriors 4 (OT) Blackburn Hawks 4 Solway Sharks 6 Telford Tigers 9 Solihull Barons 3 Nottingham Lions 1 Sutton Sting 6
Season 2018/19 is over for the Lions but for a good many of the youngsters there are still games to play. A blank season points wise but given the circumstances with a seldom settled team it was always going to be an uphill battle. The loss of so many senior players took it's toll and the unavailability of other players meant that there was always a problem achieving settled lines. On the positive side the influx of young players from the u18s and 20s enabled them to be blooded earlier than anticipated thus allowing them an opportunity to play at a higher level. The loss of netminders led to the inclusion of Miles Finney and the younger guys Luca Sheldon and Massimo Agostini. There is no other team in the NIHL Div 1 that brought through so many young guys and the Lions did suffer through that lack of experience but they will learn and they definitely were not overawed by playing up. Recruitment for 2019/20 season starts now but with the knowledge that if a pay packet is expected it will not be on offer, not at this club. It will be interesting watching the Leeds development as they will need to recruit at a level to play in the new National League and which teams will lose players to the new club. The Lions have nothing to be ashamed of as they always gave of their best but came up against settled teams with established lines. The coaches and management deserve great respect because they stuck to the task of putting a team out each week and never backed off even when travelling with limited bench strength, they always turned up for a game even when the odds were massively stacked against them.
Saturday 23.03.19 Hull Pirates v Sutton Sting Solway Sharks v Whitley Warriors Sheffield Steeldogs v Blackburn Hawks Solihull Barons v Telford Tigers
Sunday 24.03.19 Sutton Sting v Hull Pirates Whitley Warriors v Solway Sharks Blackburn Hawks v Sheffield Steeldogs Telford Tigers v Solihull Barons
Not great at predictions but this is my punt at predicting those who will make the semi finals based purely on results over the 2018/19 season and unsurprisingly matches their positions in the conference at this season's end. Always up for a shock result!
Tonight's Results: Play Offs First Leg There were indeed a couple of results that went against form one that is certainly retrievable in the second leg but one that will take a great deal of effort to overturn.
Hull Pirates look to be heading for the semis with their emphatic win over the Sting. Steeldogs should make it through to the next round with a solid result. Telford have enough in the tank to turn the Barons over on Sunday, had the shots on goal tonight but still missed out on the result. Solway quickly replaced their starting netminder has he conceded three goals from four shots in the first seven minutes of the game. They outshot the Warriors but no joy for the shooters. The Sharks will have to really pull out the stops to get anything further from this season.
Tonight's Results: The only shock over the weekend and possibly due to that first seven minutes of agony for Solway Sharks in last nights game against the Warriors really presented them with a real battle at the Hillheads rink tonight. David Longstaff at 44 yrs old and player coach sealed Solway's fate with the goal that settled this tie.
Saturday 30.03.19 Hull Pirates v Whitley Warriors Telford Tigers v Sheffield Steeldogs
Sunday 31.03.19 Whitley Warriors v Hull Pirates Sheffield Steeldogs v Telford Tigers
On present form the Pirates should see off the Warriors but it has the potential to be closer than expected. Perhaps the most interesting games, for me anyway just have to be the battle of the 'Cats' and the 'Dogs' and who will reign supreme? Cats, Dogs, and reign, there just has to be a pun in there somewhere.
Cogratulations to Hull Pirates who have achieved the double by winning both the Moralee Conference and the Moralee Conference Play Off final. Over the weekend (6th and 7th April) Hull battled to a 7-7 tie at Ice Sheffield a game in which the Steeldogs no1 keeper received a match penalty and missed the game at Hull. In the second game the Pirates despatched the Dogs with a 6-2 scoreline. North v South Final 4 at Coventry on !3th and 14th April. Peterborough Phantoms took the South Conference Play Off final beating Bracknell Bees over the two legs.
Final 4 Schedule Game 1 Hull Pirates v Bracknell Bees Game 2 Peterborough Phantoms v Sheffield Steeldogs
The Wild complete the double with a solid performance this evening. Three in a row for the Wild as they complete a play off hat trick. This team should reconsider a move to the NIHL 1 having already decided not to apply. Understandable in a way as they pull in good crowds in support of a winning team and this could change with a move to the Moralee Conference against much tougher opposition.
Confirmation of the NIHL division structure for next season... Lions in NIHL Division 1 North:- <EIHA announcement>
NIHL: Division 1 – North
Seven sides will compete in this division for 19/20 – Solway Sharks, Whitley Warriors, Solihull Barons, Blackburn Hawks, Sutton Sting, Billingham Stars and Nottingham Lions.
The league season will be two home and two away against each other, with the top six sides qualifying for postseason play. This will take the form of two groups of three sides – 1st, 4th, 6th and 2nd, 3rd, 5th – playing one home and one away to decide semi finalists and so on.
There will be additional cup competitions to include Murrayfield Racers and Dundee Comets from SNL along with Widnes Wild from NIHL North 2. The sides will play in two groups of five. Solway, Whitley, Billingham, Murrayfield and Dundee in one group, with Solihull, Blackburn, Sutton, Nottingham and Widnes in the other. The number of Cup fixtures is still to be confirmed by the teams involved. Each group will have its own knockout stages to decide the cup winners.
It’s a matter of distinction, a real fine line
[br]Between an orgy of destruction and a wonderful time
[br]There is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong.
[br]Owning the Steelers is a crime. Fortunately, it’s also the punishment…
[br]British ice hockey is so Mickey Mouse, I don't know if Disney should sponsor us or sue us!
Latest signings announced: A welcome return to Jamie Hovell 28yrs old and will be back with the Lions for his eighth season. Also a warm welcome to 22 yr old Stephen Heape who moves from the Solihull Barons to the Lions. Stephen spent his junior days with Coventry Blaze before moving on to gain greater hockey experience, finally settling in the Barons camp.
The Nottingham Lions have lined up their netminding duo for the 2019/20 season. A very welcome return to Tom Hovell who spent the last season gaining experience with the Telford Tigers returning an excellent save percentage of.902. Joining Tom will be Josh Crane formerly of the Coventry Blaze and featured in the 2019 Great Britain Universiade squad. Head Coach Matt Bradbury was very impressed by the commitment of Josh during the GB selection process. It is going to be another tough season in Moralee Div 1 Conference. All teams require a strong netminding team and in Tom and Josh the Lions have the makings of a strong backstop partnership. A very encouraging development for the Lions camp.
Lions announce two returning players The Nottingham Lions can today announce the return of two key players from last season’s campaign, Cameron Pywell and Thomas Parkinson.
Pywell, who also travelled with the Great Britain university squad under Head Coach Matt Bradbury earlier this year, proved himself to be an important playmaker for the Lions, notching 17 assists and three goals in 27 games last season.
Speaking of the 20-year-old re-sign, Nottingham Lions Head Coach Matt Bradbury said: Cam has so much to offer and links in well with most players across the line up, its great to have him onboard with another good year under his belt we hope he can push on again in the forthcoming campaign.
After a debut season in Nottingham last year Bradbury is also delighted to announce the return of 23-year-old Thomas Parkinson, who was a prolific scorer at junior level and scored five points last season.
Of Parkinson’s return Bradbury stated: Tom was a very committed team player last season and now he knows more about our set up I only see him getting better. He is a good guy with so much to offer as a support mechanism for the younger players - Tom’s “get on with it” style is perfect for us and to have him back in the black and gold is great.
Nottingham Lions announced that they will be live streaming all home games at the NIC’s Olympic Rink from next season. If you are interested in sponsoring the Lions and gaining exposure through the additional publicity please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
NIHL 2 will be missing a team as the Coventry Blaze fold due to the lack of players and financial issues. A great shame as over the years there have been some really good clashes between the Blaze and the Lions. They will be missed and that's for certain.