GAME 1 – LONDON GREAT WHITE SHARKS V OXFORD UNIVERSITY

In the first game of the day, bottom-placed side Oxford University were no match for top of the table London Great White Sharks, who ran out comfortable winners 9-0. The Sharks’ Niko Jumppanen scored a well spaced-out hat-trick scoring his team’s first, fifth and final goals in the game. Other Sharks who found the net included captain Niko Salo (twice), Aki Peltonen, Ondrej Sedlacek, Janne Peltonen, and Viktors Pockajevs. The game as a contest was never in doubt after the first period with the Sharks racing to a 5-0 lead. Their play was fluid and patient and Oxford were forever chasing shadows in defence – the goalkeeping of Danny Gregory a positive sidenote for the students. In attack, the dark blues did create chances but all were thwarted by Gregory’s opposite man in the Sharks’ goal, Miika Savolainen.

 

GAME 2 - HASTINGS PREDATORS V LONDON VIKINGS

London Vikings hung on for a superb 4-1 victory over Hastings Predators by grimly surviving a late onslaught in the third period. Despite enjoying a three-goal advantage, the Vikings were out on their feet for most of the final period – having only brought seven players to Haslemere for round six – and capitulation seemed a real > possibility as the Predators’ dangermen launched wave after wave of attacks. Hastings’ captain Kaspars Maksimovs made numerous power runs from defence, as did Alberts Jermacans, but neither could find the net. David Urban in goal for the Vikings was in no mood to be beaten for a second time in the game. His save with his head from Maksimovs’s thunderous shot from the right wing being a particular highlight. Vikings had raced into an early lead in the first period with goals from Marek Pleva and Michal Hazucha, both of which were set up by Filip Chvostek, who also netted his team’s third with a short-range finish (Gints Kapacs’ stick being broken in the process of Chvostek’s goal). By this stage, Hastings had kicked into action with Jermacans signalling his intent with threatening forays forwards. The pressure soon told with Maciej Zakrzewski linking up with Jermacans and from 8 metres out he found the net. But 3-1 would be as close as it would get for the side from the south coast. Against the run of play, Chvostek scored his second by lifting the ball over the goalkeeper after a pass from Hazucha. At 4-1, Hastings furiously tried to turn the tide but the Vikings held on to record the upset of the day.

 

GAME 3: SOUTHERN VIPERS V OXFORD UNIVERSITY

The Vipers were short of several Great British squad members for round six but still found a way to overcome Oxford University to run out 3-1 winners. Oxford were outclassed in their first game but showed their worth and ability against the Vipers and may well have overcome their opponents had they not made telling defensive errors. Vipers’ first goal came from one such error as Oxford conceded possession close to their goal and livewire striker Tom Jeffrey passed to Johan Brandhorst, who delicately chipped over the goalkeeper. Oxford doubled their efforts and initially went close when Ian Yang hit the post off a pass from Milan Fowkes. Then, with the first period coming to a close, the students did get the goal which their play deserved. From a free hit, eight metres from goal, Felix Westeren, slotted home to draw things level. But in the second period, disaster struck again for Oxford. A pass behind the goal between Yang and Lucas Buzaglo was intercepted by Jeffrey who diverted the ball to Brandhorst to tap home for 2-1. The Vipers got their third when Oxford’s Buzaglo received a 2-minute penalty and with the numerical advantage, Roope Rantala scored with a well-placed shot from the left-hand side of the goal. Oxford’s goalscorer Westeren remained a threat whilst Christopher Li also went close but the Vipers deservedly took the victory.

 

GAME 4: HASTINGS PREDATORS V LONDON HAMMERHEAD SHARKS

The Hammerheads inflicted Hastings’s second loss of the day (and only their third loss this season) in a ferociously contested game which finished 3-1 to the London side. After the frustrations of their first game, Hastings wasted no time in taking the game to their opponents and Hammerheads struggled initially to match the Predators’ physicality. But Hammerheads’ captain Siavosh Mabadi settled his team down with a well-taken goal in the first period, set up by Michal Jenicek. Then in the second period, the Hammerheads hit their stride. Rasmus Lof’s powerful shot on goal was only denied by a superb save from Hastings’ goalkeeper Ian Harcourt-Smith. That proved to be a warning shot as, moments later, Tobias Axelsson weaved in between two defenders before fashioning space to lift the ball > over Harcourt-Smith for an individual goal of real class. Lof then added his name to the scoresheet with a composed finish, luring Harcourt-Smith out of his goal and clipping the ball over him. Vladislavs Kuznetsov provided the assist. At 3-0 up, the Hammerheads collectively lost their heads. Both Jan Martinek and Victor Lundsten conceded penalties leaving their team with just four players on the rink. Hastings failed to initially capitalise but then Arnis Lasmanis picked > the ball up and unleashed an unstoppable shot to get Hastings on the board. Hastings kept up the pressure but somehow, inexplicably, couldn’t find the net and the Hammerheads took the win.

 

GAME 5: LONDON VIKINGS V LONDON GREAT WHITE SHARKS

Whilst their rivals at the top of the table floundered, there were no such worries for the Sharks who cruised to victory against a tired Vikings side, coming out 5-1 winners. Niko Jumpannen was again the key man, bookending affairs with the opening and closing goals for his team, and finishing the day with 8 points to his personal tally (5 goals and 3 assists). The Sharks’ other goals came through Aki Peltonen who chipped in with two, and one from Niko Salo. The almost telepathic ability amongst the Sharks players to find each other at the right time was simply too much for the Vikings. And yet, it was not quite the perfect game for the league leaders as their defence was breached by the Vikings in the third period.

 

GAME 6 – LONDON HAMMERHEAD SHARKS V SOUTHERN VIPERS

The final game of the day was a close-run affair with the Hammerheads bossing a final period that begun with the scores at 3-3 but ended 6-3 as the Londoners scored a late flurry of goals. Terho Heinola started the Hammerheads off with their first goal, assisted by Vladislavs Kuznetsov. Tobias Axelsson soon doubled the lead with Michal Jenicek to thank for the assist. But Vipers responded immediately with Jeffrey scoring from a set-up by Roope Rantala, who then bagged a goal for himself to tie the scores at 2-2. Yet parity was short lived as Emilia Stermer scored a well-taken goal to give the Hammerheads the lead 3-2. Teemu Ikonen then drew Vipers level again to set up what could have been a nail-biter of a final period. Yet that never materialised as Hammerheads out-played their opponents in the final period. Their fourth goal coming from a strong drive forward and shot by captain Mabadi which trickled over the line at the near post. And soon after, Lof’s shot found the net at the same near post and the Hammerheads had the victory assured. Yet they kept on playing and finished with a flourish when Axelsson tapped in after a great run forward by Jenicek.

 

After the day’s six games, South League Director Kaspars Maksimovs commented: “The league is run on volunteers and everyone from the scorers to the referees has fulfilled their jobs today so everything has run smoothly. “This year the Southern league is the strongest in the UK as two new sides have come in from the Midlands, Oxford University and UCM / Jigsaw Foods. So it’s really competitive and anyone can beat anyone. “Look at us (Hastings Predators) we lost both our games and we’ve only lost one game before that all season. The ball just didn’t want > to go in for us today. “I think our loss to Vikings was the biggest upset of the day. They started really well and we couldn’t get in the swing of things, they defended and we just couldn’t get it past them. But it’s been a good day for the league overall.”

Jack Zorab - Sports Commentator

January 2018