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Essex rivals to give Raiders run for their money

PUBLISHED: 12:30 03 September 2011

Raiders are ready for new season

Raiders are ready for new season

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Power to the People: ENL team guide

A new ice hockey season gets underway then today (Saturday) and some feel it could be a two-horse race for the ENL title.

Romford player-coach Danny Marshall certainly has plenty of belief in his squad, which is largely unchanged after going so close to honours last season.

But Essex rivals Chelmsford – the defending play-off champions – are being tipped for the top by neutral observers under new player-coach Gary Clarke.

There are a handful of new faces among the Chieftains – Matt Turner has returned to Romford this summer – but Clarke looks to have pieced together a strong squad if last weekend’s convincing challenge wins over Streatham are any guide.

Dwayne Newman will be like a rock at the back after dropping down from EPL Peterborough, while David Wride will provide Ben Clements with healthy competition between the pipes.

Tom Avery, Alan Green and Connor Stokes bring new young blood to the line-up, along with Slovakian Jakub Klima.

But the prolific Clarke could be his side’s most dangerous weapon, if he does not find juggling playing and coaching too difficult.

One thing is certain, all Essex derbies are set to be as eagerly-awaited and hard-fought as ever this season. Too bad we’ve got to wait so long (three weeks, September 25) until the first one!

ENL TEAM GUIDE

Bracknell Hornets

Coach: Lukas Smital.

Last season (W-D-L): Eighth (13-5-22).

Ex-Raiders: None.

Key man: Danny Hughes, experienced sniper will need to provide goals for young squad.

Prediction: Sneaked into a play-off place last time around, but will be stung this time.

Bristol Pitbulls

Coach: Ritchie Hargreaves.

Last season: Tenth (7-2-31).

Ex-Raider: Alastair Band.

Key man: Steven Fisher, will give Pitbulls more bite in offence after move from Cardiff.

Prediction: A year older and wiser, Bristol will hope for more Ws, but lack of depth could hurt them in a tougher division.

Cardiff Devils

Coach: Mark Cuddihy.

Last season: Sixth (14-6-20).

Ex-Raiders: Mike Brabon, Phil Manny.

Key man: Jason Stone, defenceman with over 1,000 games for Elite League Devils comes ‘home’ from Swindon.

Prediction: A match for any team on their night, with some good young additions, they can expect same again in Wales.

Chelmsford Chieftains

Coach: Gary Clarke.

Last season: Second (28-8-4); play-off champions.

Ex-Raiders: Ben Clements, Alex Green, Dan Wright, Danny Hammond, Tom Long.

Key man: Gary Clarke, new player-coach has enjoyed a prolific career and will be expected to top 100 points at this level.

Prediction: Among the front-runners, possible favourites even?

Invicta Dynamos

Coach: Kevin Parrish.

Last season: Fourth (25-5-10).

Ex-Raiders: Andy Moffat, Adam Copland, Grant Baxter, Nicky Lewis, Mike Timms.

Key man: Andy Smith, will play a lead role again in Dynamos offence.

Prediction: Lost their way during second half of last season and will rely on Moffat staying injury and suspension-free.

Isle of Wight

Coach: Jeremy Cornish.

Last season: Champions (30-6-4).

Ex-Raider: None.

Key man: Liam McAllister, pressure is on young goalie after spell as back-up at Elite League Newcastle.

Prediction: Lots of changes could make it hard for the ‘Ryde Raiders’ to defend their title.

MK Thunder

Coach: Simon Howard.

Last season: Seventh (14-4-22).

Ex-Raiders: Jamie Randall, Steve Maile.

Key man: Pavol Valko, will be interesting to see if he plays like his dad, a former Raiders defenceman.

Prediction: Looking for a play-off place once again, but may not get it this time.

Oxford Stars

Coach: Ken Forshee.

Last season: Ninth (13-5-22).

Ex-Raiders: Chris Douglas, Fraser Hendry.

Key man: Chris Douglas, flamboyant goalie drops down from EPL level and will keep Oxford in their share of games.

Prediction: Must improve on disappointing finish last season. Should make play-offs this time.

Slough Jets

Coach: Adam Greener.

Last season: ENL2 champions (18-2-4).

Ex-Raiders: None.

Key man: Zoran Kozic, former Yugoslav international averaged six points per game last season and will be expected to lead the way again.

Prediction: Surprise package, maybe even a top six place?

Streatham Redskins

Coach: Barry Spours.

Last season: Fifth (16-7-17).

Ex-Raiders: Warren Rost, Norm Pinnington.

Key man: Scott Moody, former GB international returns to the sport after a break and will strengthen Redskins defence.

Prediction: Will do well to improve on last season’s fifth place.

Prediction: 1 Romford, 2 Chelmsford, 3 Invicta, 4 Isle of Wight, 5 Cardiff, 6 Oxford, 7 Streatham, 8 Slough, 9 Bracknell, 10 M Keynes, 11 Bristol.

Last year: 1 Isle of Wight, 2 Chelmsford, 3 Romford, 4 Invicta, 5 Streatham, 6 Cardiff, 7 M Keynes, 8 Bracknell, 9 Oxford, 10 Bristol, 11 Swindon.


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