Haringey Huskies 4, Invicta Mustangs 2

National Ice Hockey League – South 2

11th March 2023

By Tom Pink

We’re talking milestones; distance and meaning.

We’re talking 150 games over 6 years.

We’re talking never missing a competitive match.

It’s a bonkers stat but it tells you everything you need to know about Stuart Appleby and how he conducts his business on and off the ice. All I hear about Stu is that he’s a consummate professional, the pro’s pro. It was a captain’s performance he put in on Saturday night, outstanding stuff and he deserves all the plaudits we can throw his way. All of them. Our Mayor of Haringey.

You’ve been part of a bit of history as well; you can now say you were there for the first competitive game at the Palace with the plexiglass in place. How great does it look though? I wrote in the first match report this season that I was really encouraged by the level of promotion Alexandra Palace were doing for the Huskies, and this has to be seen in the same light. I also imagine it’s a culmination of hard work on behalf of the club management, so well done all involved.

It sadly brings an end to the post-match fist bump, but you can’t have everything.

In terms of atmosphere, that was right up there again. Another of those famous nights we’ve been so lucky to have this season. I quite liked the addition of drums and I know it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I suppose that’s kind of the point. It certainly raised the tension.

That was hard work though. For large parts of that Haringey have to dig very, very deep to live with Invicta particularly in the first period.

It’s a really lively start to the game. Both teams looking to finish as high up the table as possible for those important playoff berths.

There’s little in the way of control in that first period from either side. For large parts it’s end-to-end stuff but with little quality in the offensive zones. We found it really hard to build any kind of meaningful attack and never really established our forecheck. Even on the two early power plays, we struggled to play through a harrying Invicta line and build our attack.

Péter Tóth stepped into the first line to fill in for the absent Matt France. Sam Roberts nearly plays in Marton Szasz at the slot. Sam, Tom Avery and Ryan Gadeke combine to find Ryan at the crease but he can’t quite control the puck. Ryan McFarlane does well in a 2-on-1 situation to narrow the angle and prevent a shot.

There’s a big save made by Luke Clark from the slot which nestles into his chest. Leo de Souza was a livewire the entire game. He does really well winning possession back in our defensive zone, and did that several times throughout the night.

Stephen Woodford shows really good hands to shift away from a couple of Invicta players, and Pete runs the boards on the right but can’t find a mate centrally.

At the death of the first, Luke Clark makes an outrageous save with his elbow to stop the puck going in shortside. 8 and 7 shots on goal summed the first up well.

The second is better. Mac has a shot from the point saved by Invicta goalie Wyatt’s blocker. Jaden Boolkah does well to keep the puck in the O-zone and Stu rips one on net only to see it blocked by an outstretched leg. Luke Martin picks out Joe Willingham but he can’t find the twine either.

There’s chances without sustained pressure from the Huskies. Bradley Taylor sends a slapper from the point which gets gloved.

The Invicta goal feels like it’s been coming. They work it to the right wing and forward Jake Stedman shoots shortside and it squirms past Luke and in with 7 left in the period.

But importantly, heads don’t drop. Stu continues to put himself about with a few well-timed hits. Ryan Gadeke makes a great block on an Invicta shot.

With 5 remaining, the puck gets turned-over in centre ice and breaks for Bradley who finds himself alone in the offensive zone. Bradley carries the puck straight down the slot, picks his spot, and sends it topshelf for a lovely equalising goal.

We finish the second strong and that first goal seems to be the catalyst that we were waiting for. Joe gets into the crease and tries to jam the puck home but can’t find a gap. Tom has a great opportunity on an odd-man rush but dallies on the puck too long. Soon after, he sees a shot ring of the post.

Leo continues to be everywhere all at once. He chases everything, and has two shots early on from the right but can’t convert. Marton plays Woody in across the blue lines but his breakaway chance is saved.

The goal that had to be scored is then scored. It had to be Stu, it had to be this game, on this occasion. I don’t have a great sight of it but it’s scored from close, and the celebrations when it goes in are as you’d expect for our one-and-a-half-centurion. From here Haringey never look back.

Sam has a deft touch, passing the puck with his skate along the blueline which oh-so-nearly falls perfectly for a white jersey. Tom and Ryan Gadeke craft a really good opportunity up against a single Mustangs player but they can’t get it right.

Bradley sends one on net from the point which is dropped, only for Tom to snatch it home for 3-1 with 5 minutes left on the clock.

That goal really took the sting out of the game, but Invicta don’t give up. With just over a minute left, they score from the left farside to keep it interesting and a one-goal game.

I was waiting and waiting for the Mustangs to pull their goalie. At 2-3 with just over a minute left they could have forced overtime. But they leave it far too late. With only 20 seconds to make an impact, they pull the keeper.

The puck gets turned-over in centre ice and it’s worked to Tom on the left. Even before he receives it the shouts of “SHOOOOOT” boom out around the Palace. Tom obliges and lifts it from the neutral zone over the Invicta players and into the back of the net with 3 seconds remaining in the game. Absolutely brilliant.

It was only ever going to be Stu for Player of the Match, but his shift on Saturday absolutely deserved it.

It’s now looking increasingly unlikely that the Peterborough league away game will be fulfilled, given that the playoff quarter finals are scheduled for the March 25th/26th weekend. Ironically it could be Peterborough that we face, depending on their final position. I have a suspicion that it eventually will be them, rather than Streatham.

There are several games left across the league that are TBC, and we may see points forfeited if these can’t go ahead. Will they be scheduled for after the playoffs? It would seem silly to me but your guess is as good as mine.

The news that the finals weekend will be held at the Palace is obviously great, but there is

a serious job to be done in getting there. There’s probably more pressure on Haringey to be there now, as the hosts. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

We’ve travelled a long way down this winding road so far this year, but there are still some big milestones we can reach, that are within sight. The first of those is a place in the final four in April. Whoever the opponents, let’s make the quarter final at the Palace another of those famous nights.