11:00AM, Saturday 20 September 2014
Slough's new-style Jets iced for the first time at Haringey on Saturday in a defiant gesture to doomsayers who believed the club would never compete again, writes Bryce Martin.
After much public hand-wringing and breast-beating about financial hardships last season, confirmation came in April from owners Zoran and Ghislaine Kozic that the Jets were to quit from the English Premier Ice Hockey League.
Founded in 1986 and members of the EPL since 2002, the Jets had long been one of the top contenders under the Kozics’ ownership since they took over the team in 2006 – winning three play-offs in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Once able to command a four-figure following, the 2013/14 campaign saw falling crowds and lack of extra sponsors take their toll both on and off the ice to the point where the Kozic family decided that a Slough team in the second tier of British hockey was no longer viable.
But they were also representing Slough, a town which perhaps deserves better than to see its senior football club still struggling to reclaim a place of its own inside the borough after a decade-long exile; its elite hockey teams either in decline or at least under a shadow of a glorious past; and four rugby clubs competing fiercely for a modest pool of players.
Against this backdrop, the young Jets proudly carried a new logo into uncharted waters with youth, hope and determination their best assets for what will no doubt be a long and difficult campaign.
But Zoran Kozic is standing by the team and new club coach Tony Milton had made several promising captures in the build-up to the season – one in which home-grown talent will face its greatest test. The hope will be to survive – then succeed.
That’s where a club’s fans play a major role. But so often supporters are their club’s fiercest critics – and this only undermines the efforts, particularly of young players.
So the Jets’ fans remain the club’s greatest asset – and success or failure will be in no small part down to them. It’s going to be a fascinating, if a roller-coaster, season.
NIHL 2 Cup
London Haringey Racers 2
Slough Jets 7
(Period scores: 0-1; 0-4; 2-2)
THEJets went on a goal-spree with six names on the scoresheet in their opening game of the new campaign at Alexandra Palace on Saturday.
With very little practice time and missing four influential potential goalscorers from their line-up, the new side nevertheless gave an excellent account of themselves against physical opponents.
The Jets showed superior skills in almost all areas of play and effectively won the game in the second period with four goals in the space of five minutes.
A double from Ben Earley-Newton, plus strikes from Timo Lindgren and Andrew Cox adding to the opener from new singing Conor Redmond in the opening stanza, gave the Jets an unassailable 5-0 lead.
Frustrations surfaced in the final session as the game became more physical and both the referee and time-keeper had to work hard to keep on top of the situation.
A scramble around the net saw the gloves come off between Jets Graham Bellamy and Racers Webster. On paper Webster should have come out on top but Bellamy did a great job in stepping in and holding his ground to protect his netminder.
As a result of the fracas, Jets’ replacement between the pipes Simon Johnston was ejected for roughing while the two scrappers sat out the remainder of the game in the sin bin.
Earlier, Alan Green had made it 6-0 before the Racers hit the Jets twice on the powerplay, but Liam Underdown ensured Slough had the final word as they finished with their tails up.
Jets coach Tony Milton took heart from the performance, saying: “The players can be very pleased on their first outing with key players missing and against tough opponents. It shows the real depth of this season’s squad.”
Scorers: Redmond (J Ealey-Newton/Tribble); B Ealey-Newton (2); Lindgren (Cox); Cox; Green (Underdown/Redwood); Underdown (B Ealey-Newton).
Man of the match: Andrew Cox
W The Jets continue with cup action against Wightlink Tigers at The Hangar tomorrow (Saturday), face-off at 6.30pm.
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