The National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) returns tonight for the start of the Spring Cup. The Swindon Wildcats host the Sheffield Steeldogs in the tournament’s curtain-raiser, with face-off set for 18:30 in Wiltshire.
Puck drop will end weeks of speculation about players’ participation in the competition, with a number of Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) veterans signing-up following the top-flight’s cancelation.
After becoming the first British player to be drafted by an NHL franchise, Liam Kirk’s return to Sheffield is among the main attractions on opening night. Ben Davies and Matthew Myers return for the Wildcats after appearing for Swindon in November’s Streaming Series.
Jason Hewitt and Ben Lake reprise their guest-signing status with the Steeldogs after featuring for Sheffield in November. The unofficial Streaming Series champions have added further quality to their squad by signing Davey and Jonathan Phillips.
This evening’s encounter opens a new chapter in hockey’s fightback against the pandemic, with the Telford Tigers, Bracknell Bees, and Romford Raiders returning to the ice for the first time in eleven months.
There’s not a lot going on for the ice hockey players in Britain right now
– Greg Wood
“The transitions been simple and the guys have been fantastic so far and it’s a joy to be around them,” Wood said.
“I think we were lucky we got to do the Streaming Series previously, but there’s not a lot going on for the ice hockey players in Britain right now, it’s great to be able to have something to look forward to again.
“The guys are chomping at the bit to get going again and we can’t wait for the weekend.”
We’ve always got a chance against any team we play in our league
– Aaron Nell
Despite the strength of Sheffield’s recent signings, Swindon player-coach Aaron Nell is optimistic about his side’s prospects on opening night.
“We’re up first against Sheffield Steeldogs and it’ll be two very good games. I don’t think Steeldogs will be any different to the team we faced back in November, despite the change in coach. They’ve added some really good players to their line-up, which makes them even better.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re aware of their better players, be alert in the neutral… we’ve always got a chance against any team we play in our league.
“It’s a longer competition this time and Sheffield will be favourites going in, so it’s important we try and get the win from them early.”
Beyond tonight’s fixture, the Spring Cup holds local interest for Coventry Blaze fans. The Telford Tigers moved quickly to snap-up David Clements and Ross Venus ahead of the tournament, with both in contention to make the national team roster this summer.
Squad and fixture lists for the Spring Cup are available below:
Netminders: Michael Crisp (33), Renny Marr (30), Tyler Perre (62)
Defensemen: Josh Batch (41), Samuel Godfrey (61), Neil Liddiard (A) (44), Ben Nethersell (77), Tyler Plews (24), Sam Smith (73), Stephen Whitfield (A) (28)
Forwards: Sam Bullas © (13), Ben Davies (5), Jack Goodchild (4), Tomasz Malasinksi (89), Matthew Myers (8), Aaron Nell (19), Balint Pakozdi (3), Reed Sayers (16), Floyd Taylor (12), Loris Taylor (18), Toms Rutkis (37), Jordan Kelsall (22)
Head Coach: Aaron Nell
Netminders: Miles Finney (39), Dmitri Zimozdra (34)
Defensemen: Davey Philips (3) Lewis Bell © (4), Ben Morgan (6), Ryan Johnson (10), Thomas Relf (11), Ben O’Connor (12), Tim Smith (A) (42), Jonathan Kirk (90)
Forwards: Brady Doxey (5), Ben Lake (9), Craig Elliot (13), James Spurr (14), Jason Hewitt (17), Jonathan Phillips (20), Alex Graham (21), Nathan Ripley (29), Jack Brammer (71), Charlie Thompson (81), Nathan Salem (91), Stanislav Lascek (93), Liam Kirk (94)
Head Coach: Greg Wood
Netminders: Brad Day (30), Zack Brown (41),
Defensemen: Danny Rose (12), Corey Goodison (16), Nick Oliver (42), David Clements (58), Sam Jones (4), Cole Shudra (27),
Forwards: Austin Mitchell-King (11), Jonathan Weaver (14), Rick Plant (17), Joe Aston (21), Jason Silverthorn (22), Sam Watkins (25), Finny Howells (46), Ashley Calvert (51), Ross Venus (59), Kieran Brown (72), Scott McKenzie (77), Dan Mitchell (88), Jack Watkins (93)
Head Coach: Tom Watkins
Netminders: Adam Goss (84), Danny Milton (42)
Defensemen: Luke Jackson (4), Deakan Fielder (26), Stuart Mogg (94), Josh Kelly (7), Edward Bradley (73), Dan Fay (47)
Forwards: James Galazzi (10), Ryan Webb (18), Zack Milton (29), Harvey Stead (65), Josh Smith (27), Josh Martin (88), Will Stead (19), Bayley Harewood (77), Juha Lindgren (38), Josh Waller (62), Bobby Chamberlain (90), Vanya Antanov (24), Lewis Hook (11), Ciaran Long (89)
Head Coach: Doug Sheppard
Netminders: Ethan James (39), Bradley Windebank (32)
Defensemen: Sean Barry (A) (55), Callum Burnett (36), Ross Connolly (77), Jack Cooper (14), Daniel Scott (A) (13), Ben Solder (96), Zach Sullivan (42), Callum Wells (21)
Forwards: Brandon Ayliffe (19), Oliver Baldock (24), Aaron Connolly © (63), Harry Gulliver (11), Tommy Huggett (86), Erik Piatak (51), J.J. Pitchley (15), Jacob Ranson (95), Jake Sylvester (29), Liam Stewart (44), Lukas Sladvosky (91)
Head Coach: Rob Easton
Sat Feb-13 Swindon v Sheffield 18:30
Sun Feb-14 Sheffield v Swindon 17:00
Sat Feb-20 Swindon v Bees 15:00
Sat Feb-20 Telford v Raiders 18:30
Sun Feb-21 Bees v Swindon 14:00
Sun Feb-21 Raiders v Telford 17:00
Sat Feb-27 Telford v Bees 15:00
Sat Feb-27 Sheffield v Raiders 18:30
Sun Feb-28 Bees v Telford 14:00
Sun Feb-28 Raiders v Sheffield 17:00
TBC Raiders v Bees (midweek)
Sat Mar-06 Swindon v Telford 15:00
Sat Mar-06 Sheffield v Bees 18:30
Sun Mar-07 Telford v Swindon 14:00
Sun Mar-07 Bees v Sheffield 17:00
TBC Bees v Raiders (midweek)
Sat Mar-13 Telford v Sheffield 15:00
Sat Mar-13 Swindon v Raiders 18:30
Sun Mar-14 Raiders v Swindon 15:00
Sun Mar-14 Sheffield Telford 17:00
Fri Mar-19 Swindon v Telford 19:30
Sat Mar-20 Raiders v Swindon 16:00
Sat Mar-20 Bees v Sheffield 18:30
Sun Mar-21 Telford v Bees 14:00
Sun Mar-21 Sheffield v Raiders 17:00
Wed Mar-24 Telford v Sheffield 19:30
Sat Mar-27 Swindon v Bees 15:00
Sat Mar-27 Raiders v Telford 18:00
Sun Mar-28 Bees v Raiders 14:00
Sun Mar-28 Sheffield v Swindon 17:00