Photo: Kevin Slyfield
10by10 continues with a look at one of our more established NIHL1 sides. There have been some big changes at London Raiders over the summer and their netminder Euan King gives us his thoughts on the season to come.
Well here we are one season away from a shiny new arena back home in Romford and we have a new look team being built to go with that. There is a great buzz around the team, management and fans at the moment which is great to see. The owners and committee that run the club need a massive pat on the back for getting the club to this point where they can lose a rink, be forced to play away from their home town, low attendances in the early days etc. but they have managed to keep the team afloat and (to a point) competitive over these years. They deserve some silverware for their hard work and dedication and if the league structure hadn’t changed we would have been one of the front runners. But, I am getting ahead of myself there so lets a look at the new London Raiders.
The Dream Team: Herb and Craig, Bombay & Conway, Easton & Blythy or just Sean and Alan – whatever you want to call them the team has an extremely strong coaching line up for the new season. Between them they may only have one head of hair (sorry guys couldn’t resist) but their knowledge of the game is exceptional and I am very much looking forward to seeing how they set us up to be competitive against the “EPL” teams.
Sean is extremely ambitious when it comes to his coaching career and he has high aspirations to test himself at the highest level. This is a great chance for him to show his coaching skills without having that tag “I could have won with that team” that overshadowed his tenure in Chelmsford.
I have obviously returned for the new season and I am excited to get going, the club is on the up and we have some massive challenges ahead of us. On a personal level, I have always felt I could hold my own in the EPL if that chance ever came up, now I won’t have to wonder anymore and it’s time to see if my confidence is actually real.
We also have young Zach Grandy-Smith joining the roster this season. Zach is a big kid at around 6”2/3 and fills a lot of net. I have worked with Zach previously when he came to a camp I was working at so I know him and what skills he brings to the table. Make no mistake Zach is a talented young goalie who will push me every week for game time which is perfect.
Andy Munroe – Munsy is a goalies dream, he blocks shots, battles in the corners, positionally sound and a good puck moving D man. Munsy may look like Mr Burns but he is as tough and solid as they come. Munsy will be key for us and is great head for the youngsters to learn from as he leads by example in the locker room and on the ice.
Julian Smith – My other travel partner who a natural born leader. Solid at the back, tough and willing to fight if he has too. Jules will openly admit that he isn’t the most natural talented with the puck on his stick but he gets the job done every shift.
John Connolly – JC is the most naturally talented D man on the roster, he moves the puck well, great dish man on the PP and a good skater. JC will probably openly admit he struggled last season with his fitness and injuries but after a good off season I expect JC to return to the old JC, playing with confidence and putting up points.
Jack Cooper – Solid stay at home defencemen, plays the game simple and doesn’t try to do too much. Coops will play a key role for us this season I’m sure of it. I will just try not to hit him in the head with a puck in training this season!
Callum Burnett – Young Cal is back and will be on a two way this season to maximise his ice time. In the short time he was with us last season he impressed me with his willingness to learn and improve. He is in a great spot this season and working with Sean and Alan. One for the future.
Sean Barry – Baz is a shorter version of Munsy, no frills d man who makes simple but effective plays in his own zone. Last season he seemed to add something new to his game and was jumping into rushes going forward. I’d expect to see that continue this season.
Callum Wells – Callum is another steady D man, he carries a decent shot on him and is a good puck mover. He has worked with Sean for a very long time and I would expect to see him continue his development as the season progresses.
(WOW we have a lot!!!)
Marek Nahlik – The solvak sniper lit the league up in my first few weeks back in London scoring something silly like 12 goals in 3 games. His form dipped at the end of the season due to injury but showed great character to battle through in the play offs. If confident I would expect Marek to be up there in the team scoring charts
JJ Pitchley – The enigma!! JJ has so much talent its silly but he has to stay focused on the game and not get involved in the silly side of things. JJ can be unplayable at times and I hope he channels that side of his game this season. There is no reason JJ couldn’t put up 40-50 points if he remains focused on the game. This is a big season for him.
Ziggy Beesley – The pocket rocket! Ziggy works his socks off every shift and will be a thorn in the side of a lot of defencemen this season. Points will come for Ziggy as long as he continues to play his game and not let it get to him. Great kid too, eager to learn. He just needs to get a job now!
Tommy Davis – The captain of the ship, Tommy has been with the team for a very long time and it will be his reasonability that the new guys coming in understand the traditions of the club and what is expected of them. Tommy openly admits his favourite time playing has been in a grinder role and he will revert back to this this season which he will relish. Expect to see Tommy leading from the front.
Sammy Roberts – The ultimate team guy, great in the room and play for the pure love and enjoyment of the game. Sammy has a canon and will surprise a few goalies this season I’m sure. I would expect Sammy to be used a shutdown role this season which he will excel at.
Alan Lack – The Jack Russell, fast, aggressive, agitator and a leader in the room. Lacky is the perfect guy to have on a team as he hates losing and will hold people accountable. Every team needs an Alan Lack.
Jake Sylvester – Jake had a break out season last year and I couldn’t be happy to have him on our team this season as it means he isn’t scoring on me!! Natural goal scorer who reads the game exceptional well and is usually one step ahead of the play. He can’t have #92 though!
Ollie Baldock – So laid back he is horizontal, skilled and a great set up man. Ollie and Jake have played together for a long time and have a great connection which we will hopefully see again this season. He knows where the net it too!
Matt Turner – By far the most underrated player I have ever played with, an unreal two way centre man. Turner should have been playing in the EPL for the last 4 or 5 seasons he is that good. His hands are unreal and another leader on and off the ice.
Brandon Ayliffe – I tell you what, I have never seen a kids be sick in training before on a back checking drill because he works that hard. That’s Brandon down to a tee. Hard working, finished his checks and has speed to burn. Brandon is a great addition to our roster.
Olegs Lascenko – All I will say about Oleg is Beast!! Check out his Instagram and see how seriously he takes him fitness and hockey. Great additional to our team.
Import – TBD but I would expect an out and out goal scorer.
Stealth Promotion or the same NIHL?
So the new league structure. Is it still the NIHL or was it a stealth promotion for teams who didn’t want to move up to the EPL? I can see both side of the coins here but I am personally relishing the challenge. I preferred the conference system (although the split wasn’t exactly even) we had originally as I thought that was a really good move but obvious that quickly fell apart.
How will it pan out… I think we will know more on that after the first month of the season when we have had some “EPL vs NIHL” games. My hope if that the old can compete with the new but I’m not sure if that is more optimism? One thing is for sure, there are a lot of players in the old NIHL who have thought they could do a job or compete in the EPL, now we are going to find out.
Regarding the Raiders, we haven’t set any officially targets for the season yet and you should go into every game with the mentality to win it. Sean and Alan have built a team with speed and grit, added first and secondary goal scoring and a great blend of youth and experience. There is already a real buzz amongst the boys in the WhatsApp groups.
Realistically, we should be aiming to win our mini league first amongst the old NIHL teams then review. I’m optimistic we will be competitive in the league.
I said it at the time when the restructure news first came out, “sit tight people the merry-go-around that is British hockey is about to begin”. Enjoy the new NIHL and hopefully an exciting season of hockey.
London Raiders have no games on the opening weekend of the season. They start with a home game in the cup competition against Streatham IHC on Saturday 16th September followed by a visit to Milton Keynes Thunder on Sunday 17th September to kick off their league campaign.
You’ll be able to find all the remaining articles in our 10by10 season previews (as they are released) together with all the previous seasons’ articles on the following link: http://482days.com/category/10by10/