Following their brawl at their Premier League match last week which caused the match to be abandoned after 13 minutes of the first period after the police were called, both the Telford and Kingston teams have had players fined and banned. The new date for the match at Humberside is Wednesday 5 March. Kingston coach Keith Milhench and player Mike Pinnington are appealing against their 10 match bans.
Although the Premier League is still in progress, the Champions have been decided and Swindon Ice Lords have won it after Solihull Blaze looked to be the strongest team earlier in the season. There are still a number of fixtures remaining mostly involving Peterborough Pirates.
Solihull's impending move to NEC Birmingahm and a name change to Birmingham Blaze looks unlikely to go through in time for next season with the NEC unable to lay an ice pad in time and Solihull having no money to pay their players. A number of players have already left the club making their play-off fixtures doubtful. The town's soccer team Solihull Borough are undergoing a similar situation with the council refusing to fund any ground plans and so the club are set to relocate to the Perry Barr area of Birmingham and change their name to Birmingham Alexander, although nothing has been decided for certain yet.
Sun 23 Feb - BRILLIANT 6-2 VICTORY OVER STEELERS. In front of a new record crowd of 17,245 at the Nynex Arena, Storm finally beat Sheffield Steelers convincingly 6-2. The victory meant that Storm finished in 7th place in the Superleague and so will not face Steelers in the play-off group. It looked like it could have been different result as Steelers started off well to take the lead on 03-46 with a Ron Shudra goal. Stephen Cooper scored his second goal in two days on 11-51 to equalise for the Storm. Three minutes later Brad Turner put Storm into the lead at 2-1 before Frank Kovacs equlaised on 16-38. The first period ended 2-2 and the crowd were wary but quite confident of Storm's first ever victory over the Steelers. The second period was only 13 seconds old when Mike Morin put Storm back into the lead and this was the only goal of a tight period. The third period saw Sheffield become more sloppy and Storm really started to turn on the heat. Nick Poole scored a minute into the third to make it 4-2 and on 48-36 Mike Morin scored his second to put Storm within sight of victory. Jeff Lindsay brought the capacity crowd to maximum excitement as he scored the sixth with 10 minutes remaining, and even in the final goalless 10 minutes there were no mexican waves or people going home - just thousands of Storm fans enjoying the action.
In other games on Sunday, Basingstoke's chances of climbing off the bottom of the table were ended as in-form Ayr Scottish Eagles beat Bison 10-2 in Scotland. Bracknell finished in 6th place thanks to their victory over Newcastle Cobras in the North East. The Bees won impressively 8-4.
After Sundays games, the play-off groups have been decided but the exact date of the fixtures have not. In Manchester Storm's group there will also be champions CARDIFF DEVILS, and the two northernmost teams, in-form AYR SCOTTISH EAGLES and out-of-form (despite Saturday!) NEWCASTLE COBRAS. In the other group are Sheffield Steelers, Nottingham Panthers, Basingstoke Bison and Bracknell Bees.
Sat 22 Feb - STORM WERE STUNG BY THE MIGHTY BRACKNELL BEES. As the delightful southerners kept pointing out, Manchester Storm were "stung by the mighty Bracknell Bees". The music at the Bracknell ice rink is quite inconspicuous - but I did notice them playing the amazingly trendy (I don't think) Nellie The Elephant! There were about (rough guess) 400 Storm fans in attendance at this close and exciting game. The first period started off like it was going to be a Storm walkover, but it turned out that they were flattering to deceive. Storm scored after just 48 seconds with a goal from Craig Woodcroft and should have gone 2-0 up but for the net being moved. Bracknell equalised from Whistle against the run of play to liven up the very quiet home fans. Storm re-took the lead with a goal from Brad Rubachuk just before the end of the first period to make the score 2-1. The second period saw Bracknell equalise at 2-2 with a Bucsis goal but Stephen Cooper scored a minute later for Storm to retake the lead at 3-2. Mike Ellis equalised for Bracknell and then Romeo scored to make the score at the end of the second period 4-3 to Bracknell. For the third period I decided to sit behind the net that Storm were attacking and (hopefully) see Storm win the game from this prime position. It didn't turn out quite like that as Bees scored a late goal from Stewart to bring the crowd to life.
Also on Saturday, out-of-form Newcastle Cobras spoilt the Cardiff party as they defeated the Devils 4-3 in Wales. Cardiff were celebrating their Superleague championship success and must have played pretty badly to let Newcastle win. Sheffield Steelers beat Basingstoke Bison on Saturday night 4-2 away hoping to finish the season on a high note after losing out to Cardiff Devils the first Superleague championship. Ayr Scottish Eagles moved ahead of Nottingham Panthers in the table as they won 5-3 in Nottingham.
The Northen Premier League clash between Telford and Kingston played in Hull on Saturday night was abandoned after just 13 minutes of the first period after the police were called when officials feared crowd trouble. The game had been littered with fight and a mass brawl broke out on 13 minutes that prompted the officials to call the police. The BIHA will investigate the incident on Thursday. The score when it was abandoned was 2-2.
Thu 20 Feb - CARDIFF CHAMPIONS AS STORM LOSE 6-4. Storm did their best to give Sheffield a last chance of the Superleague championship. Mike Morin gave Storm the lead after just 30 seconds before Cardiff scored twice to go into the lead. Nick Poole equalised on the powerplay and then Cardiff went ahead again before Storm made it 3-3 while shorthanded from a Zavisha goal. Cardiff scored again to take the lead at 4-3 before Storm equalised yet again to bring the score at the end of the second period 4-4. Cardiff scored twice in the third period from McCarthy and Matulik to seal an exciting game and it gave Cardiff the first Superleague championship.
Also on Thursday, Sheffield Steelers beat Bracknell Bees at the Hive 6-5 after overtime, but it wasn't enough with the result from Cardiff. However, the point for Bracknell gives them hope of finishing above Storm by the end of the season. Newcastle's game at Ayr was postponed from Wednesday night and the Cobras must have wished they hadn't bothered. Newcastle's season has fallen apart as they lost yet another game, this time 7-0. It was goalless after one period and 4-0 after two. Groleau and Scott Young scored twice.
Teletext and other sources reported that Manchester Storm have teamed up with Oldham Bears Rugby League Club to encourage supporters of both clubs to follow the other. Fans will receive reduced price tickets to watch the other team. Oldham's marketing manager said that Storm have lifted their crowd base from 500 to 9000 so Oldham could learn from them.
Tue 18 Feb - Nottingham Panthers beat Bracknell Bees 8-2 to dent Bracknell's hopes of a 6th place finish in the Superleague.
The lastest Stormforce News is as follows: Possible discussions with GMR Talk 95.1FM Radio with a view to arranging some sort of coverage of Manchester Storm games in the future will hopefully take place soon with new man-in-charge Colin Phillpots, who may be more sympathetic to ice hockey as a major sport in Manchester. Stormforce intend to arrange a petition to present to the station in time for next season's coverage. A new award has been added to the Player Of The Year Presentation Night awards. The "On The Road Player Of The Year - sponsored by Storm Ice Line" award is the extra award. The Stormforce committee meeting last Tuesday discussed the two above points, but didn't decide more because the Ogden's representative Dave Biggar did not turn up because he forgot. Stormforce members can now get their face painted for just £1.00 on production of their membership card (normal price £1.50).
Sun 16 Feb - EXCITING 6-5 WIN OVER BRACKNELL. On Sunday night in front of 10,711 at the Nynex Arena, Storm defeated Bracknell Bees 6-5 in an exciting climax. Storm started off well with the Bees pipes hit after 5 minutes. Nick Poole opened the scoring with a goal on 05:32. Chad Penney had a weak shot at the goal after 7 minutes, but Nick Poole scored another goal on 08:24. After nine and a half minutes Hilton Ruggles had a shot that went just wide. On 10 minutes, the puck hit the back of Mark Bernard the Bees netminder and almost went into the net. After 11.15, Bees started their comeback. Mike Ellis scored their first goal. On 12 minutes Nick Poole had a chance saved, as did Martin Smith on 13:37. Ruggles had one saved shortly afterwards as Storm looked to get their 2 goal lead back. Rubachuk almost scored after a pass from Zavisha and shortly afterwards a big fight started. Brad Rubachuk and Junkin (Bees) got 2 minute penalties coincidental for roughing. Third man in Brian Pellerin of Bracknell got a game misconduct penalty. Referee Folka was kept busy with a 2 minute penalty on David Latta for high sticks on 16:40. The second period was all Bees with them taking the period 3-0. Dean Richards equalised after 2 minutes and Romeo made it 3-2 at 26:21. On 27:10 Mark Bernard, the Bees netminder got a 2 minute penalty for slashing. 30 seconds later Bucsis had 3 attempts before scoring while short-handed to make the score 4-2 to Bees. On 32:48, Martin Smith and Bees number 22 had a big fight and both received 2+2 for roughing. On 33:54 Whistle (Bees) got 2 minutes for interference. A minute later Jeff Lindsay got a 2 minute penalty for hooking. The third period was different as Nick Poole got his hat-trick goal at 42:04 to make the score 4-3 to Bees. Ruggles (2) and Calder had shots on goal before Meola almost shouldered the puck into his own net. Brad Turner had a shot on 51:07 as Storm went all out for the equaliser. The came two penalties within a minute with McCosh for Bees getting 2 minutes for cross-checking and Craig Woodcroft getting 2 minutes for interference. On 56:51 Jeff Lindsay was injured inside Storm's net after a challenge. With just 2 minutes remaining Hilton Ruggles scored the equaliser and the crowd prepared for overtime. But 30 seconds later Mike Morin put Storm into the lead 5-4 and it wasn't over yet as Brad Zavisha amazingly made the score 6-4 with 45 seconds remaining. There was still time for a tense last few seconds as Matt Cote made it 6-5 with 12 seconds on the clock. Storm held out for an amazing win. Mark Bernard, the Bees netminder won Man of the Match, while hat-trick hero Nick Poole got the Storm award. That was great....until I got back to my car in the car park behind the Co-Op buildings to find I had one less window than I started out with!
Cardiff Devils will win the Superleague if they win on Thursday night. They defeated the Cobras 7-4 in Newcastle on Sunday night. In the other game, Nottingham Panthers beat Basingstoke Bison away 4-3 after overtime.
Sat 15 Feb - STORM WELL DEFEATED 5-0 IN NOTTINGHAM. Storm's recent good performances against Nottingham and Sheffield meant nothing as Nottingham Panthers beat Storm 5-0 in Lower Parliament Street.
Cardiff Devils are now just two games away from the first Superleague championship. It isn't over yet, but their 4-3 victory in Ayr surely made them strong favourites. Devils were 2-0 down in the first period before Ivan Matulik and Mick Ware levelled the score at 2-2. Cardiff scored twice more in the second period to gain a 4-2 lead, but Ayr pulled one back early in the third with Ryan Kummu scoring on the powerplay. Devils held on to the annoyance of Sheffield Steelers who saw off Newcastle Cobras 6-3. At the other end of the table, Bracknell Bees finally got their act together in this penultimate league weekend with a 6-2 win over Basingstoke Bison.
It has been reported that the new stadium planned for Stevenage that would have given them possible Superleague status has had its planning permission refused.
GMR Talk have announced that there will be an additional challenge fixture at the end of the season. Altrincham Aces will take on Manchester Storm at Altrincham Ice Rink on Tuesday 4 March with a 7.30 face-off.
Netminder Eric Raymond returned to the team in the game against Nottingham Panthers but has not iced since returning. This suggests that he may still be injured, or it could be because Finnie is playing well. Raymond now has a new number - the 35 that he was wearing before is now 29. Dale Jago is rumoured to be out for the rest of the season with a groin injury. Bart Vanstaalduinen is expected to return soon.
It has been confirmed that BBC Radio 5 Live will do full live commentary on the Ice Hockey Superleague Final at the Nynex Arena on Saturday 29 March with an 8.00 face off. I assume coverage will start after the National Lottery draw though!
The Shower Cap, one of Storm's fanzines sold out of Skate Attack is to be printed by WayneJayne Promotions - the same company that produces Thunder & Lightning fanzine. The Shower Cap is due out next in March and Thunder & Lightning Issue 2 is already out and there will be a review soon. The Thundergirls - authors of T&L have also released a Web page on GeoCities but it doesn't actually work yet.
Thu 13 Feb - STORM DRAW 2-2 WITH STEELERS. This was one of the most nailbiting games of the season. There seemed to be a lot of new fans there encouraged by Storm's recend good performances and Granada's Saturday afternoon coverage. Chad Penney and Nick Poole scored two vital goals for Storm in the first period with Steelers looking good only in patches. The crowd were totally stunned. The Steelers fans couldn't believe it and Storm fans were amazed as Storm have lost every game they've ever played against Sheffield. Reality returned when Steelers scored in the second period. Only high sticks stopped Storm retaking a 2 goal lead with the goal disallowed. Sheffield eventually equalised from Ken Priestlay, and it could have been the start of the end for Storm. The third period was goalless again as neither side could break the deadlock despite many attempts from both sides. Into overtime and Storm had their chances and Steelers wasted all of theirs. Steelers pulled their netminder with 1 minute of the overtime remaing and the crowd were screaming and shouting with real passion as the shots came towards the empty net. Steelers just held out and Storm got their first ever point against Sheffield.
Also on Thursday, Cardiff Devils extended their lead at the top of the Superleague to three points after Storm had held Steelers. Vezio Sacratini scored a hat-trick as theiy beat Bracknell Bees 8-2. Meanwhile Ayr Scottish Eagles beat Newcastle Cobras 3-2 in the North East.
Mon 10 Feb - Sheffield Steelers overcame third placed Ayr Scottish Eagles in the House Of Steel. The scorers for Sheffield were Nicky Chinn, Tim Cranston, Scott Campbell and Rob Wilson before Flynn scored for Ayr with 30 seconds of the game remaining.
Sun 9 Feb - STORM IN GREAT VICTORY OVER NOTTINGHAM. In front of 11,405 and the Granada TV cameras at the Nynex Arena on Sunday 9th, Storm played well to beat a Nottingham Panthers side that had beaten Cardiff 5-2 the previous evening. The evening didn't get off to the best of starts as Panthers opened the scoring in the 5th minute with a Tait goal. It was 2-0 one minute into the second period from a Hoad goal, but that was the cue for Storm to come to life. Less than 30 seconds later, a much improved Brad Rubachuk made the score 2-1 before on 30 minutes Hilton Ruggles equalised. Four minutes later, Storm took the lead from Brad Zavisha and then on 38 minutes, Hilton Ruggles did it again with a goal to make the score 4-2. There was no further scoring in the game and Storm got a well deserved and much needed victory.
Also on Sunday, the top three sides in the Superleague all won. Third placed Ayr Scottish Eagles won a tight game against Bracknell Bees 7-6 with Lala scoring the seventh Ayr goal. Second placed Sheffield Steelers went to Newcastle and won 4-2 with goals from Ken Priestlay, Jamie Leach, Jason Lafrenier and Cory Beaulieu. Leaders Cardiff Devils had a resounding 6-2 win at home to Basingstoke Bison with Martyn Yewchuk scoring a hat-trick.
Sat 8 Feb - Cardiff Devils lost 5-2 away in Nottingham to put the destination of the first Superleague championship back in doubt. Bottom club Basingstoke Bison beat Newcastle Cobras also by 5-2 to move into 6th place.
The Scottish Cup Final was won by Paisley Pirates who beat rivals Fife Flyers 8-4.
The Northern Premier League have announced the make-up of their Finals. There will be two rounds of competition with the league being split into two groups. Fife Flyers, Whitley Warriors, Dumfries Border Vikings and Castlereagh Knights will make up one group with the rest in the other. The two group winners will meet for the Norther Premier League Final. The winner will go on to play the (Southern) Premier League winner on the same day as the Superleague Final at the Nynex Arena. The group losers plus possibly Peterborough Pirates will play in a Plate competition.
The Stormforce AGM has changed its date from Sun 13 April to Sun 27 April. The venue is the Millenium Suite on the top floor of the Kippax Stand, Manchester City Football Club, Manchester. The event begins at 1.00pm. The official reason for the date change is that the ground may be holding an FA Cup semi-final game or that there would be a distraction if Man City were playing in the semi-final (hmmm!). The event is open to all Stormforce members and will see the elections/re-elections of the Stormforce committee. John Lawless or Dayrl Lipsey will be giving the team's opinions and Dave Biggar will be representing Ogdens. The Presentation Evening at the Nynex Arena on Sunday 30 March will begin at 7.00pm for a 7.30 buffet. Tickets are on sale at 15.00 to adult Stormforce members (18 and over ONLY) from the Stormforce desk at the Arena. There is a sample buffet menu at the Stormforce desk if you want to know what the food will be like. The next Stormforce Committe Meeting will take place soon (on Tuesday - it could be a week on Tuesday, I have forgotten which!). Dave Biggar will be in attendance. The results of this meeting will be announced. The next issue of the Stormforce Newsletter will contain a feature on the infamous "Lawless Cuts Editorial" issue and included will be the views of Storm fans (and other fans if relevent). The whole story and the comments received so far are available on the Stormforce pages - so if you want your view to be heard and to be considered for publication in the newsletter, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or sign the Guestbook on the pages. There are plans to launch an on-line registration system for Internet users who wish to join or rejoin Stormforce. The exact details have not been confirmed yet but it is likely to be a form filled in with the applicant's details. This will be passed to Stormforce who will contact the applicant. The registration will then only take effect when payment is received. If this is feasable (and works!) it should be in place during the summer break.
To go with the Arena itself, the Arena 7 cinema, the booking office and Skate Attack, there is soon to be a McDonalds and a pub opening in the "square". This will make the area almost a leisure centre with fans staying in the vicinity of the Arena for a significant time before and after a game if they wish.
The Granada TV programme will finally go ahead on Sat 8 Feb with the programme being titled Battles On Ice. It lasts for an hour (2.50-3.50pm), not 30 minutes as was expected. The presenter is Bear van Beers and the game being shown is Manchester Storm v Cardiff Devils from last Sunday. The commentators will be Paul Ferguson and Richard Boprey. The director of the programme is Hugh Bevan of BBC Wales fame and used to present Face Off on BBC Wales on 1 a couple of years ago. The Storm match night programme for Wednesday's Newcastle game said that Granada TV are hoping to attract 10 million viewers and eventually it could go nationwide. 10 MILLION! I'm not sure where they got that figure from - it must be an accumulated figure between now and the end of the season, and even that must be optomistic as active football fans will be at football games and rugby league fans will be watching the Saints v Wigan game on BBC1 surely! Going nationwide is interesting - so does this mean that the ITV network has actually officially got Superleague highlight rights? I was under the impression that the local TV companies had to do a deal by themselves and Granada were in the running for European League highlights which never materialised.
With BBC Radio 5 Live believed to be considering Saturday Superleague commentary games next season, it has been annouced that there will possibly be full live commentary on the Superleague Final at the Nynex on Sat 29 March. The game will face-off at 8.00pm for SKY TV and so this timing is ideal for Radio 5 as the football phone-in 6-0-6 runs until 8.00. The previous week's semi-finals at the Nynex will be covered with live reports. Bob Ballard is expected to be commentating and reporting on the games. Radio Sheffield is expected to follow Sheffield Steelers with commentary on their away games - home games also if they are on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday and commentary on the semis and the final if Steelers get that far.
Thu 6 Feb - STORM LOSE 6-3 AT BASINGSTOKE. Storm travelled to Basingstoke in a bid to help their cause of not finishing bottom of the Superleague. Playing current bottom club Bison could only have been beneficial to Storm, but they lost the game 6-3 with two Bison goals from Merv Priest and so are kept off the bottom due to their record of having won one more game than Basingstoke.
Also on Thursday, Sheffield Steelers's chances of landing the big prize of the first ever Superleague championship was dented again as Ayr Scottish Eagles beat them 4-0. Storm have the chance to do the same on Thursday 13 Feb when Steelers come back to the Nynex. In the other game on Thursday, Nottingham Panthers beat Bracknell Bees 4-2 in the Hive.
Old times returned to the Nynex as Colin Downie was on the bench for Storm as their stand-in goalie after Nathan Wood had to return to Cardiff. Downie didn't ice, but got a great reception from the crowd.
Eric Raymond should return in time for the Nottingham Panthers game on Sunday 9 February. David Smith has already returned to action after his injury and Bart Vanstaalduinen should return in approx 2 weeks time - in time for the play-offs.
It was suggested last season that there would be a Roller Hockey team playing out of the Nynex Arena during the summer break and a Roller Hockey representative has been viewing the arena with a view to taking up the idea. However, there are currently only regional leagues and so other teams must be set up to form a viable league. This could be very interesting as there would (I assume) be no franchise areas to worry about. This could mean a league involving teams such as Sheffield, Leeds (not this year obviously), Blackburn, Bury (there is a roller team playing out of Bury already) etc etc. If a national league cannot be set up, a North West league should be able to provide 8 teams I would have thought. But then we have the problem of the players and whether it would be a spectacle worth bothering about. As soon as there is any news on this front, it will be announced here.
Nottingham Panthers are to appeal over the decision to ban Derek Laxdal for this taking of illegal substances that it is claimed he took when he had cold and actually drunk some of his daughter's cough medicine.
John Finnie and Martin Smith will be live on KISS 102 FM on Saturday 8 February between 3.00 and 4.00pm on "Kiss Sports", the Saturday afternoon sports programme presented by Paul Anthony. Listeners can phone in with questions for the players on 0161 228 1102.
Wed 5 Feb - STORM LOSE 5-4 TO COBRAS. This was another close game that Storm should have won. I missed the whole of an incident packed first period as my tickets were left at home and it wasn't pointed out until I had got half way to Manchester, so my journey time was doubled and I missed the first half an hour of the action. In that period, Newcastle took the lead after 2 minutes but Brad Rubachuk equalised after 7 minutes. Two minutes later, Cobras went back in front on the powerplay. Two minutes later on 11 minutes, Dale Jago, awarded Man of the Match later, scored the equaliser. The first period ended 2-2 and the game set up nicely. Three minutes into the second period, Jago scored again to give Storm the lead for the first time in the game. But three minutes later on the powerplay Cobras equalsied. On 34 minutes on yet another powerplay, Newcastle re-took the lead. The third period saw Storm get back on level terms with a Craig Woodcroft goal in the 41st minute. With 6 minutes remaining and overtime a possibility, Cobras scored the winning goal.
Also on Wednesday, Japan wrapped up their GB tour with a 5-3 win at Cardiff Devils.
Tue 4 Feb - Japan beat Basingstoke Bison (plus guests) 3-0 in the fourth game of their short tour to the UK.
Sun 2 Feb - STORM BEATEN 5-2 BY CARDIFF DEVILS. This was another up and down performance from Storm on Sunday - mostly down though. In front of approx 9200 fans at the Nynex Arena, Storm started as if it was still the final period in Sheffield letting in three goals in the first ten minutes or so. Craig Woodcroft finally got one back for Storm to make it 3-1 but Cardiff scored again to make the end of period score 4-1. Cardiff were good, but Storm weren't helping themselves. There was an improvement in the second period but it was Cardiff who scored again with their 5th goal. Dale Jago put Storm back in with the smallest of shouts at 5-2 but for the rest of the game, a combination of good work from Finnie and lethargic Cardiff attacks saw the scoreline remain the same throughout the third period.
Ayr Scottish Eagles have now almost caught third placed Newcastle Cobras as they won and the Cobras lost. Bracknell were Ayr's victims as they won 7-3 at the Hive, while Nottingham Panthers, also chasing third place saw off the Cobras 3-1 in Newcastle.
TPS Turku have won the European Hockey League final defeating Dynamo Moscow 5-2. In the semi-finals played the previous day, TPS had overcome Sparta Prague 5-3, while Dynamo Moscow had beaten Frolunda Helsinki 3-2 after overtime.
Sat 1 Feb - Results went pretty much as expected with a 4-0 victory for Cardiff Devils at home to Ayr Scottish Eagles, a 3-0 victory for Sheffield Steelers against Bracknell Bees, and a 7-2 victory for Nottingham Panthers at home to bottom club Basingstoke Bison.
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