Returning Connolly wants Raiders to realise potential

Aaron Connolly on the puck for the Everyone Active Raiders

Aaron Connolly on the puck for the Everyone Active Raiders - Credit: John Scott

Aaron Connolly says the Everyone Active Raiders need to start realising their potential, after agreeing to return for a fourth season with the Romford club.

Connolly has captained Sean Easton's side in the National League and Spring Cup in past seasons and has his own thoughts on their next steps.

"My time here feels like it has gone really quickly, but I think it's time for us to push on," he said.

"The core of the team has been together for a long time now and we need to turn that ‘young team with lots of potential’ into results.

"Realistically, we need to be aiming to cement our place in the play-offs with a mid-table finish. I think it’s achievable and we all know once you make the play-offs anything is possible."

Raiders took part in the five-team Spring Cup earlier this year, as the sport in the UK continued along a return to play roadmap out of the coronavirus pandemic.

And Connolly, who scored five goals and five assists in the 12-game series, admits he is looking forward to getting back to a full schedule, after missing almost a full calendar year and then playing behind closed doors, with noisy crowds back at the Sapphire Ice & Leisure Centre.

Most Read

He added: "he last year and a bit has been hard for everyone in different ways, however getting back to some kind of normality will be great.,

"I can envisage a carnival type atmosphere for our first game with the Gold and Blue Army back in the Sapphire. 

"For me the last year has shown how important our supporters are, I strongly believe without fans we would have no ice hockey in the UK.

"The organisation should be so proud of how they handled the pandemic, coming out the other side stronger and being involved in the Spring Cup is a big achievement. I know there has been countless hours put in by many to get us to this point but I just want to say a huge thank you to management, matchday staff and of course the fans that stuck with us."

Having played their last National League game in March 2020, before the UK's first national lockdown, Raiders returned alongside Bees IHC, Sheffield Steeldogs, Swindon Wildcats and Telford Tigers in the Spring Cup.

Aaron Connolly attacks for Everyone Active Raiders against Telford during the Spring Cup

Aaron Connolly attacks for Everyone Active Raiders against Telford during the Spring Cup - Credit: John Scott

The competition helped several members of the Great Britain squad get ice time ahead of the World Championships in Latvia, with fans following the action on live streams.

And Connolly, who now has 69 goals and 57 assists to his name as a Raider, admitted it was a big challenge facing the likes of Sheffield trio Liam Kirk, Ben O'Connor and Jonathan Phillips.

He added: "It was strange not having our fans on a game day, however this pandemic was way bigger than hockey. When you put what some have been through in the last year into perspective we were hugely fortunate to be allowed out of the house let alone being able to do what we love.

"Hopefully the Spring Cup brought some type of normality back to those who watched and they’re raring to get back in the building on our first game night. 

"I certainly think the Spring Cup helped us. For most of us that will probably be the highest level of hockey we will play in our career. The results weren’t what we were looking for but again just to be involved is a huge achievement, especially considering some of the ‘bigger clubs’ in the NIHL did not participate."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter