It has been reported that all Superleague teams made a loss throughout the season. This could mean a combination of cost-cutting and self-restricted transfers over the summer break, although surely Storm MUST spend or they'll start losing more if the fans lose patience with the team.
The end-of-season party at the Nynex Arena on Sun 30 March included a number of awards presented to the players. The awards went as follows:
KISS 102 PLAYER OF THE YEAR : NICK POOLE
KEY 103 DEFENDER OF THE YEAR : JEFF LINDSAY
GMR TALK FORWARD OF THE YEAR : NICK POOLE
MANCHESTER EV. NEWS MOST IMPROVED PLAYER : NICK POOLE
NORTH M/CR EXPRESS PLAYERS PLAYER OF YEAR : CRAIG WOODCROFT
ICE LINE ON THE ROAD PLAYER : JEFF LINDSAY
Sat 29 Mar - In front of over 14,000 fans at the Nynex Arena, Sheffield Steelers beat Nottingham Panthers 3-1 in the Superleague Final. Nottingham opened the scoring after just 56 seconds from a Derek Laxdal goal but that wasn't going to stop Sheffield as they equalised with 15-57 on the clock - Ron Shudra scoring. The second period started off pretty tight but Frank Kovacs put Steelers into the lead for the first time on 34-19 and then just before the end of the second period Jason Lafrenier deservedly made it 3-1. The third period never really lived up to the rest of the game and remained goalless, but that didn't take anything away from the Steelers performance as the buzzer sounded and the crowd and players alike celebrated the achievement of three play-off final victories in a row ensuring that this season didn't remain trophyless. Nottingham could console themselves that they had already won the B&H Cup earlier in the season and so it was a pretty successful season for both teams. May I also congratulate Jon Hammond on an excellent performance as announcer.
In the prelude to the Superleague Final, Swindon Ice Lords defeated Northen Premier League champions emphatically 5-0. It looked so different in the first ten minutes as Fife seemed to be easily controlling things and just waiting for the moment to start scoring goals. But the game changed at the midway point in the first period. Robin Davidson opened the scoring for Swindon and then Chris Eimers made it 2-0 on 16 minutes. The second period saw Swindon make it 3-0 with another goal from Chris Eimers on 24 minutes and then Swindon scored twice more in the closing stages of the second period with Barcley Pearce and Lee Braithwaite making the score 5-0. The third period was goalless and like the later Superleague Final, never really lived up to the rest of the game.
Opening Finals Day at the Nynex was the Junior Final between Sunderland Arrows and Fife Flames. I arrived one hour into the game not realising that Junior games do not last as long as the senior ones and so only 12 minutes remained when I got there. The score was 3-2 to Sunderland and despite much attacking from both sides in the closing stages the score remained the same and so Sunderland claimed the Junior Final win.
There is still nothing definite but the latest news on the possible comings and goings of Storm's current squad seems to be that Craig Woodcroft and Nick Poole will be staying, Chad Penney, Jeff Sebastian, Hilton Ruggles and even John Lawless could be on their way out - although in Lawless's case it may be more likely that if there is unrest he will be moved to a more "technical" role with another coach brought in. I think Finnie will be staying and despite the claim that Brad Rubachuk was on his way out, it seems that it may have been an exagerated claim and that he may be staying after all. I beleive that David Latta and Brad Turner are on contracts that go beyond the start of the season as is Stephen Cooper, so it is unlikely that they will leave. The only incoming player rumour that I've heard is that Nicky Chinn may be on his way to Manchester. John Lawless has stated that he knows everything in his own mind and that we will find out before the end of April. We'll see!
Thu 27 Mar - Swindon Ice Lords beat Slough Jets 3-1 in the second leg of the Premier League play-off final and so go through 6-4 on aggregate and meet Fife Flyers at the Nynex Arena on Saturday 29 March (face off 3.00).
Wed 26 Mar - Slough Jets won the first leg of the Premier League play-off final 4-3 and have to go to Swindon on Thursday for the second leg. The winner on aggregate will meet Fife Flyers in the Premier Leagues Final at the Nynex Arena on Saturday 29 March (face off 3.00).
The fixtures for Great Britain's Pool B matches between April 12 and April 21 are as follows: SAT 12 APR GB v Poland, SUN 13 APR GB v Kazakstan, TUE 15 APR GB v Holland, WED 16 APR GB v Denmark, FRI 18 APR GB v Austria, SUN 20 APR GB v Switzerland, MON 21 APR GB v Belarus.
Storm may be back in Europe next season joining Cardiff Devils in a re-vamped European Hockey League. The European Cup has been scrapped in favour of an improved EHL - and the UK could have two teams - Cardiff for being Superleague champions and Storm for having the best attendances!
After the dramatic Superleague semi-finals, Finals day takes place at the Nynex Arena on Saturday 29 March. The day starts off with the Junior final at 11.00AM. This year the final will be between Sunderland and Fife. This will be followed by the Premier Final. In this final, the Northern Premier League Play-off winner Fife Flyers will take on the as yet undetermined Premier League Play-off winner. It will either be Swindon Ice Lords or Slough Jets who meet in the two-legged Premier League final this week. Then it is the Superleague Final between Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers. This faces off at just after 8.00 and so is scheduled to end at approx 10.45pm meaning those attending all three finals will have been there for almost 12 hours! Incidentally, the Superleague Final ticket actually covers all three games, so despite the high price it is good value. I assume that you'll be allowed out of the Nynex between finals, but I don't actually know so don't blame me if they don't let people out! If you can't get to the Nynex you can follow the Superleague Final with live coverage on SKY Sports and live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live (Bob Ballard) and BBC Radio Sheffield (Dave Simms & AN Other - either Jamie van der Horst or Gareth Hampshire - I wonder who'll get the LOOOOOOOOOOOSERS medals this year, Dave?!). BBC Radio Wales MAY have some coverage as they have a sports programme at that time as Wales are playing a World Cup match in Cardiff between 7.00 and 9.00pm. There is no planned coverage (as far as I know) of the other two finals. I can only guess that Radio 5 may report on them in Sport on 5 (1.00-6.00pm) and SKY Sports may show highlights before, after or in between periods of the Superleague Final.
Sat 22 Mar - This was a night to remember. In the second semi-final of the day, Nottingham Panthers finally beat Ayr Scottish Eagles in the 6th extra period of overtime after 115 minutes of play and 4 hours 45 minutes of ice hockey action. This was the longest game in British history but for a long time it looked a formality. Jiri Lala scored the opening goal on 12 minutes for Ayr Scottish Eagles and this just about all the action in the first period. The second period saw five goals all in a very long second half. On 30 minutes Woolf scored a short-handed goal to put Ayr into a 2-0 lead before Dalman scored for Nottingham with a 5 on 3 a minute later. Jiri Lala restored the two goal lead for Ayr on 34 minutes before Hoffman made it 4-1 three minutes later. Nottingham scored their second goal just before the end of the period from Dalman to give themselves a chance of coming back in the third. With a two goal lead Ayr seemed to step up their defensive play at the start of the third period and in the first fourteen minutes of the period there were no more goals as the crowd became restless and the Cardiff and Sheffield fans exchanged chants - I was sat with the Basingstoke fans who along with Newcastle, separated the two largest sets of supporters. John Lawless, commenting for Sky TV in between periods sat just behind where I was and looked very bored at this point. The Cardiff players who had played earlier in the day appeared and sat with the Cardiff fans after entertaining the crowd with their antics. Berwanger scored Ayr's fifth goal with 6 minutes remaining on the powerplay and it looked all over bar the shouting for Nottingham. But that was only the start. Bishop scored on the powerplay on 56 minutes to make it 5-3. 30 seconds later Morgan made it 5-4 and with 3 minutes remaining, Bishop scored Nottingham's third goal in a minute to amazingly level the scores at 5-5. Needless to say, the crowd had woken up now and the Panthers almost won the game in the last three minutes, but the game went to overtime. Having ditched the much talked about rule that would have removed a player from each side after every overtime period, they must have wished that they had left that rule alone. Becasue there were FIVE empty goalless, mainly actionless, but tense, engery-sapping (and that was just the crowd) overtime periods. The Nynex Arena had the bright idea of closing the food and drinks bars before overtime, so that everyone was both hungry and thirsty by the time the sixth extra period started at about 11.05. I had to bribe the doormen to let me out and then back in again twice so I could get to the chocolate machines in Victoria station. Officially it was in the 116th minute of the game (115-49 to be precise) that the game finally ended. In real terms it was 4 hours and 45 minutes after the game had started. It had seemed like days. We were begging both sides to come out without netminders. I wouldn't have minded if even Ryan Kummu scored the winner. But it was Jeff Hoad who sparked out amazing celebration scenes as the crowd erupted (minus all the Cardiff fans who had left about 20 minutes previously to catch their coaches home) and a fantastic night was over (despite the abusive Ayr fan sat a few rows behind me that thought it was my fault that he couldn't go to Wembley this year - luckily the stewards did something useful and threatened him with eviction). I was happy - until I realised that the excess time that I had been in the Nynex had meant that my car had been in the car park much longer than expected - and I was charged 8 pounds to get out.
In the first semi-final of the day, Sheffield Steelers beat Cardiff Devils 5-2. Due to a slight miscalculation with face-off times I missed the start of the game, but having heard the start courtesy of Dave Simms's commentary on the car radio I knew that it was still 0-0 when I arrived. Amazingly there were still some over-priced programmes left. The first period remained goalless and it was 2 minutes into the second period that Frank Kovacs put Sheffield Steelers into the lead. Rob Wilson made it 2-0 on the powerplay after 26 minutes. Steve Moria pulled a goal for Cardiff back two minutes later. Ken Priestlay gave the Steelers a two goal lead again three minutes later and it remained 3-1 until the end of the period. Two minutes into the third period period Sacratini gave Cardiff hope again with a goal to make the score 3-2. Jason Lafeniere scored the fourth Steelers goal after 52 minutes and Ken Priestlay wrapped it up dramatically with an empty net goal with 12 seconds remaining to make the final score 5-2.
I spoke to Hilton Ruggles briefly during the semi-finals day and got him to sign my programme. I asked him if he was back next season and he said (although quite unconvincingly) that "yeah...of course!".
According to reports in the South Wales Echo (they were giving out free copies at the Superleague semi-finals!), the Superleague is close to getting two new teams in Birmingham and London. I guess the Birmingham one is Solihull Blaze - but I'll believe that when I see it. As for London, they seem to be under the impression that Wembley and London Arena will both host teams. That could be interesting if it ever comes about. Leeds have committed to joining in the 1998/99 season and there are hopes that there may be teams in Dublin and Belfast soon. It is also reported that Pittsburgh Penguins are looking at the UK to host a team that would not be its farm team, but a team with its own identity (hmmm). It is reported that SKY TV are set to continue coverage of the Superleague next season and the Superleague are actively seeking a league sponsor for next season.
Some British ice hockey stars will switch to the American Roller Hockey League over the summer according to SK8, the in-line skating magazine that I got free on my way out of the Nynex Arena. Cardiff's Doug McCarthy is the new star of the Barracudas. Last season Frank Morris played for the St Louis Vipers. There is to be a brand new professional roller hockey league set up in the UK if all goes according to plan to be played under RHI rules throughout the summer. The plan is to launch the new RHI league by holding a roller hockey camp in Kirkaldy to organise six professional teams, each of which will be headed by a star of the British Ice Hockey leagues. There will be 72 places available and amateur players from existing teams (there are a fair number around the Manchester area) can present themselves for selection. Once the teams are selected and the fixtures agreed (surely the Nynex will host a team?) the league will begin on 24 May and will run until 10 August. The play-offs will be from 1 August to 10 August. Quite a few ice hockey stars have been inducted into the Roller Hockey League so far. From Manchester Storm there is David Smith with Steven Lynch from Ayr Scottish Eagles. From Blackburn Hawks Neil Abel and Bobby Haig are inducted with Ian Robertson (Paisley), Goose abd Simmy Simpson (Murrayfield), Michael and Richard Tasker, Kevin Docherty and Gordon Whyte (all Dumfries) and fourteen Fife Flyers players!
Fri 21 Mar - Great Britain's Under-16 side is playing in Holland in the Chris Verwijst U-16 Tournament. They played against Hungary and won 4-1 and also beat Belgium 12-2.
The squad has been announced for Great Britain's forthcoming Pool B games in Poland between 12th and 21st of April. The squad contains 13 forwards, 7 defenders and 3 netminders. Eighteen players come from 5 of the Superleague clubs, plus there is Doug Marsden from the NPL and Paul Thompson from the Premier League. The other three players, Morrison, Garden and Durdle, play outside Great Britain. The full squad is as follows : (netminders) Bill Morrison, Stephen Foster and Stevie Lyle; (forwards) Steve Moria, Ian Cooper, Doug McEwen, Kevin Conway, Richard Little, Patrick Scott, Neil Morgan, Graham Garden, Paul Adey, Nicky Chinn, David Longstaff, Tim Cranston and Merv Priest; (defenders) Rick Stracham, Mike Bishop, Shannon Hope, Darren Durdle, Paul Dixon, Paul Thompson and Doug Marsden. Disappointingly, Manchester Storm are not one of the Superleague teams with a Great Britain representative. A good performance by the GB side could see a rise back to Pool A where they will join the elite ice hockey countries.
It is rumoured that Brad Rubachuk is set to leave the Storm over the summer. Eric Raymond is also rumoured to be moving back to Canada. Brad Turner, David Latta, Hilton Ruggles and Stephen Cooper seem set to stay while there is no news yet on others. These reports are still unconfirmed.
The semi-finals of the Superleague Play-offs take place at the Nynex Arena on Saturday 22 March. The first faces off at 1.30pm and Superleague Champions Cardiff Devils face Sheffield Steelers. At 6.40pm the second semi-final faces off and is a replay of the Benson & Hedges Cup Final as Ayr Scottish Eagles take on Nottingham Panthers. The announcer for both games will be Jon Hammond. If you can't get to the games (tickets are still available from the box office) you can follow the games on the TV (Sky Sports) and on the radio (see the details below). Granada TV will show highlights on Saturday 29 March.
Tue 18 Mar - STORM SELECT "LOSE" 12-7 TO ACES ALL-STARS. Thanks very much to Jan Fuller for the following match report from the Altrincham Shield game - Storm's final game of the season.
This match was played by two teams which were made up from players from both the Aces and the Storm in the hope to make the sides more even - well could an team which finished second in English Division One Northern Conference actually worry a side which finished seventh in the British Ice Hockey Superleague? There new follows a list of players for both teams so you know who was on each side:
1 - Dave Clancy N/M (Aces)
3 - Dave Shepherd (Aces)
4 - Ben Sykes N/M (Aces)
5 - Stephen Cooper (Storm)
6 - Peter Founds (Aces)
9 - Pete Winstanley (Aces)
10 - Brad Zavisha (Storm)
14 - Nick Poole (Storm)
15 - Brian Jackson (Aces)
17 - Tim Dempsey (Blackburn)
33 - Eric Raymond N/M (Storm)
36 - Hilton Ruggles (Storm)
45 - Martin Smith (Storm)
56 - Dave Latta (Storm)
63 - Brad Rubachuk (Storm)
72 - Andy Bennett (Aces)
84 - Steve Fellows (Aces)
96 - Jeff Sebastian (Storm)
2 - Kevin Kinsella (Aces)
5 - Jeff Lindsay (Storm)
8 - Chad Penney (Storm)
9 - Craig Woodcroft (Storm)
11 - Pete Broadhurst (Aces)
14 - Daryl Lipsey (Storm)
15 - John Lawless (Storm)
18 - Dave Thomason (Aces)
19 - Nick Crawley (Aces)
22 - Eric Calder (Storm)
24 - Steve Ellams (Aces)
27 - Mark Hobson (Aces)
29 - Mike Clancy N/M (Aces)
30 - John Finnie N/M (Storm)
34 - Jon Murray (Aces)
73 - Dave Smith (Storm)
Before I give a summary of the match, I will point out that there seemed to be an agreement between the players that even though they were going to play well, they would keep the scores close. This, I surpose, would lead to a more exciting match for both players and fans as the outcome was already decided. Last years winners were the Storm Select.
The match started with #1 Clancy in the Aces net and #30 Finnie in the Storm net. At 00:54 #19 Smith scored for the Aces off #63 Rubachuk. Two minutes later (02:57) #5 Lindsay equalised - to the delight of the Storm fans. 09:11 saw #21 Turner score for the Aces with the help of #19 Smith and #63 Rubachuk. Storm equalised with a shot from #73 Smith off #11 Broadhurst (the first Aces player to get on the score sheet!). Less than two minutes later Aces took the lead again (13:16) with #36 Ruggles assisting #96 Sebastian in scoring. Neither team was able to take advantage in the last seven minutes and the period ended 3-2, with #1 Clancy having faced 19 shots and #30 Finnie 20.
The second period saw a changes of net minders. #33 Raymond replaced #1 Clancy in the Aces net, and #29 Clancy (older brother) replace #30 Finnie in the Storm net. Finnie was still playing though - I think as a forward, but if could have been in defence! Also #36 Ruggles was no longer icing (he only played the first period last year - and that was for Storm Select!!!) Aces extended their lead as 22:27 by a goal from #63 Rubachuk, assisted by #21 Turner: and again at 25:00 with #8 Winstanley (nice one Pete!) off #56 Latta. Storm reduced the lead at 28:12 with #22 Calder scoring off #8 Penney. Five minute later, 33:31, Aces extended the lead again with #63 Rubachuk scoring off #19 Smith. Four minutes later, 37:39, #15 Lawless scored off #19 Crawley and #30 Finnie, just 39 seconds after #18 Thomson had finished his penalty for interference. The last few minutes saw failed chances on both sides with the period scores being 3-2 (again), and #33 Raymond facing 11 shots and #29 Clancy facing 31.
The final period started with #4 Sykes in the Aces net and no change in the Storm net. Changing the precedent of the first two periods, it was the Storm who started the scoring at 41:44 with #30 Finnie (Yes that’s John Finnie - Storm netminder reliving his ambition at five years old to be a forward!) netting off #19 Crawley. Less that a minute later (42:34) #11 Broadhurst equalised (a surprise to himself - he thought the puck had been stopped!) off #5 Lindsay. The next few minutes saw Aces miss a few easy shots, but essentially dominate the game. Then a penalty shot was given to one the Storm players (I think it was #34 Jon Murray, but I’m not sure) who missed. Soon afterwards a penalty shot was given to the Aces #63 Rubachuk. Unfortunately he ‘tripped over his boot laces’ on the approach. Did this have anything to do with Lawless having a few words to him just prior, I wonder? Almost straight away, Aces scored again. #63 Rubachuk (possibly trying to make up for ‘falling over’ netted the puck at 52:11 off #17 Dempsey and #21 Turner. While skating back to the Aces bench, passed the Storm bench, Rubachuk was ‘set upon’ by his usual fellow team mates. Others went to his ‘rescue’. It wasn’t until about six minutes later that the announcer told the crowd that the referee Mark (or is that Mel) Gibson had awarded Aces players #63, #19 and #56 with a cornetto for the incident, and Storm players #15, #9 and #22 with a feast - which probably sums up the game! This delay in play did not stop the Aces. #9 Fleury scored off #56 Sebastian at 52:43. The 54th minute saw Aces extend their lead three times. #6 Founds scored off #96 Sebastian and #72 Bennett at 54:04. #72 Bennett scored off #84 Fellows at 54:23. With the exception of #96, these players are all under 21, some actually play for the under 19 side - so very well done to them! The last goal in this minute was scored at 54:40 by #17 Dempsey. Storm tried to increase their score, but only succeeded by netting the last goal of the match at 55:55 - #9 Woodcroft off #8 Penney. Storm had, by this time stepped up their game - but to no avail. 59:01 saw all the Storm players ‘invade’ the ice, closely followed by all the Aces players. Now the announcer tell us that Storm are sitting a bench penalty given at 58:01 for having too many men on the ice - I think only the officials saw that one. Although the puck went in each net once in this last minute - they didn’t actually count as goals - for obvious reason. However, Gibson with Slater and Prystay did show that it was more or less possible to officiate with that number of player in the ice! The period score were Aces 6 and Storm 3. #4 Sykes (who has only played a couple of matches for the Aces) faced 29 shots and #29 Clancy faced 19.
What began as a fairly even match saw the Aces All-stars dominate. the final score of Aces 12 Storm 7 meant that Storm lost the Shield this year. Can’t wait for next year now! Man of the Match awards went to players who played exceptionally well, even though their performance is not reflected in the score sheet. For the Storm John Finnie received the award - his net minding performance was excellent, and he showed some versatility as a forward (or was that a defenceman?) even if he wasn’t particularly fast (sorry John). Aces MOM award went to #45 Martin Smith (I’m sure last season it was in the programmes as Martyn though). He worked the puck up the ice on numerous occasions (with the help of other under 21’s), but wasn’t lucky enough to score. He was fast enough to seem to be everywhere on the ice, so it was an award well deserved.
Great Britain's U-19 team playing in the European Junior Championship Pool C. Their final game saw an excellent 4-3 victory over Latvia. GB therefore won all their games and so won the Gold medal. This also means that GB Juniors have moved up to Pool B.
Sun 16 Mar - STORM WIN AT LAST!. In Storm's last competitive match of the season, they overcame Ayr Scottish Eagles at the Nynex Arena on Sunday. It was a complete non-event as a match as the result meant nothing for either side as Ayr had already secured their semi-final place and Storm of course are already out. With this in mind, it was interesting to note that (unless I missed one) there were no penalties for either side at all despite Kummu and Ruggles both icing. In front of 10,101 fans Mike Morin opened the scoring after 8 minutes and then Martin Smith doubled the lead on 12 minutes to make the first period score 2-0 to Storm. The second period was a different matter as Ayr scored twice from Jiri Lala (28 mins) and Steer (37 mins) to make the score 2-2 at the end of the second period. It could have been worse as Finnie who had replaced Raymond in goal took his eye off the puck as it flew in the air and hit him on the back before rebounding off the pipes to safety. The third period started off with a goal that put Ayr into the lead for the first time in the game. Steer scored after 42 minutes. Two minutes later Storm came back at last with a goal from Brad Turner and David Smith scored the winning goal with 10 minutes remaining and Storm had won 4-3. Finnie got Man of the Match for Storm and Lala got the award for Ayr.
Also on Sunday, Sheffield Steelers took an early 4-0 lead in their final Group B game and eventaully won 7-2 away in Basingstoke. Steelers and Nottingham Panthers have qualified from Group B and join Cardiff Devils and Ayr Scottish Eagles in the semi-finals.
Sat 15 Mar - In the battle for the semi-final Play-off place, Ayr Scottish Eagles beat Newcastle Cobras 6-4 in Scotland. Ayr were 4-0 in the lead early in the second period before Cobras came back to within two before the end of the game. Ayr's goals were scored by Jiri Lala (2), Woolf, Flynn, Berwanger and Groleau. In Group B, Sheffield Steelers secured their semi-final place with a close 3-2 victory at home to Basingstoke Bison. In the other game, Nottingham Panthers beat Bracknell Bees 4-3 in the Beehive.
On Tuesday 25 March a number of Storm players will be appearing at Burger King in Salford Precinct signing autographs. They will be there from 2.00pm and everyone is welcome. You can win "great prizes" including a signed hockey stick.
Fri 14 Mar - In their second game in Pool C (Group A) of the European Junior Championships, Great Britain beat Romania 5-2.
Thu 13 Mar - LAST MINUTE GOAL WINS IT 4-3 FOR CARDIFF. In front of about 5600 fans at the Nynex Arena, Cardiff Devils won a close game in the final minute by 4 goals to 3. Yewchuk opened the scoring after 9 minutes for the only goal of the first period. Storm had some chances but you could see early on that winning this game was not exactly top priority for Cardiff Devils. The second period was not 3 minutes old before Shannon Hope extended Cardiff's lead and it looked all over for Storm. Finally though Storm got their act together. They had chances poorly taken from the offense but eventually one of the biggest culprits Nick Poole pulled a goal back on 33 minutes. Less than a minute later Brad Zavisha to the delight of the crowd equalised and the score remained the same until the end of the period. Five minutes into the third it was Mike Morin who scored the goal that put Storm into the lead for the first time in the game. But the lead didn't last long as Sacratini equalised just a munite later. It was odds on for overtime when Devils called a timeout and with 30 seconds remaining Matulik scored the winner in dramatic fashion. The game might have been meaningless for both sides, but a win in front of the Granada cameras would have looked good for the fans wavering about attending on the final game on Sunday night, but it wasn't to be.
Also on Thursday, in Group B, Basingstoke Bison came back from being 2-1 down to draw 5-5 in the last Southern derby of the season. The result keeps Basingstoke's hopes alive of qualifying for the semi-finals - they will need to beat Sheffield Steelers twice this weekend, the second game of which you can hear live on Radio Sheffield (face off 6.00).
In their second game in Pool C (Group A) of the European Junior Championships, Great Britain beat Romania 5-2.
There are some changes to the season tickets for next season. This season you had to pay extra for games not in the Superleague, but next season the season ticket includes all Superleague fixtures, THREE Benson & hedges Cup Group Games (NOT the quarter-finals onwards), THREE Superleague Play-Off games (NOT the semis or final) and THREE of the exhibition games (which there could be many of). Season ticket holders also qualify for priority booking at reduced prices for all home games not covered by the season ticket. You can pay for the ticket over 6 months with a payment plan (although this costs you more in the long run!) Adult season tickets will cost 185.00 (or 199.50 if you are paying 6 monthly payments of 33.25). A consessionary season ticket will cost 125.00 (or 134.82 if you are paying 6 monthly payments of 22.47). Season tickets are available in all lower tier blocks with the exception of blocks 113 and 114 as the away supporters are offered these tickets. If you are paying for your season ticket by credit or debit card, you are subject to a 3% surcharge, so draw the money out of the bank before you pay!
I phoned GMR on Thursday afternoon and spoke to Jack Dearden, presenter of GMR's Friday night sports programme and asked him about GMR's sports coverage this weekend and in the future, particularly with respect to Manchester Storm. He said that I was speaking to the converted and that he himself was disappointed at the small amount of coverage given to the games. He said that if Sunday's game at the Nynex was more important in terms of play-offs then there would be more upbeat coverage of it on Sunday. He said that Andy Costigan would be reporting from the Nynex between 7.00 and 8.15 during GMR's rugby league programme featuring London Broncos and St Helens. The rugby programming starts at 2.30pm and runs throughout the afternoon, but between 6.00 and 7.00 there is an Irish programme on and so the rugby resumes after that. I asked him if Andy Costigan was the new regular reporter on the Storm and he said not really and that he was doing this match after having done some earlier in the season. I pointed out that Radio Sheffield did countless full commentary matches especially away and that Radio 5 will (hopefully) be starting Saturday night commentaries of ice hcokey games. I asked if they had the right people at GMR that understand ice hockey enough to be able to do commentary and expert analysis. He said that the commentating would not be a problem as if they didn't have anyone there they would go out and get someone to do commentaries. I said how clued up the Radio Sheffield people were and he said that he knew of Bob Ballard. I explained that he had gone to Radio 5 and that Gareth Hampshire did the games with Dave Simms for the away games. He then tried the old one about how there were so many football teams and rugby teams to cover. This annoys me when the say this because it is such rubbish. I am not saying ignore the football and rugby - in fact football and rugby SHOULD get top billing because that is still the most popular sports in the Manchester area. But my point was that when there is nothing or only minor games on, there should be better coverage of Storm and the Giants basketball instead of the boring drivel that they put out - at least reports. In reply he said that GMR were not allowed to report live from Manchester Giants games. I asked if this was to do with the owners of the Giants and he said he couldn't say and that I'd have to take that one up with Manchester Giants. He also confirmed that there would be NO coverage at all of the Paris St Germain v Salford Reds rugby game on Mon 31 March (the one that most Salford fans would want coverage of because they aren't likley to have gone to France to watch it) because they weren't sending a reporter there. I told him how annoying it was to hear full commentaries of Yorkshire and Merseyside teams visits to Paris on BBC Radio Leeds and Merseyside and nothing from GMR and he said that was a good point and that I should write to GMR's head of sport about it. Finally he said that the ice hockey coverage will be reviewed in the summer and decisions made. I said to him that GMR would get queries from supporters next season wanting to know why Radio 5 were doing their games and GMR weren't bothering and it would bad for the station. He finished off by saying that he agreed with just about everything that I said and that I was in effect preaching to the converted but there was no doubt that the coverage should and hopefully will improve. So, the answer must be that if you really want to hear live Storm games on the radio you should write to GMR's head of sport and feel free to use any of the points I made above.
Wed 12 Mar - IT'S ALL OVER AS AYR BEAT STORM 5-3. Despite my optimism it is finally all over for good for Storm in the play-offs. A Jiri Lal hat-trick helped Ayr Scottish Eagles to a 5-3 win in Scotland. This result means that Ayr and Newcastle will be playing for a semi-final place on Saturday night.
Also on Wednesday, in an exciting Group B game in Sheffield, the Steelers beat Nottingham Panthers 3-2 after overtime despite looking like they would easily beat the Panthers earlier in the game. Gareth Hampshire and Jamie Van Der Horst were commentating for BBC Radio Sheffield and watch out Dave Simms as Jamie is certainly one for the contraversy and excitement. He was giving the referees some stick throughout the game and when a brawl broke out he came out with some classic quotes. Rob Wilson started off the scoring in the 11th minute of the first period on the powerplay. Steelers were looking comfortable but not too cocky. In the second period Ron Shudra made it 2-0 with just 90 seconds on the clock. It stayed that way until the end of the second period. I left the radio to go and watch the end of the Stockport County match on the TV and when I switched the radio back on the game was totally different with Panthers having scored a goal to make it 2-1 early in the third. Gareth and Jamie were still sounding confident of a victory despite a 3 on 5 situation for Steelers in the last few minutes. Just as Plommer came onto the ice to make Steelers one man down, Nottingham equalised and there wasn't a sound from the crowd in the arena. There was just seconds on the clock and the game went to overtime. Half way through overtime, Jamie Leach hit a rocket shot into the Panthers net to send Jamie and Gareth in to ecstacy and Steelers had won 3-2. The last Steelers play-off game is also live on Radio Sheffield when they travel to Basingstoke for a 6.00 face off. The programme starts at 5.30 with all the build-up, so if you can't get to the Nynex, make sure you listen to that one!
In the European Junior Championships on Wednesday in Romania, Great Britain got their Pool C campaign off to a great start with an 8-0 win over Estonia.
Tue 11 Mar - Cardiff Devils beat Newcastle Cobras 6-4 in Group A, while in Group B, Nottingham Panthers dented Basingstoke's hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals by beating them 4-3.
Sun 9 Mar - STORM BEATEN 3-1 BY COBRAS. This could have been the match that saw Storm finish off their season on a high with a victory over Newcastle, a team that the previous night had lost 5-0 at home to Ayr. It isn't quite over yet, but the 3-1 victory for Cobras surely makes Storm's appearance in Play-off semi-finals very unlikely. In front of 9985 fans Newcastle Cobras opened the scoring after just 5 minutes with a goal from MacLeod. It took just 14 more seconds for Suomalainen to double the lead before Chad Penney scored for Storm three minutes later. There were a few incidents in the game with Mathieson being ejected from the game with a 2+5+Game for cross-checking and roughing. Storm never really looked like equalising and the crowd could not seem to get worked up enough either. I thought we needed Hilton Ruggles, who was out of the game suspended. The rest of the game was pretty dull until the final minute when Storm pulled Eric Raymond and Duberman scored in the empty net. Eric Raymond got Storm's Man of the Match and I didn't think he deserved it, but then who else could you give it to. The forwards were pretty useless on the night and the defence made mistakes. Raymond made two mistakes and two goals went in in the first period, but that's the way it goes when your luck's down. Some might say that it shows that the victory against Steelers was a flash in the pan, and after that game it was difficult to argue.
Also on Sunday, Cardiff Devils won 5-3 in Scotland against Ayr Scottish Eagles. In Group B, Sheffield Steelers virtally ended Bracknell Bees chances of qualifying by winning 3-1 in Bracknell.
The Storm players will be signing fans shirts in the Nynex concourse after the game against Ayr Scottish Eagles on Sunday 16 March.
Cardiff Devils, who won the Superleague after their victory over Storm a couple of weeks ago, will parade their trophy on an open-topped bus in Cardiff on Saturday 15 March.
Solihull Blaze have withdrawn from the Premier League Play-offs at the last minute. They blame a player revolt as they are refusing to turn out after not being paid for recent matches. The remaining teams in the Play-offs are Kingston Hawks, Telford Tigers, Slough Jets, Swindon Ice Lords and Guildford Flames.
Work will start on a new 3000 capacity ice rink in Coventry next month with a team expected to join the Premier League (or equlivalent) for the 1998/89 season.
Hilton Ruggles, banned for three games after the play-off game at Newcastle Cobras, fined 50 pounds and given 15 penalty points, will be back in action for what may be Storm's final competitive game of the season at home to Ayr on Sunday.
Sat 8 Mar - Ayr Scottish Eagles looked like they could be the team to qualify with Cardiff for the semi-finals after they comprehensively won 5-0 in Newcastle. Meanwhile in the Group B games, Nottingham Panthers virtually sealed their place in the semis with a 6-3 defeat of Sheffield Steelers. Basingstoke Bison beat Bracknell Bees 3-2 after overtime to set up the chance to qualify above Sheffield. You can hear live coverage of the important Group B game between Steelers and Panthers in Sheffield on BBC Radio Sheffield 104.1FM on Wednesday night.
Fri 7 Mar - STORM SHUT OUT AGAIN 3-0. Storm were shut out again, the score 3-0 again, this time in Cardiff. The result means that Storm haven't yet scored a goal in the play-offs. The score could have been much worse for Storm if they didn't have Eric Raymond in the goal. His excellent performance kept many Cardiff chances at bay. The game was goalless after the first period, but two goals for Cardiff in the second saw Storm's chances diminish. A third period Cardiff goal wrapped it up to put Storm to the bottom of the Group A table. Storm now surely must win all their remaining games to qualify for the semi-finals at the Nynex on 22 March.
The challenge match between Storm and Altrincham Aces scheduled for Tue 4 March has been rescheduled for Tue 18 March. The game will actually be a mix of the two teams playing against each other rather than Aces v Storm.
Bart Vanstaalduinen is quoted as being "back to square one" with his groin injury after Wednesday night's game at Newcastle. I expect this means that we won't now see him in action again until next season. Dale Jago has an operation on his hernia injury on Monday.
Wed 5 Mar - STORM SHUT OUT IN NEWCASTLE. Bart Vanstaalduinen and Jeff Sebastian were back for the Storm in their opening Play-off game, but that didn't stop a 3-0 victory for Newcastle.
Kingston Hawks player Mike Pinnington, who was alleged to have head-butted Telford Tigers, and ex-Storm player, Mark Pallister, has had his ban lifted as the BIHA found no evidence of any head-butt after viewing the video evidence. He is now able to take part in the play-offs which get underway next week.
Two of the play-off fixtures have changed. The away game at Newcastle was played on Wed 5 March. The game will be televised by Granada TV for broadcast on Sat 8 March on Battles On Ice. The game at Cardiff has been moved forward a day to Fri 7 March.
Sun 2 Mar - Cardiff Devils defeated Ayr Scottish Eagles 6-2 in their second play-off Group A match. In the group B match, Nottingham Panthers came from 1-0 down to beat Bracknell Bees 5-3 in Nottingham. Cardiff and Nottingham are both unbeaten after two play-off games.
Also on Sunday, a crowd of 700 at Stevenage saw Oxford University win the Varsity match against Cambridge University 5-2.
Sat 1 Mar - In the opening Group A play-off game, Cardiff Devils travelled to Newcastle and comfortably beat the Cobras 5-2. It looks like Cardiff should be certainties to go into the semi-finals on 22 March at the Nynex already. The play-offs group B began as expected with Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers both getting their group games off to a winning start. Steelers beat Bracknell Bees 3-2 in Yorkshire and Panthers travelled to Basingstoke and won 5-1.
The latest Stormforce Newsletter should now be with Stormforce members. It came in an envelope with allsorts of other stuff including a Nynex bookmark (!), a player of the year voting slip to be handed in at the Stormforce desk on matchdays, a flyer/application form for the play-off finals, a play-off information sheet, a flyer for the Altrincham Aces challenge match on 4 March, and a letter about the Annual General Meeting in April. The newsletter itself is a fair effort in mono all the way through. The front cover has two photos from the Junior event to see the players train. Inside is an editorial, a double letters page, a double "travel stories" page, a page about the forthcoming player of the year night, some photos from the Fun Run and the Junior event at Rochdale FC. There is a double page of Press Room views and interviews and a junior stormforce quiz page. There is a page with a letter from a fan of the team and some photos from the Altrincham skate night. Also in there is a long review of the season (so far) and adverts for merchanside and the GB supporters club. Finally on a double page spread near the end is yet more stuff on the "John Lawless editied the programme" issue, which is infact an exact copy of the fans comments page on Inter The Storm, which is fair enough as I was asked if I minded them using it. However, they could have got the URL correct! At least they got most of it right (http;/ ???) but the page that it would link to is the page that they took the info from not the main page.
[Back to Latest News Index]