It’s play-off weekend in NIHL North (Moralee Conference) this Saturday & Sunday, so what better time than now to take a look back at the regular season? And who better to do it than the league’s most irreverent (and now infrequent) blogger?
After seven months out of the game with a serious case of ‘can’t be bothered’, Coast to Coast proudly brings you Billingham’s infamous HockeyBG (NB: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of C2C – to be fair most of them do, but just in case)…
“So there you have it – another season just about gone. How was it for you? Well that depends on who you support, so if you’re a Sharks fan (and surely there must be one of those somewhere?) then it’s been none too shabby thanks very much.
As for the rest of us mere mortals – well, I’ve been invited out of self-imposed exile to pen a few thoughts on the fortunes of all, with apologies to, well, just about everyone really, here you go…
Solway Sharks – Won everything so far and will probably win the play-offs too. Why? ‘Cos they’re miles better than the rest of us. Possibly the only team in the league that when they turn up ‘short-benched’ you can hear the crowd inwardly groan. They were already good, then they went and brought Pavol Meliwotdyacallhim back and they were pretty much unplayable. Come on Martin, give the rest of us a chance!
Versus the Stars: Solway are responsible for providing yours truly with this season’s funniest moment – Mark ‘Miss’ McGill’s Dangy-esque meltdown at the Forum was a joy to behold. Having travelled as the only netminder, McGill bagged himself an early shower as ‘third man in’ (fighting with his blocker no less) and left Struan Tonnar to take over for six minutes. Surreal and hilarious stuff.
Blackburn Hawks – After tipping themselves as title contenders, HAWKS were just pipped at the post (by 10 points), although they did manage to top the PIM league by quite some way – well done! An inspired signing in Adam Brittle – class all season – and a late run of form put the HAWKS two places better than last year, but no silverware to show for their efforts – yet.
While the rest of the league is still wondering how Mr Adams got away with his minuscule ban for throwing that bin, Stars fans are still wondering if anyone has ever turned turtle as quickly as the Blond Bombshell when he got invited to dance by Gaz Dowd.
Versus the Stars: Let’s just not go there. Our last two results against T’ORKS speak for themselves. Horrid, horrid, horrid.
Billingham Stars – Sum up the season in one word? Frustrating. Yet another injury crisis (who’s got the voodoo doll?) that started around December and never really went away, means we Stars fans have seen just glimpses of the side we know we can be.
But there are positives – the emergence of a good crop of youngsters (with a massive nod to Jack Davies in particular) means the club can look to homegrown talent – as yet the Stars have yet to go down the import route. But third place has left some feeling like we’ve gone backwards. It will be interesting to see what the summer brings on Teesside.
Best bits: THAT win over Whitley (poor for 58 minutes, world-beaters for the final two – magic), our moment in the sun against Solway. Worst bits: getting honked at home by T’ORKS, a no-excuses-whatsoever nosedive away at Sutton.
Whitley Warriors – Leachy returned, brought in lots of old faces plus a few new ones, and got the Warriors into the play-offs. Considering they pipped Sutton – they of the big ambitions but without the crowd to match – Simon must be happy with that. What he’ll be less pleased about is the one win on the road all year – which says a lot about the bench Whitley have travelled with. Betya they all show up this weekend.
Versus the Stars: Honours even over the season in terms of results, but there’s only one game we’ll all remember. Take a bow Richie Thornton!!
Sutton Sting – Ouchies – all the grand plans came to nothing. Touted as title contenders, finishing outside the play-off places has gotta hurt. Inconsistency is what did for the Sting – capable of beating Solway, but lost to rink rivals Sheffield three times. That shocking start to the campaign didn’t help either. Even signing our very own vegetarian parmo-eating superstar Adam Robinson wasn’t enough. What next for Sutton and their vast army of empty seats?
Versus the Stars: Bloody odd watching Robbo in a Sting shirt – and he usually scored against us too. Traitor!
Sheffield Spartans – A massive achievement for the Spartans to stay in the play-off race as long as they did, with another pesky Brittle doing the damage. Always fun to play against too. Apparently there’s a two-year plan in place to get Sheffield into the play-offs – on this showing I’d say they’re on-track. Got to keep that squad together though.
Versus the Stars: The teddy toss game before Christmas. Don’t remember that much about it mind – was in the pub with The Best Fan In The League (Or Indeed British Ice Hockey)™ for quite a few hours before face-off.
Manchester Minotaurs – Early season promise gave way to a familiar Metros, oops, Minotaurs story. The Manchester campaign fizzled out big style, with only Lukas Zeman for any of us plastic journalists to write home about. It shows how good Zeman is that he’s in the running for Player of the Year playing with a team this lowly. A joy to watch.
Versus the Stars: Zeman aside, the standout feature of the last game at Manchester was ‘Dusty Bin’ Goodwin’s very colourful array of bandannas. The pink one especially.
Telford Titans – Aaaaaaaah – everyone’s second team. After an autumn where they won lots of friends but absolutely no points, the Titans started to pick up after Christmas and could well be next season’s dark horses. A season of rebuilding and gaining much respect for the manner in which they have competed when they could so easily have joined N2 – sorry, Laidler Conference – Telford will be much stronger next time around.
Versus the Stars: The 15-1 demolition first home game that could’ve been so much worse for the Titans had Folley not stood on his head.
As for the play-off weekend – well Wembley it ain’t, but the bright lights of Dumfries beckon for the Chosen Four. It’s the Sharks trophy to lose really – home ice, better team, best coach – you’d be a fool to bet against them. And yet – didn’t we all say the same last year?
Play-off hockey can be so unpredictable – who’s to say we won’t see another shock? An all-North East final would be just perfect, but I’ll settle for a revenge semi-final win against T’ORKS as the pinnacle of my weekend. See you all there!”