The Under-9 Invicta Bucks hosted their first cross-ice tournament of 2019 on 3 February as Lee Valley, Romford and Chelmsford came to Planet Ice Gillingham.
It was an all-action afternoon as a fired-up Bucks team took on the Lee Valley Lions in the opening game. But it was the Lions that flew out of the blocks, netting two quickfire goals in the opening exchanges. The Bucks stood firm, with Jacob Varney and Ben Tancsics hustling hard in defence to keep the Lions away from Sam Lenk’s net. At the other end of the ice, sustained Bucks pressure on the Lee Valley net from Callum Wilson, Taylor Edwards, Michael Sullivan and Finley Tennant was beginning to tell. It was Edwards that found the breakthrough, firing home an accurate shot after some strong stickhandling from Wilson down the right-wing. That served to buoy the Bucks, with Benjamin Bates and Harry Innes netting some well-placed wristers. The Bucks continued to work hard at both ends of the ice, with excellent break-up play from Tancsics and strong forechecking from Wilson and Edwards. That pressure paid off with a goal from Wilson after a superb pass from the deep-lying Jacob O’Dwyer. The Bucks kept up the pace with another Wilson goal and a long-range O’Dwyer slapshot flying through traffic and past the unsighted Lions netminder. The Bucks had to keep their defensive discipline, with strong saves from Lenk, William Lake and Oliver Banks working hard to break-up the Lee Valley counter-attacks and Toby Hoggins intercepting a cross-ice pass at the near-post to help keep the Lions at bay. That paid off at the offensive end with further markers for Edwards, Wilson and a splendid wraparound goal from Sullivan. The Lions forced a goal, but a terrific triple save from Lenk before the final buzzer capped an impressive team performance.
Following an early goal from Romford in the second match of the afternoon, the early-going was a tale of two netminders. Wilson forced several saves from the Raiders goalie following some strong Bucks forechecking, while Lenk kept Romford out at the other end due to fine work with both stick and pads. But then the scoring floodgates opened, with Raiders notching two well-worked goals and the Bucks replying through Wilson and Sullivan. Even with the quickfire markers there was plenty of strong defensive work from the Bucks, with Tennant forcing the Raiders out wide and the Bucks working hard to keep the slot clear in front of Lenk. It wasn’t long before the scoring started again, however, with the Raiders trading goals with Wilson, Bates and Varney. Hoggins had a snapshot destined for the bottom corner turned away by the goalie's pad following some outstanding hustle from the all-action Innes down the right wing. The scoring wasn’t over there though, with Edwards firing home a rebound after some fierce Bucks pressure ahead of a triple of Raider markers. The Bucks kept up the level of performance to the last, with some brilliantly knitted passing play between Sullivan, Bates and Lake.
High on confidence, the Bucks came out galloping in the third game against Chelmsford with Wilson scoring from the opening face-off. At the other end, Lenk turned away a close-range Chelmsford snapshot, while Tancsics and Varney patrolled the defensive line to disrupt the Chieftains passing. Varney bravely blocked an incoming pass as Raiders looked to find joy down the left-wing. Following a Chelmsford goal, Innes flew down the ice to notch his second goal of the afternoon with further markers coming from Wilson and Sullivan after sustained Bucks pressure. The Chieftains fought back with goals borne of some neat passing play, but the Bucks kept the heat on with goals from Wilson and Tennant, while Innes and Hoggins worked hard to keep Chelmsford pinned in their own half. The Wilson-Edwards-O’Dwyer line was finding particular joy, spreading play across the ice with excellent movement and passing. Banks finished off the scoring with a precise shot to round off an excellent afternoon of hockey.
The Bucks should be proud of their play, full of hustle, skill and discipline in both defence and line changes.
Man of the Match deservedly went to Harry ‘H-bomb’ Innes for his explosive performance, while William Lake took home the Spirit of the Match award.
Well done boys!