Romford Weekend Review

By Tom Pink

It’s moments.

Big and small, it’s the moments that define us.

I loved being back at the Palace for the first time this season. Loved everything about it. Even loved that the clock was broken; classic Alexandra Palace. There’s a certain charm we have that other rinks just can’t replicate. We like to do things differently.

The difference between your South 2 Haringey Huskies and the South 1 Romford Buccaneers on Saturday was three moments. Two of level-headed coolness to find the back of the net, one of sheer opportunistic determinedness. Oh, and a hatful of saves by Luke Clark.

Let’s be clear, we had our moments too, but it’s what you do in the moments that counts. That wasn’t the best that South 1 has to offer. That wasn’t even the best that Romford Buccaneers have to offer, but it might be that we find that teams at that level take their chances more often than not. They pick their moments.

In terms of personnel, it’s as you were for our first line with Péter Tóth stepping in to partner Jaden Boolkah in defence in the absence of Matt France.

It’s a frantic start. High energy from both teams, but there’s an edginess there, just feeling each other out.

Stephen Woodford goes round the back of the net and finds Jaden Boolkah but there’s no one in the slot for him to pick out. Bradley Taylor carries it across centre ice but can’t find the shot. Stuart Appleby’s shot from the left is blocked.

The Buccaneers start to dominate without any real penetration. I thought Corey Taylor does a marvellous job clearing up around the net. All the juniors in fact, Ben Beldecos and Alex Benson included, play well beyond their years and you’d be hard pushed to pick them out if you didn’t already know they were playing.

Luke makes some monster saves, absolutely ridiculous 1-on-1 situations, and he snatches three or four nailed on goals right out of the air. Romford kept looking to play across both lines and break, and several times they got in. Luke gloved a few of these and was a total brick wall early on.

Sam Roberts makes a huge hit in our zone; Matt Hepburn chases and chases, constantly in the face of the Romford players. Our best chance of the period falls to Marton Szasz, whose shot from the right rings off the iron.

So far, so good! We’re competitive, we’re causing them problems, it feels evenly matched with Romford having perhaps the better chances.

The second starts, and both teams have shots early on that go wide of the mark. Joe Tearall does well to keep possession and his shot from the right gets blocked. Jaden has a look from the point, and his blocked shot almost loops into the top corner of the net, but eventually drops behind.

The Buccanners score after five minutes; Joe Tomalin spins past two Huskies and shoots low far side from the right for 1-0. Two minutes later they double their lead, with forward Luca Pascale scoring from the left on a breakaway. Moments.

New boys Conner Smith and Joe Tearall combine, and there’s some nice plays and everything to suggest that there’s plenty more to come from these two. Conner finds Joe in the offensive zone, but his shot is saved and dribbles wide. At the end of the period they almost craft a decisive chance but can’t find each other at the crucial point. 

The third period starts in tragicomic fashion. We lose the puck behind our net and it’s a simple goal for 3-0. Put it down to pre-season rustiness.

Pete makes a brilliant block in the slot to cut out a pass and then skates into the o-zone, but his shot’s saved. Joe and Conner have two last chances each, Joe stealing the puck in the high slot, skating to the crease, holding off Romford players, but can’t score with his backhander. With 5 minutes left, Conner gets on the breakaway but can’t find a way past Romford goalie Sonny Philips.

Player of the match goes to Alex Benson who had a brilliant game all round.

Sunday was a different affair altogether.

Ryan Gadeke returned and replaced Stephen in the first line.

It’s another fast, aggressive start from both sides without much control. Conner shows strength and speed to breakaway and gets a shot off down the slot which fires wide.

The returning Ryan Gadeke scores Haringey’s first goal of the night and this friendly double header. I completely missed it… sorry Ryan! It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. Two minutes later the game’s tied; the puck’s bundled in by ex-Husky Nathan Long after Haringey can’t get control.

Cue more Luke Clark wonder saves. With seven minutes left in the period, the Buccaneers are well on top. Luke makes an amazing leg save at the backdoor, and then moments later gloves a shot from the left.

Ben puts his body on the line with a block in the high slot. Leo De Souza throws himself about and we imposed ourselves as a team and as individuals a lot more on Sunday.

Seb Downing shows great speed to recover the puck and Bradley shoots on the turn from the blue line but it’s a stick save.

There’s almost, almost a fantastic wraparound goal from Ben, but Sonny Philips is quick to get back and cover the puck. Stu dives to keep the puck in the offensive zone and keep the momentum.

Eventually it pays off. Marton gets put through and his shot is saved, but it bounces awkwardly and the Captain’s there to make sure it crosses the line. 2-1 Huskies and a deserved lead at the end of the second.

It’s back and forth in the third. Marton carries it well along the boards but can’t find a pass at the end of it. Considering how physical he has been, and how intense his shifts, Leo seems to have boundless energy. A really good game from him I thought.

From our forecheck, the puck breaks and we can’t get a stick on it. The Romford forward goes 1-on-1 with Luke and scores 5-hole to restore parity with nine minutes left.

We get a bit of 5-on-3 hockey but can’t convert from the powerplay. In fact we almost concede a shorthanded goal, but Luke comes to the rescue yet again and saves the 1-on-1, and our blushes.

Matt’s shot from the faceoff is saved, as is Seb’s from the blueline. Romford turn the screw and with three minutes left in the game, they score from the left point after some sustained pressure to take the lead for the first time.

But it’s an instant response from the Black and White, with Joe levelling it up with his first goal as a Husky from close range on the left.

It goes to overtime, but we really could have skipped it. Sixteen seconds after the face-off it’s all over; Romford skate into our defensive zone and score far side from the right. All done. The most anticlimactic of moments that.

Unsurprisingly it’s Luke who’s awarded player of the match for some sensational heroics between the pipes. Forty shots faced, and 37 on Saturday. A great performance over the weekend.

So what can we learn from these games, if anything?

Both teams were short benched across the weekend, Romford perhaps more so. It’s ultimately two losses, but it’s two close games against a side that won 11 and lost 17 in last years’ South 1, and playoff semi-finalists to boot.

Can we imagine a scenario where we win at least one of these games? Yes, I think so and I don’t think we’re too far off. Can we see a future in which we’re competitive at this level? Definitely.

I think the biggest take away is how close we are. Saturday it was those moments, those little bits of quality, but Sunday could have easily been ours.

I won’t be at the next two games against Bristol and Lee Valley; I will be following the updates, however, on the relaunched MNL twitter account (@HuskiesMNL) from my honeymoon in Japan (a glutton for punishment I know…).

I was really looking forward to seeing the new Lee Valley Ice Centre, but that will have to wait. Everything I’ve seen of it so far looks fantastic.

Saturday 16th promises to be a brilliant game though. Bristol took two points away from the Palace last year in overtime, but we have a chance to make it two losses out of two for the Pitbulls, as they lost their opening game of the season 4-2 to Guildford Phoenix. A bit of early pressure on last years’ league winners wouldn’t go amiss.

Enjoy, all who attend, and here’s hoping we can take all four points. Let’s make it our moment.

Photos by Phil Hutchinson (@77phil77sports)