Swan Song or Phoenix from the Flames?

July 22, 2011 No Comments »

Cardiff Ice Hounds Face Seven Goal Deficit Going Into Second Leg

It’s been a great season for the Cardiff Ice Hounds Ice Hockey Club.  It may only be their second season of regular competitive ice hockey, but the Ice Hounds have pretty much carried on where they left off last season, if not providing even stronger competition, in the EIHA Southern Recreational Hockey Conference.

Last season, the Conference was consisted of 8 teams, stretching from Cardiff in the West, across to Medway in the East.  The Ice Hounds chased the title all season, finishing close second to the Bracknell Blizzard in the regular competition, only to be knocked out by close rivals, the Army Air Corps Ice Hawks, in the Play Off semi-finals.The loss went against the form book, when many in the Conference predicted the Ice Hounds would be in the finals, competing against the previous year’s runners up, the Bracknell Blizzards.So it’s been with the scars of the early bath last season, which the Ice Hounds have built on their already sound squad, adding seasoned veterans, as well as relative rookies to the line up for 2010/11.  And the recruitment during the off season has paid off throughout the expanded 2011 Southern Conference, as Ice Hounds have pretty much spent the entire competition at the top of the West table, only narrowly missing out on finishing in the top spot, pipped by their closest rivals – the Army Air Corps Ice Hawks – who finished on equal points, but had a better goal difference.

Going in the West playoffs, the Cardiff Ice Hounds were to be drawn against third placed Cardiff Eagles – providing both teams with a little ‘road trip’ rest bite, playing both legs of the semi-final in Cardiff’s Big Blue Tent.  The Ice Hounds took both legs convincingly, winning the first leg 12-2 and 8-4 in the second, seeing them progress onto the West finals, to face the Ice Hawks (who had wiped the ice with the Solihull Vipers 14-2 and 10-1).

The Ice Hounds travelled to Basingstoke on Sunday, to play the West playoff final first leg, with the less than sociable face off time of 10:15pm.  Both teams were fired up, knowing that neither has been successful in putting more than a 2 to 3 goal margin on the other, meaning that it really was set to be a two leg affair.  But road weary and lacking of the usual ‘weapons’ from the arsenal (notable absence of play maker, David ‘Dease’ Owen and prolific goal scorer, Andrew ‘Spud’ Davies) and despite hitting the first face off wanting to take the game straight to the Ice Hawks defensive zone, they quickly discovered that the home team were drilled to a higher standard than any previous meeting, quickly taking control of the game.The opening minutes, really was a great display of end to end hockey though, as the Ice Hounds managed to contain the Ice Hawks and break out of the zone.  But just 3 minutes in, Czech Peter Guman opened the scoring for the home side (unassisted), eliciting celebrations from the Ice Hawks bench, as if it had been the winning Stanley Cup final goal.

Just four minutes later, a Hooking penalty on Ice Hounds defenceman, Craig Balchin, gave the Ice Hawks a power play opportunity that they didn’t fail to capitalise on, as Guman yet again found the back of the Hounds’ net, assisted by Matt Saunders and Paul McKinnon.

Two goals down, the Ice Hounds dug deep and were rewarded with a goal in the tenth minute, when Ice Hawk Thomas Jordan was penalised for Holding, after attempting to ‘bear hug’ one of the Hounds to the ground.  In his first game back, following his knee injury, Alun Hancock opened the Ice Hounds account, assisted by Craig Camilleri.

But the feeling of being back in the game was short lived for the visitors, as Mark Austen scored the Ice Hawks third goal, just 30 seconds later.

In the closing minutes of the period, Hounds wing Steven Donovan was called for tripping and with the resultant Ice Hawks power play, the home side camped out in the Hounds’ defensive zone and with just with just 14 seconds left of the penalty, Paul Grace connected with a pass from Thomas Jordan, extending their margin to 3 goals.  And to add insult to injury for the Ice Hounds, with just 25 seconds left in the period, Mark Austen picked up his second (unassisted) goal, welcoming the first period break with a 5-1 score line.

Back in the Visitors dressing room, the Cardiff Ice Hounds were left to come to terms with a situation that they hadn’t faced all season, as they risked seeing the game slip away over two quick periods.  Gareth Shaw’s quick goal (assisted by Camilleri), just 30 seconds in to the second period, was hoped be the spring board for the Ice Hounds’ come back.  But a vicious trip on Camilleri, which resulted in an early shower due to injury, was no doubt part of the catalyst for a loss of discipline, which (combined with some questionable officiating) saw the Ice Hounds rack up the penalty minutes.  With power centre, Gavin Burns also retiring from the game, with a suspected broken fist, the Ice Hounds were forced to put together scratch lines, with players double shifting.  The Ice Hawks took full advantage of the weakened Hounds, putting a further 3 goals on the score board.

Going into the final period, the weakened Hounds knew that the only tactic was damage limitation, despite emotions running high within both squads.  Some heroic defence, combined with some first glass work between the pipes from netminder Martin Chalke, saw Ice Hounds shut out the relentless European offence of the Ice Hawks, for all but one goal.  The defensive effort took its toll though, leaving Hounds super-fit winger, Steven Donovan drained from double shifting and sitting out the closing minutes.

With a final score line of 9-2 in favour of the Army Air Corps, Saturday’s return leg in Cardiff will no doubt make for an interesting match.  Not least as it will see the return of Owen and Davies to the Ice Hounds squad, but also because Sunday’s meeting resulted in a total of 64 minutes in penalties, 44 of which, were picked up by the Ice Hounds.

The Cardiff Ice Hounds host the Army Air Corps Ice Hawks this coming Saturday (23rd July) at the Cardiff Bay Ice Arena, following Summer Cup Champions 2011, Cardiff Titans match against Solent.

The Titans face off at 4:30pm and then the hottest contest of the night will face off at 7:15pm, as the Cardiff Ice Hounds make a last ditch attempt to take the West playoff title and progress onto the Conference finals.  The Ice Hounds are hoping to offer a true ‘home rink’ experience to the Army Air Corps, with as much support as possible.  They’re inviting everyone to come on down and enjoy an evening of free ice hockey.

For more information on the Cardiff Ice Hounds:

Web – www.cardifficehounds.co.uk

Twitter – @cardifficehound

Facebook – www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Cardiff-Ice-Hounds

Ice Hound – Gareth Shaw

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