Nottingham Vipers opened their 2013/14 league campaign entertaining Telford Wrekin Raiders at the National Ice Centre. This fixture marked the Vipers debuts for Canadian Robin Mullen and new starting netminder Holly Steeples. Telford’s roster remained largely unchanged from last season.
After the puck drop, both teams started speculatively, perhaps showing signs of early season rustiness. Despite the slow start, both netminders were tested with Nottingham’s Holly Steeples coming up big for her team. At the 8:15 mark, Telford were handed a golden opportunity when Vipers number 8 Lucy Kendall landed a body check on an unsuspecting Telford player. However, it was Nottingham who capitalised when Robin Mullen stole the puck and netted on her debut to the give the Vipers a shorthanded 1-0 lead at 9.19. This was to prove the end of the action for the first period.
The second period saw the Vipers up the intensity, and it paid off instantly with Rebecca Cooke burying the puck after only 17 seconds. Telford refused to give up, and continued to push for their opening goal with only smart work from the Vipers defence, a goal post and some more stirling work from netminder Steeples denying them. It was to be Vipers who would land the killer blow at the end of the period, with two goals in two minutes. Robin Mullen popped up with her second of the night on the delayed penalty, with the assist going to alternate captain Michelle Peat at 27:57. Shortly afterwards, Telford could consider themselves the victims of some bad luck when a Kendra Hourd shot deflected off a Raiders player into their goal at 29:48.
The third period saw Nottingham content to sit on their lead, absorbing the Telford pressure as they pushed for a breakthrough, including an impressive five on three penalty kill when Lucy Ebinger and Micky Johnson took penalties for roughing and slashing respectively. Telford finally achieved this at 41:18, with Heather Metcalf firing past Nottingham’s Steeples, who was desperately unlucky not to get a shutout on her debut, saving 21 of 22 shots. Nottingham restored their four goal lead minutes later, with Laura Smith netting for her first of the season at 44:22, with assists going to Rebecca Cooke and Robin Mullen for her third point of the game. This was to conclude the action for this match, with Nottingham firmly in the knowledge that tougher tests are to come, starting with Kingston Diamonds on Sunday 6th October. Spirit of the game went to Lucy Ebinger for her hard work and consistency on the blue line.
Vipers started well and soaked up an early attack with Mickey stick checking and good work from the D. Paige had a breakaway but was dispossessed as the play swung from end to end. Nottingham had the first shot on goal with Cookie’s shot being covered by the Kingston keeper. Kingston quickly broke away but their effort was cleared by Michelle. Play continued back and forth with Debbie covering the puck twice and Wilko and Michelle working well together on the attack but being denied by the post. Paige came back to help in D, the puck up in the air forcing Debbie to catch high. With a Kingston 2 on 1 breakaway Mickey cleared the puck from in front of net. Debbie had a sprawling save during a bit of a kerfuffle in front with Katie clearing and Debbie scrambling another save. Kingston took the first penalty with Holly Cornford called for a bodycheck.
At the start of the second Nottingham took advantage of the extra skater with Katie converting. Nottingham were buoyed up by the go ahead and very quickly Paige scored a great goal, assisted Julia. Nottingham kept the pressure up with a long range effort from Cookie which was caught by the keeper. Play continued back and forth with Paige having a good effort and then Debbie being forced into action twice in quick succession. Almost half way through the period Kingston’s no.2 scored a well worked goal which went high over Debbie’s blocker. Kingston took a penalty for tripping Lucy, closely followed by Paige being called for slashing. 4 on 4. Nottingham pressured hard with Cookie being denied by the post. Then with Wilko in the bin for hooking Hull equalised following a mix up on the Nottingham goal line. Kingston 3, Nottingham 2 at the end of the second.
Nottingham started on the attack again but had to soak up a sustained period of pressure from Hull before Debbie had to pull out 2 good saves. Paige had a (high) shot then Julia had a shot. Hull then went on the attack firing high with the puck being covered. There was a lot of oohing and aahing from the Nottingham supporters as Nottingham could not get another as the puck went back and forth. Debbie was called into action again before Nottingham took control and equalised, scored Lucy, assisted Paige and Julia. Debbie caught the puck which was bobbling around keeping the Vipers hopes alive. Lucy took the puck full ice as Nottingham continued to press for a winning goal. Sadly this was not to be and with Paige in the box for interference, Hull scored a belter with 2 seconds left on the clock. Final score Hull 4, Nottingham 3.
Man of the Match : Debbie
After tasting victory in Telford last outing, Nottingham were hungry for another result and it didn’t take long to take the lead, after 1.20 Michelle assisted Frenchie. The game started with intensity and so it continued when at 2.42 and then again at 4.12 Billingham found themselves with a player in the box. Unfortunately Nottingham were unable to capitalise on the power play and took the next penalty at 5.06, Katie called for hooking. Nottingham worked really hard and were rewarded with a second goal scored Katie, assisted Frenchie at 12.42. A good start going 2 : 0 up into the break.
The second period saw Billingham start hard trying to claw back the 2 goal deficit and they scored three times in quick succession at 17.52, 20.01 and 21.24. Nottingham had to dig deep to keep the scoreline tight and at 28.03 they were able to convert a power play opportunity with Cookie scoring, assisted Frenchie and Specky. Evens at the second break!
Both teams had all to play for in the last 15. Vipers were first off the mark with Michelle getting her 2nd at 32.14, assisted Kate and Frenchie getting her fourth assist of the game However just over a minute later Billingham evened up the score. There was still all to play for but with Lucy Ebinger Maxwell in the box called for holding, Billingham punished Vipers with a power play goal at 37.14. Final score: Nottingham 4, Billingham 5
Player of the game: Becky Cook
What a feisty display all round, a real complement to the progression of team when the opposition comment and ask whether we have new players!
After an eventful journey to Telford, Nottingham arrived at the partly refurbished rink with double points at stake. After a poor start giving up the first goal at 1.13 Nottingham had their work cut out when Kendra was sent to the penalty box for hooking two minutes in. Telford also took a penalty which gave a spell on 4 on 4 play; when Nottingham had the man advantage they created several good chances but at 6.44 Telford were given far too much time and ice and scored again with a clear skate down the ice by no. 12. Clare Jones took 2 minutes for hooking which gave Telford the man advantage and at 7.24 they scored their third when the puck was not cleared from in front of Debi’s net. With another minute on the clock Nottingham scored only for the goal to be disallowed. Katie then kept Vipers hopes alive getting one back at 8.40 and with Wilko in the box for tripping Telford tried to make it count but Debi kept them at bay forcing a good save. On her return from the box Wilko had a couple of good chances, one just wide, and the other saved by the keeper. Vipers did not give up and at 12.12 Julia scored a good goal, assisted by Cookie bringing the deficit to one. Kendra then scored only for this goal also to be disallowed – what?! Nottingham were getting into their stride and with Julia in the box for a bodycheck Katie got her second for Nottingham to even the score. Debi was kept busy with Lucy K clearing the puck to give Paige an opportunity which pinged the bar. With Paige also being given a bodychecking penalty Nottingham had a good spell shorthanded before the period ended 3 all.
With Paige still in the box the period started badly for Nottingham with only three skaters on the ice and Telford not taking long to add another. Then with 1.19 gone Kendra scored her first (allowed) Vipers goal followed a minute later by Julia to give Nottingham the lead for the first time. Katie completed her hat trick at 2.26 following an error by the Telford keeper – Vipers were 2 up! The play intensified with some end to end stuff, some long shifts and good shots by both teams. Both teams had a player sent to the box, Katie was taken down in front of net and with a 5 on 3 advantage Specky assisted Katie for the period to end 4 : 7 in Vipers favour.
With only 28 seconds gone in the third Telford pulled one back following a stick save and an unlucky puck sliding in. There was good play from Katie who worked hard all game long, Lucy K opening up the ice and Debi clearing the puck. Kendra had another good shot, Specky playing well. At 6 minutes in Lucy K was sent to the box which gave Telford a chance which they converted to bring the score to 6 : 7. Paige had another sit down in the sin bin, joined by Specky which led to a 5 on 3 penalty kill for 28 seconds, Katie scoring her fourth whilst Vipers were short-handed. Rebecca Meats then scored her first goal giving Vipers a three goal lead 6 : 9 – bring your supporters again Rebecca After a good game Cookie put away the final goal of the game for a final score of 6 : 10. NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL DOUBLE POINTS!
With only a week having passed since Nottingham visited Sheffield it was time for the rematch. Nottingham played some of the best hockey I had seen them play over the last few years, but after a short poor spell in the third, Sheffield were again the victors.
The first period saw only one goal for Sheffield with Nottingham containing the opposition and in the second Nottingham dominated with a goal from Captain Coughill. Both sides started to get penalties as neither team could break the deadlock, becoming frustrated and starting to pick up penalties.
In the third Sheffield ranked up the pressure and during a 10 minute spell where Nottingham lost confidence and concentration, Sheffield were rewarded with 6 goals coming at 33.15, 33.44 38.31, 39.06, 40.48 and 44.01. Nottingham were only able to muster one more at 42.07 and the game finished as the last with Sheffield the victors.
Vipers had every right to be proud of their effort and first two periods play. They doubled their own score and reduced the goals against them compared to the first encounter.
Spirit of the Game – Lucy (Ebinger) Maxwell
The first period started with Coventry on the attack and Debbie having the first save of the game at 3 minutes in. Despite Coventry pressuring, Nottingham managed to keep the game flowing end to end and Katie got Nottingham’s first shot at the other end. At 6:02 Coventry were rewarded with an unassisted goal by number 21. Nottingham kept working hard and were rewarded with a goal from Katie, assisted Julia at 10:01. With Debbie unsighted, Coventry took the lead with just 17 seconds left in the period.
The second period started with Nottingham on the attack from the off. Frenchie worked hard along the boards against her old team. Play was end to end with Vipers keeping the pressure on Coventry. Debbie was called into action covering the post, but the puck wasn’t cleared and against the run of play Coventry were lucky with the puck bouncing over Debbie’s pads at 23:27. Nottingham went on the attack again with Julia winning the puck back at centre ice. The pressure swung back and forth with Debbie stonewalling a one on one and then Wilko’s shot being stopped at the other end. Laura Q and Cookie worked hard forcing two quick saves from the Coventry netminder, however Nottingham’s hard work paid off with Frenchie scoring at 28:56 assisted Julia and Lucy. The period ended with Coventry 3 : 2 up.
Nottingham came out attacking at the beginning of the third; Kendra having a really good effort on goal only for possession to be lost and Coventry taking a quick long shot and scoring at 31:56. Vipers didn’t give up and kept the Coventry netminder busy but without reward. Kendra was working hard getting back to clear the puck and then straight away getting in on the action in front of net. Coventry had a breakaway shot which was saved but at 34:46 Debbie could not contain the Phoenix and they opened up their lead to 5 : 2. Two minutes later Nottingham were awarded a penalty shot which Katie bravely stepped up to take, but was denied by the Coventry keeper. Debbie was then called into play with two good saves in quick succession. Paige then went on a solo dispy doodle, got a shot away but again Coventry’s keeper was solid between the pipes. With about 3.5 minutes left the game became more physical and earnest with Nottingham trying to lessen the deficit and Coventry pressing for another. Nottingham iced the puck twice before Paige took a shot on the breakaway but being denied again by the keeper. Nottingham kept going right to the end with Wilko, Kendra and Cookie in the thick of it in front of the Coventry goal. The final buzzer came too soon with the game ending 5 : 2 to Coventry.
The end result did not reflect the standard of play by Nottingham in anyway. The Vipers were hard working, committed but unlucky again. The effort was there, but the killer instinct in front of goal needs to be honed. As the season continues the team will get stronger and more confident – I’m sure the results will soon go our way.
Player of the Game: Emma French
SLU – Tally in goal, Katie, Paige, Cookie, Lucy and Laura
The period got under way with end to end play from the start, Tally being called into action with less than two minutes gone. Cookie then had a good shot on the Coventry goalie but sadly no one was able to get to the rebound. Lucy Ebinger had a really lonnnnnnnnnng shift but eventually managed to get a change! Nottingham pressed hard with Paige having a good effort on goal and then came our comedy moment when Nat and Cookie collided mid ice and went down like a pair of skittles! Luckily, possession was retained.
Katie was called for tripping and Coventry weren’t called for too many players! Cookie got a shot away, pad save and play continued end to end. Claire worked hard in D where she had again been asked to take on the role due to players’ unavailability. Katie was called again for holding whilst play continued back and forth with Wilko and Paige both having good efforts on goal. There was then a bit of faffing about in front of net but Tally was on hand to cover the puck, this was followed by a bit of a kerfuffle (see the chicken) in front but the period ended even with no score.
The second started with Nottingham having the majority of the possession, Wilko taking a great try on a bouncing puck. Nottingham won the face off with Cookie having a great shot, then another, both saved by the Coventry keeper. Coventry then went on the offensive forcing Tally to save immediately followed by Paige having a good long range effort denied by the keeper. Change in net for Nottingham at 7.53 with Debbie being given only 35 seconds before being called into action. Nottingham again pressured the Coventry D with Nat and Katie working hard in front. Play sent back down the other end with Debbie saving the shot but with an unlucky bounce off a Nottingham defenders stick and against the odds Coventry were in front – a real sickener!
Nottingham carried on as they had previously with Wilko showing gritty determination not to lose possession. Coventry were called for hooking and Cookie took the opportunity to take a long range shot. With Coventry down 3 skaters for 9 seconds Nottingham piled on the pressure but were kept at bay by the Coventry keeper. The period ended Coventry 1, Vipers 0.
For a short while in the third the DJ provided us with some better tunes but this was short-lived. As in the previous two, the period started out with end to end play, Nottingham putting in the effort as both teams began to tire. Katie had a good effort, Lucy took a tumble , and Katie had another good effort. In D, Laura Q was working hard with a cover up by Debbie. Paige had a good effort (great face offs today Paige!) Coventry had a good opportunity but were denied and then drew a penalty at 42.12 for tripping.
Final Score: Coventry 1 Vipers 0
Player of the game for Nottingham: Katie Ferguson
The only thing to disappoint about this game was the final score. Nottingham was working with new players and with players covering new positions, Nottingham had the majority of the attack and possession all game long with Blackburn taking their breakaway chances and their netminder keeping Nottingham out of the net.
From the off, Nottingham pushed Blackburn with Katie working well down the boards and Paige having the first shot of the game. With Blackburn conceding an early penalty, Vipers pressured in front of net but without success and at 7.06 Blackburn capitalised on their breakaway chance. Vipers still kept working hard with Paige and Cookie getting back to help the D. Debbie was called upon to keep the Vipers out of trouble with players crowding round the net before play moved back in their end with the Nottingham girls pushing for a goal. An unlucky breakaway with 10 seconds to go resulted in Blackburn’s second. End of the first Blackburn 2, Vipers 0.
The second started as the first, with Nottingham piling the pressure on the Blackburn net. Becca shot from the face off after skating down the left wing, caught by the keeper. Katie’s shot was then scrambled away for Paige to have a go. Blackburn had a bit of luck when at 21.59 they scored their third, quickly followed by their fourth at 22.11, again a bit of good luck for them in front of net. Debbie did well under a short period of pressure stick saving and the Nottingham forwards coming back again to help out the D. Play continued back and forth with Paige taking a second penalty (and a broken nail) and Nottingham changing netminder at 9.05. Blackburn converted two further shots before Julia opened the account for Nottingham at 35.59, assisted Cookie.
Nottingham started the third still determined and positive but short-handed. After a dodgy icing call Nottingham were again rewarded for their efforts with Paige scoring, assisted Katie and Becca. Clare worked hard in D behind the net and sent the puck up the ice to Cookie who was denied by the glove. Blackburn scored again but Vipers were again rewarded and came right back with an answer provided by Paige – a good solo effort. With players in the bin for both sides (Laura for Tripping) Blackburn scored their final goal to end the game victorious at 9 : 3, Laura receiving a well-deserved player of the game trophy.
As stated at the beginning, the only thing to disappoint about this game was the final score. Effort, energy and commitment were in abundance and the coaches were pleased with the positivity of the players and their team spirit. A good performance which can be built on and strengthened during the season.
First period – The puck drops and unfortunately 5 seconds later it’s in the back of the Nottingham net, scored for Sheffield by Jodie Leigh Bloom. Sheffield also received the first penalty of the game, for roughing. After the initial set back Vipers started to play more controlled hockey which led to a Viper’s goal at 5:01, a power play goal scored by Emma Wilkinson. The game continued with Vipers pushing forward until at 14:45 Sheffield scored their second goal and then a third goal at 18:07; both goals involving Sheffield’s premier players. The period ended 3-1 to Sheffield.
Second period – Good work by Vipers at the start of the period with a good chance missed by Nat. At 5:07 Sheffield’s Jessica Holgate was thrown out for fighting with more penalties going Sheffield’s way, but Vipers failed to make the 5 on 3 count. The period continued with Vipers trying hard and playing some good hockey but goals at 33:11, 35:30, 36:43 and 39:23 left Vipers trailing 7-1 at the break.
Third period – Vipers started the period brightly with good chances being missed by Julia and Cookie. Vipers then received another setback with another goal for Sheffield at 42:48 again involving premier players. More spirited play by Vipers and nice work created a 1 on 1 chance for Julia. Sheffield then killed the game off totally with another goal at 58:39. Sheffield won the game 9-1. Hopefully Viper’s will have learned lessons and will be able to take revenge in their next meeting.