Invicta Dynamos ended an emotional weekend on a high with a win over league high-flyers Slough Jets.
A week on from the tragic death of Nottingham Panthers’ Adam Johnson, teams across the country returned to the ice. There was a minute’s silence followed by an applause in the 47th minute during Invicta’s home match against Slough after similar scenes a day earlier at Streatham.
The Mos team wore #AJ47 armbands as a tribute to Johnson, who lost his life in a freak accident the previous weekend in Sheffield, while every player also took to the ice wearing neck protection, which the Gillingham club have now made mandatory.
Dynamos’ decision to make neck guards compulsory early last week was followed by the English Ice Hockey Association’s announcement that protection for all players will be mandatory from December 31 onwards.
Mos' coach Karl Lennon supported the move which club acted immediately on.
He said: “We made it very clear to the players that their health and safety was more important than anything, it is not questionable.
“They will be wearing neck protection for evermore now whilst they represent this club and thankfully all of them, without any objection at all, decided to do that, which was fantastic.
“The league came out with their guidance that it would be mandatory after Christmas but we wanted to take action straight away.
“I was incredibly proud of us as a club, and the wider hockey community can be of themselves, in the way they conducted all of the various different celebrations of Adam’s life across the weekend.
“People paid their respects and during the game there was an applause on the 47th minute, which was his number. I won’t lie, I held a tear in my eye at that point, it all hits home. It was an incredible weekend on that basis and that added to the emotion of the games that were played everywhere, not just ours.”
The Dynamos had a mixed weekend on the ice, losing 8-3 at Streatham on Saturday in a league encounter and then beating Slough Jets - the league leaders - 8-6 in a Southern Cup encounter.
A tough match at Streatham had seen the Mos trail by six goals before Tom Soar got one back and a late rally led to Josh Condren and Stanisav Lascek also converting.
It was a frustrating first period for Invicta, which they were unable to recover from.
Lennon said: “I don’t think we played terribly poorly (in the first period), but I don’t think we had the same intensity as we had done on our last two visits there. It was compounded by what I thought was very poor refereeing decisions in that period.
“We were expecting calls to be made for a number of things and nothing got made, subsequently off the back of at least two of those they scored goals.
“I sought out some guidance and advice from the referee about the incidents and he said ‘well they are the rules, like it or lump it’ which is fine but on the Sunday we play a game at home and the same things happen. The whistle is blown twice and the game is stopped.
“It seemed to me there wasn’t a huge amount of consistency. It affected the game because before we knew it, we were 3-0 down. I hold my hands up, I took a penalty, probably overly colourful language from the bench and they scored from the subsequent powerplay. I was as culpable as anyone. I will learn from that and be better next time but those decisions changed the game.
“The last time we played there the game was evenly contested and without those three situations in the first period I don’t think we would have been down by three.
“I was unhappy, the boys were unhappy and that probably set the precedent for the rest of the game.
“The second period was flat, very poor from our part, we only had one or two shots on their goal which in ice hockey is criminal. That was our worst period of the weekend. They further capitalised and took their chances and the only saving grace was in the third period, the boys rallied together.
“We at least tied the final period. I felt like we needed to get a small win out of the game because we played quite poorly and that was it, our only saving grace, that we managed to get three goals at the end of the game.”
The Mos had better joy on home ice with a win over the Jets.
Lascek, Matty Dell, Tom Soar and Ruskin Springer-Hughes scored in the first period and by the end of the second Dynamos led 6-2. The Jets roared back in the third period, however, to make for a tense finish, but the Mos just about kept their noses infront.
“It was definitely more uncomfortable than it needed to be,” Lennon said.
“We started the game fantastic, our first period was great and the intensity was bang on.
“They are sitting pretty at the top of the table at the moment, they are really riding high, they probably came to our rink with a lot of confidence, and rightly so, but we went at them hard for the first two periods and got a commanding lead because we worked hard and we worked collectively and I was really happy with that.
“The bad bit was we rested upon that in the third period, didn’t have our foot firmly on the pedal like we had done in the first part of the game and they are a young side, full of energy, we gave them some space to get back into the game and they made it uncomfortable for us.
“It was frantic and an end to end finale, I am sure the casual follower watching loved it, I’m sure they had a great night out but for me, I have probably got a few extra grey hairs in my beard!
“It is a step forward (to beat Slough) because we have not done that before and I think any time we can do a first in our development, those are good steps forward.
“It is not about the first step though it is about the consistency after that, and making sure we deliver that every week. We are taking steps forward, what we have to do is stop taking that little step back at times. Saturday was a little step back and Sunday was a step forward again, we have to maintain that momentum moving forward now.”