Saturday 4th September – Haringey Huskies 1, Guildford Phoenix 4

Sunday 5th September – Guildford Phoenix 1, Haringey Huskies 0

By Tom Pink

This has been a tough one to write.

It’s been made tougher because of the point in the season that these results have come, because of how we’ve played in the games preceding, and because of our history against the Guildford Phoenix.

We’ve had 48 hours to sit with this, and I’m at pains not to catastrophise. So I assure you, there is still a lot of hope, but you’ll have to bear with me. I promise we’ll get there.

We go into Saturday’s game on top of the world, high as a kite, league leaders and with a palpable sense that what wasn’t possible last year is absolutely on the cards tonight: a Huskies win.

Haringey tried something different, lining-up with Matt and James Hepburn and Joe Willingham in attack. There’s an argument that says these three lads are going to give you everything, be big and dynamic and get around the ice. They’re all aggressive, good skaters and we look to go out and try to blitz Guildford and out-work them.

But we’ve played really well the last two games, scoring 17 goals in the process. So if it ain’t broke, why try and fix it? I wonder if fears of a repeat of last years’ meetings prompted this tactical tweak. The coaches may have spotted something which they think they can exploit.

I think the first 10 are really even. Guildford get off to the better start but Haringey settle into it and it’s end-to-end stuff. Ryan Gadeke has a shot saved bottom left and Ryan Payne continues his fine form, having another good game overall.

It’s physical with some early hits by Matt France, Stephen Woodford, and James. Marton Szasz shoots from a tight angle from the right, but it’s saved. Joe is excellent, collecting the puck in our zone and helping our defensive line reclaim possession.

But Guildford show their quality with an odd-man rush, 3-on-2 sweeping from left to right across the ice and they score from the right-hand D after 10 minutes to take the lead.

The game becomes a bit bitty and stop-start. Matt France does brilliantly to stop an attack with a timely poke check, and Ryan McFarlane has a snipe from the point gloved.

It’s that partnership of Sam Roberts and Tom Avery who bail us out again, right at the death of the first. Sam finds Tom in the slot who finishes bottom left with a minute left and the Palace erupts. Game on!

The Huskies come out pushing for another goal in the second, and after a couple of Phoenix penalties we find ourselves with a 5-on-3 power play. What a start to the period.

But the unthinkable happens. The Phoenix second goal is horrendous from the Huskies’ perspective. You should not be conceding on a 5-on-3 power play. Guildford beat our forecheck and breakaway 2-on-1 for a lead-restoring shorthanded goal. Suckerpunch.

From that point on we toil and toil and try to find a goal to get back into it. Joe shows great strength to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Tom plays a bit of dump and chase with himself.

In the third, Bryn Griffiths’ slapper is blocked and Jaden Boolkah has a look just wide from the blue line. Luke Clark makes an amazing double save, first from the right then the left on the follow-up.

With 3 and a half left in the game Guildford bury the dagger, and a shot from the left point squeezes through Luke and into the net for 3-1.

The empty-netter is a formality, and the Huskies will be disappointed with the 4-1 loss, particularly with their inability to score as there were plenty of good opportunities. James Hepburn gets Player of the Match.

What would Sunday bring at the Spectrum? That result probably threw this reverse into a must-win in terms of the league.

It’s another close affair, and I think Haringey can count themselves severely unlucky but the same problem they had on Saturday still lingers on; scoring.

Again we go with Matt and James Hepburn, and Ryan Gadeke comes in for the absent Joe Willingham. Matt France and Jaden Boolkah keep their places in the starting line.

We start much better than we did on Saturday and the first period is really encouraging. Jaden works it to Marton, who finds Stuart Appleby, but his pass across the crease can’t be reached by anyone. Leo de Souza has a shot from the right gloved. Sam finds himself in possession in the slot but can’t steady himself for a shot. It’s really good play from Haringey, who have more possession, but that goal still eludes them.

The second starts the way the first ended. Sam picks a pocket, but his shot flies over the bar. Bradley Taylor chances his arm from the point, only to see it smothered. Tom fires just wide. Chances, chances, chances.

It’s a desperately unlucky goal when it comes. I really feel for Luke. I think he gets caught in two minds.

Jaden is in a foot race with one of the Guildford attackers to get to the puck, travelling towards the Haringey goal line. There might have been a lack of communication; will Jaden take the puck away, or is Luke claiming it? In the end it’s Luke but he releases it instantly straight down the slot and into the path of Josh Sherrington who scores bottom left. 1-0. Sickener.

We carry on trying to make the breakthrough. Leo goes the length of the boards and finds Sam in the slot whose shot is saved. Ryan Gadeke flashes it across the crease but again, no one’s there for the finish.

The third is just pure frustration. Haringey go and go again, desperately trying to find a goal but unable to find a moment of real quality. Luke Clark puts in some heroics to keep the deficit to 1. Tom finds Leo in the slot but he’s knocked off the puck before he can get a shot away.

The game gets scrappy and time just runs out for the Huskies. It ends 1-0 with Péter Tóth claiming Player of the Match for his good all-round performance.

And so Haringey are unable to do what Invicta, Chelmsford, and Peterborough have all done this season and take points off Guildford in the league.

I will be fascinated to see what we do if/when we meet them in the playoffs and cup. We’ve tried something different and that hasn’t quite worked. What’s encouraging is that we’re still creating lots of chances. I’d be much more worried if we weren’t. The law of averages says that eventually some of them will be converted.

We need to pick ourselves up and go again this Saturday when Peterborough come to the Palace. This will be another tough game against a team who have beaten Guildford twice this year, but have had mixed results elsewhere.

All we can do now is focus on what we can control, and try to win these last four games of the season. It’s 2 losses in a weekend. It’s probably the league gone. It’s further inability to beat one of our big rivals. So how can I convince you to be hopeful? What can we hold onto here?

Well; we know we can play some brilliant stuff when we want to and have shown that plenty of times this year; some of our performance in both games but especially on Sunday gives me a lot to hold onto; we are still masters of our own destiny in the cup and the playoffs; we’re the Haringey Huskies, and you can’t keep us down for long.

Let’s Go Huskies

Photos by Phil Hutchinson – @77phil77sports –