Sunday, 4 December 2011

Modus Hopper Random On Ice

The surface is prepared by this contraption ...
First period action (also below)

Second period from the endzone
Mesmerising surface repairs between periods (I don't get out much just lately)
Lightning look for the late alliterative leveller 
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 3 December 2012 at The Thunderdome, Planet Ice, MK
Milton Keynes Lightning 2 Peterborough Phantoms 2
(2-2 at the end of third period, no score in Overtime)
Lightning win the Penalty Shootout (2-0)
English Premier League Ice Hockey
This was always going to be a blog with tangents.  Having been ill and out of hopping circulation for a week or two, then having a Saturday afternoon school commitment (None but the Brave deserve the Christmas Fair, as they say), I was desperate for some live sporting action and, for the first time, I went to see some grown men try to kill each other with sticks on ice.  A big hello to any of my Canadian or Finnish friends who are visiting my blog for the first time.  I am beginning to understand your passion for this game, you nutters.
This match in one sentence
The league table positions suggest that Lightning made hard work of this victory, because only a late, late equaliser in regulation time gave them the chance to win in a shootout after a goalless period of overtime.
So what?
Lightning are third in the league and Phantoms are ninth (of ten) – and both teams are in action again on Sunday afternoon.  Phantoms get a point for the tie but Lightning get a bonus point for the shootout win.
What I learned today
This is the second tier of ice hockey in England (there is an Elite League, apparently) and there is a limit on the number of overseas players in the squad or on the ice at any given time.  Players come and go off the ice with bewildering complexity as the play develops.  There are relatively few stoppages and the action is fast and furious.  There are normally six players in action for each team at any given moment.  Torvill & Dean it ain’t (thank goodness) with no numbers being held up for artistic impression, and the only axels are on the resurfacing machine.  (Yes, I know that would be axle, but I have a provisional poetic licence.)

Lightning’s overseas players are from Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia.  Phantoms have a Canadian player/coach, another Canadian, a Latvian and an imminent Slovakian on their roster.

Occasionally one of the three men with whistles in the stripey shirts will see something that means a penalty is imminent, to start the next time the opposition get the puck.  When the stripey arm is raised to signify this, the goaltender will skate towards the bench like a maniac to be replaced by another “outfield” (??) player and increase the chance of a score.  However, if the opposition get the puck, the play then stops and the stripey man will send the offending man-with-a-stick to the sin bin for two minutes and we enter a “power play”.  The announcer helpfully will then tell us whether it was for holding, tripping, interference or attempted murder.

There are three periods of 20 minutes playing time.  In this league, this is followed by 5 minutes of Overtime if the scores are level, and a penalty shootout after that if necessary.  At some point, a mascot called Pucky comes on to the ice and does the Macarena, which has to be seen to be believed.

I found watching the game from the endzone to be more satisfying – you are admittedly watching through a safety mesh but you can see all of the play and appreciate the patterns.  From the wing stands the nearside view is necessarily restricted.  Next time, I might watch from ice level behind the perspex.

The ice-resurfacer (sometimes called a Zamboni in the same way as all vacuum cleaners are Hoovers) is a two-tonne 4WD vehicle powered by LPG which levels the surface with a blade and lays down a fresh layer of heated water which then makes a smooth surface.  It scoops up any shaved-off ice into an onboard bin, is all very technical, and is probably driven by someone called Dave.  There may even be stats on this.  It's an 8-10 minute process to cover the rink.  This one went in a clockwise pattern and I wonder whether they would go the other way in the southern hemisphere.

By the way, I can only assume that all ice hockey goaltenders (netminders??)  are certifiably insane.

I shall do this again – it was great fun.  Admission was £12, about the same for a step 2 non-league soccer game.  If you go, wrap up warm – not quite as cold as The Hawthorns or Boundary Park but a tad chilly.  It is quite acceptable to cheer when one of the opposing team gets mashed against the boards by a high-velocity incoming player.  There will probably be at least one fight in every game, and with luck at least one of the refs will get mashed too.  Quality.
The drama unfolds
In the first period, Phantoms had more shots on goal although the Lightning approach play looked more elegant to this novice observer.  The visitors took the lead after 11 minutes.  Here’s the clip, and Lightning are in white.  I can’t say much else as I was trying to follow the play and come to terms with the rules.  0-1 at the end of the first period.

I moved to the endzone for the second period, and a friendly home supporter helped me to understand the context for the match and what was going on down on the ice.  The home supporters were expecting their team to come out with renewed vigour after some harsh interval words from the management but the visitors got a second goal four minutes in.  0-2

Here’s a second-period clip.

It was vital for Lightning to get the next goal and it look them until two minutes before the end of the period to do it.  I caught the goal on video.  1-2 at the end of the second period.

In the third period, the Lightning search for an equaliser became more and more frantic and sustained.  Phantoms threatened on the break of course.  Here are two more clips.  The first one shows the open and end-to-end nature of the game at this point, and the second comes with 47 seconds of regulation time to go.  They have taken their netminder off in desperation and thrown on an extra attacker.  2-2 at the end of the third period.

There were no goals in overtime, so we went on to a shootout.  2-2 at the end of overtime.

In the shootout, Lightning scored, Phantoms missed … and here’s the rest.  

This goes in the Lightning scorebook as a 3-2 win, and for the Phantoms it is a 2-2 tie.  Hmmmm. As far as I could tell, no limbs, digits or eyeballs were left on the ice and both teams will be ready for their fixtures this afternoon.  I thoroughly recommend the spectacle!
Damien King. Respect.
Not. A. Clue.  Sorry!  I felt for Phantoms netminder/goalie/lunatic Damien King who seemed to me to have been pretty heroic throughout regulation and overtime, only to see his opposite number (Alex Mettam or Barry Hollyhead, not sure who was on the ice at that point, sorry, but I think the latter!) steal the points with two saves in the shootout.
A snippet from the programme

Look at this! A double page of stats to complete.  Almost a quasi-Excel experience.  Great stuff.
What Next?
No idea – follow my @GrahamYapp Twitter feed for any announcement.


  1. Judging from the first period recording, you were sitting just behind me! Glad you seemed to enjoy it though and awesome blog. :D

  2. Thanks for the kind words - it was a good spectacle and I thoroughly enjoyed it!