NIHL Part Deux!

So, traditionally, sequels are never really an improvement on the original, look at Dirty Dancing, or Sharknado, both are pretenders to their predecessor's throne. But how would the 2nd incarnation of the new(ish) NIHL format stack up against last year? Would it be a step closer to providing a viable 2nd tier of hockey, would the competitive gap narrow between teams? The jury is still out on the last two questions, but the signs are good so far around the first!

To demonstrate this we present the results from around the Moralee Conference from the first two weeks of competition. So far there have been no 20+ goal differences, Sutton appear to be a stronger outfit than the team they replaced and the mid-table teams have strengthened across the conference. All of this can only be good for the league and British hockey, it is, after all, an entertainment industry and the product has to be quality. The buzz from fans across most teams is that there has been a definite improvement and the games are definitely delivering!

We don't propose to enter into all of the ins and outs of what is working and what isn't here, this piece is really just a very light touch summary of what we are seeing and our opinion (of which we are all entitled to). It is also a good way to lead into reviewing our progress and a look forward to this weekend's big match-up against Swindon.

It is fair to say that the scores so far have flattered us, we have struggled at times over the past two weekends. In particular Sutton proved to be a tough, chippy team who closed us down very quickly and made it difficult to play. But this is where our quality shone through, we were able to weather the onslaught, regroup and then slowly turn the screw. We caught up with Jason Hewitt and got his views on last weekend, and also his thoughts about the Autumn Cup tilt:

"The games against Sutton were entertaining, they really came after us and pushed us hard. I never felt threatened about the result, but with them pressing so hard it sometimes became scrappy and guys got frustrated. Saturday that happened for a period or so but once we addressed it and adjusted you saw Sunday we were rolling and creating like we expect. Full credit to Sutton, they didn’t stop working and will cause teams issues all season long." 


"This weekend we face a completely different challenge with Swindon, like us they’re very offensive and look to create they also have great depth in their line-up. We will be ready and prepared for the challenge and look forward to an exciting weekend of hockey".


You cannot argue at all with Hewitt's views about the Swindon games, in Aaron Nell they have one of the most effective player/coaches in the league. They have shooting power in abundance and are a very effective unit through all of their lines and they have an effective goaltending team. But so do do we.


What we actually have is a tantalising weekend of Autumn Cup action between two highly skilled, well coached teams. We wouldn't like to even predict the outcome over two games, both rinks are difficult places to play and both teams will suffer the dreaded bus legs from the long journeys. What we can predict is an explosive weekend of Grade A hockey where the outcome will, in all likelihood, come down to the tiniest of margins. It will rest on factors that cannot be coached, things like; heart, desire, togetherness, that "mission first" attitude where nothing else matters whatsoever but the win. It will be about who is prepared to suffer the most, who will go through that wall and which team will stand tall against all of the odds.


There is of course another factor, you, the fans, our fans and our heart. There is no price that can be put on the power of the atmosphere in our arena, the roar and noise generated by you shakes that building to its core. It puts a marker in the ground that says "you are in our house, these are our rules, they are our family and we stand as one!"


It could be argued that this is the first real test for both teams, regardless of it being the first it will most definitely a big test for both outfits! Make sure you are there, fill the Pirates Den and be our difference!!