Chelmsford boss Sean Easton is eyeing more silverware after the Chieftains secured the NIHL1 South title for the fifth time in a row.
The Chieftains’ 6-3 victory over Streatham IHC saw them claim the crown with six games to spare, but Easton is already targeting further successes in the D1S Cup and end-of-season play-offs.
“I’m extremely proud of the team – I think a lot of people were shocked in the summer because we released a lot of senior players and replaced them with young talent,” he told Essex Live.
“And to win a league title with five new guys into our team is fantastic, especially the way they have done it losing one game all year.
“Our strength is where we use the depth. Everyone has played a huge part in winning the league and I think that where our strength is how we can play everyone in the team and they all add something different.
“We play to win everything. I think with the team that we’ve assembled if we aim any lower, we’ll be doing ourselves an injustice.
“The consistency we’ve had week in, week out, has been fantastic. The players’ commitment during training and playing the games has been brilliant.
“They want to play the right way. With good discipline we can go on and achieve the next two trophies with the cup and play-offs.
“The play-offs is a bigger animal. It’s a two game series, teams are rejuvenated because they’re no longer running off their last result. It’s a new weekend every game.
“In all fairness every team can beat anyone as we’ve seen – the three teams below us have all lost to the bottom four. Anyone can beat anyone and that is the beauty of our league.”
London Raiders head into their weekend games at Bracknell Hornets and Chelmsford just two points behind third-placed Streatham.
Defender Andy Munroe (above) signed for the club at the start of January after spending the last three seasons in NIHL North and he says he’s enjoying the new challenge.
“It’s been really interesting playing in NIHL South for the first time – playing in rinks I’ve not encountered during my career,” said Munroe.
“It’s also interesting to be able to directly contrast the Northern and Southern divisions from my three years up in Billingham and it’s a shame that there’s no end-of-season North versus South game.
“Having played in both leagues it would be closer now than it might have been in the past.
“We’ve had mixed results since I joined. We were disappointed to be beaten twice by a weakened Invicta side, but other than that we’ve acquitted ourselves pretty well.
“This Saturday we’ll be looking to continue where we left off at MK – working hard both ends of the ice, and hopefully coming on the right end of the result.
“Sunday is obviously going to be a big challenge – teams don’t win leagues this early without being a dominant force.
“However, it’s always good to test yourselves against the best teams and hopefully we can continue to make the small improvements to position us well for the play-offs and bring some confidence and form into the cup competition.”
Oxford City Stars host MK Thunder on Saturday, before travelling to Solent Devils the following day, aiming to continue their recent good form.
The Stars have lost just once since the start of the year and Head Coach Simon Anderson is keen to keep that momentum going into the end-of-season play-offs.
“Milton Keynes seem to do very well when they come here and vice-versa when we go there,” he told Oxfordshire Sports Online.
“Hopefully we can reverse that trend this weekend. We’ve got a good little bit of form going after Christmas, so we’re looking to continue it, especially in front of our own fans.
“Sunday’s a different kettle of fish at Solent. They’ve got a massive home rink advantage, but we play alright in there as well.
“Potentially it’s a four point weekend, but we need to be ready for both games and I’ll make sure we are.”
Bracknell Hornets v London Raiders
Oxford City Stars v MK Thunder
Streatham IHC v Invicta Dynamos
Chelmsford Chieftains v London Raiders
Solent Devils v Oxford City Stars
Cardiff Fire v Wightlink Buccaneers
Invicta Mustangs v Haringey Racers
Lee Valley Lions v Peterborough Islanders
Swindon Wildcats NIHL v Bristol Pitbulls
Invicta Mustangs v Slough Jets
(Image permissions: Ian Snoding & John Scott)