Haringey Huskies 7, Cardiff Fire 1

NIHL2 – 21st October 2023

By Tom Pink

What a win. Not just the result, but the manner.

It’s always nice to score lots, but to do it at a canter, to do it with control and authority. That’s a very good sign.

We’ve become used to everything at 100 miles per hour so far this season. Helter skelter end-to-end hockey. Haringey made this look as straightforward and pedestrian as they come. At no point did I feel as if I was having an aneurism or that I’d forgotten to breathe for the past 90 seconds. Performances like this I could get used to!

In the pre-season write-up I said that if we could be in a strong position after our first five games, it could set us on our way for the rest of the season. Of course, that’s just an arbitrary number and the aim will be to win all our games, but it’s a number that includes five significant games against some big names in South 2.

From those first five you might have taken eight points. With the way things went last year against Bristol, you might even have taken six or seven. But to be sitting on 5-0-0 with 10 points from a possible 10 is something else.

There is a very very long way to go still. It’s the luxury and curse of the supporter to be able to look ahead. To hope and to dream. To get carried away.

You can look ahead and see Lee Valley at home, who gave us a tough game at their new barn; back-to-back weekends against an unpredictable Chelmsford, capable of beating Invicta and Streatham but also of shipping plenty of goals; away to a Peterborough side who are five from six with dominant wins, their only blip a 1-0 loss to Cardiff for the curtain raiser; and Streatham at home which is always, always a hard fought affair.

It’s been an excellent start to the season, obviously. We’ve seen Haringey dig in and battle, we’ve seen them hold on and grit their teeth. On Saturday we got to see them purr.

It’s a loose start for both sides. No one can get a grip on the game, it’s tetchy and for three and a half minutes there’s not a great deal of quality on display.

Out of absolutely nothing though, Stephen Woodford slots from the right. 1-0. Bang. Not really against the run of play or with it, just a goal in a game that hadn’t really started yet.

The Hepburn brothers link up. Matt with great hands to take the puck past two Cardiff players and find James on the right. The return pass is good but Matt’s shot from the slot is deflected wide.

A minute later and it’s 2-0. What a start.

Ben Beldecos and Luke Martin combine, as they did all game. I thought Ben impressed with every shift he played. Luke chases the puck into the offensive zone, controls, and from behind the net puts it on a plate for Ryan Gadeke in the slot. Easy.

It’s one way traffic. So many chances for Haringey to extend their lead. Jaden Boolkah’s wrister from the blueline is saved and no one can force in the dropped puck. Conner Smith dangles but gets blocked off. Marton Szasz fires over from the left wing.

All very calm, all very composed.

Luke Clark makes a catch off the plexiglass to a great cheer from the crowd. Stuart Appleby skates past a couple of Cardiff players and has a backhander gloved from the right.

There’s a hairy moment at the end of the first period where John Beldecos slips, but he recovers well to get back and pressure the Cardiff forwards.

Great, stress-free hockey!

The second gets underway, and we’re looking for more of the same.

Joe Willingham’s perseverance creates an opening for Conner but he can’t get control of it in the slot. Alex Benson makes a great interception to stop a breakaway in centre ice.

There’s another good recovery, this time from Ryan McFarlane. Even after slipping, Ryan still manages to stop the breakaway.

Matt France makes a good block from the point. Luke Martin brings the puck across both lines, but his shot from the left sails over. Went for placement not power with that one.

It’s the most dominant performance we’ve seen so far from Haringey this year.

With just over two minutes left in the period, Conner shoots high into the roof of the net, near enough skating backwards away from the goal. 3-0. It’s another goal a minute later, Stephen gets his second from close. 4-0. Quickfire.

We finish the period with three skaters on the ice, a Cardiff power play, and four goals to the good.

Straight back out for the third. Matt lays it off to Woody in the slot but he’s denied by the Cardiff netminder. A really good chance that.

Luke Clark’s unfortunate not to come away with the shutout. Cardiff get their goal and make it 4-1 on the power play. I don’t think Cardiff really offered that much going forward all game, but it was either 5-on-3 or 5-on-4 at that moment and they make it count.

Bryn Griffiths has a slapper from the point which flies wide. Mac shows good hands again, working his way past Cardiff players and away from danger.

Ben gets played through again but the netminder gets a shoulder to it. Ryan Gadeke does really well, winning the puck back in our defensive zone. His shot from centre ice isn’t that far wide. Conner finds Sam Roberts in the slot, but it’s a good save.

We had one last weekend, and we got one on Saturday. On the power play, Woody takes it past pretty much everyone in black and red, dekes, dekes, and goes top right for an amazing solo goal. Saved his best for last! It’s 5-1 with 10 minutes left and Haringey are enjoying themselves.

Joe Tearall slides a great pass across the slot but no one can make contact. John yet again comes out on top against the Cardiff forwards, showing superior strength and timing in a 1-on-1.

It genuinely was party time as Conner juggled the puck across centre ice and into the offensive zone. Shame it was pulled back! But Conner gets his chance again moments later, shooting from the right d, far side to make it 6. That’s five goals in the last two games, an impressive return.

Cardiff change goalie with a few minutes left, and Gemma Davies replaces Ben Scanlan.

Joe Tearall has another couple of good chances to score; first shooting low far side from the left, then going top shelf. Good efforts but both saved.

Luke Martin has the final say, in emphatic manner. It’s a laser from the right wing that seals  the evening. Haringey finish 7-1 winners, comfortably, and could have had more.

As good as Haringey are, it’s as lacklustre a Cardiff performance as we’ve seen at the Palace. I think they did have some suspensions, but the usual needle and physicality wasn’t there.

Player of the match goes to my guy Luke Martin who had a brilliant game, picking up a goal and an assist along the way.

It’s back to the Palace again next Saturday for Lee Valley. I missed the away game in September but it sounded like a closer affair than in recent years. The problem for Lee Valley, and in fact the rest of the teams in South 2, is that I can only see these Haringey Huskies getting better. Getting more ruthless. Getting more dominant.

It’s five down, 17 to go.

It’s a foundation, it’s a start, it’s an unblemished record.

It’s Your Haringey Huskies getting better and better all the time.