The Grosvenor Casino Sheffield Knights took a trip to Gateshead for the Fantastic Fours tournament, the biggest ball hockey tournament in the UK. They knew they had a tough weekend ahead of them, after being drawn against some very tough teams, but spirits were high on the travel up on the Friday night.
The Saturday started at 10am for Knights, as they faced off against the Northumbria Sharks 2nd team, with Richard Cartwright assuming his position between the pipes. This was a fantastic game by the team, who battled hard and put the Sharks under a lot of pressure throughout. Unfortunately for the Knights though, the clock ticked down and despite the constant attack, as the final whistle blew, the scoreboard showed 0-0.
Onto the second game of the day, against the Durham Ninjas, and Cartwright was to get his second start of the tournament. This was an absolutely fantastic game by the Knights, who defended well against the strong Durham side. It was not to be however, and the Ninjas took a hard earned 2-0 victory.
The next game saw the team take on their most anticipated opposition of the first day, previous tournament winners, the London Jets; David Grant was to get the start in goal for the Knights. Once again, the Knights came out of the gates batting hard against the London team, defending well and pushing forward for some good scoring opportunities. Once again though, it was not to be and the Jets took a 4-0 win.
It was onto the fourth game of the day now, which saw the Knights take on the Tayside Thunder. This game saw David Grant make his second start, and once again saw the Knights put up a good fight against another very strong opposition. The team held the Thunder off for a while, however eventually the Tayside team were able to break through, and the final scoreboard showed 4-0 to them.
The fifth and final game of the day saw the Knights come up against Long Eaton Lightning, in which David Grant was the starting goalie. This was the game in which the Knights were to break their way onto the scoreboard as the ball flew past the Lightning net minder, off the stick of Ash Rose. The Knights then found another goal, as Dan Wright found the back of the net. Long Eaton were not out of the game yet though, as they brought the score line back to 2-1. This did not deter the Knights however, who defended strongly to deny the Lightning of another goal. The game finished 2-1 to the Knights and brought the end of day 1 for the team.
Despite some difficult losses against top quality opponents, the Knights’ heads were still held high. They fought well and were unlucky to not find the net in every game. They defended strongly against some extremely high pressure attacks, putting their bodies on the line to prevent shots from reaching the net. Both David Grant and Richard Cartwright played outstanding throughout the day to backstop their team. Morale was still high moving onto the Sunday, as the Knights progressed to Tier 2.
The Sunday began even earlier than the Saturday, with the Knights playing in the opening game of the day at 9am against the Northumbria Sharks A team. The Sunday was to see Richard Cartwright take the netminding position in every game. The team knew this was not going to be an easy game, as despite controlling the game against the Sharks 2nd team, they were unable to find the net and gain a result from the game. That being said, they came out strong and tested the Northumbria netminder and played with great intensity from start to finish. Unfortunately for the Knights, Northumbria were able to capitalise twice on two good scoring opportunities and the game ended 2-0.
In game two of the day, the Knights faced off against the Shaw Billionaires. The game began with both teams battling hard and for a while, it was anybody’s game to win. Finally, the Knights found the back of the net off of a rebound pickup from Joe Wait. Then, straight from the faceoff following the goal, another goal came from a snapshot attempt from just over halfway from Wait again. Both teams still fought on and tested each other’s defences well. As the final whistle blew, the Knights were the victors and took a 2-0 win.
The Knights were now to face the North East Dekstars Assassins team. The Assassins took the lead at around the midway point in the game, after some very evenly matched hockey. Both sides fought hard and both netminders played phenomenally. The Knights were not down and out though, as a faceoff win from Ash Rose saw the ball fall to Aidan Paget, he made the pass to Joe Wait on the point who was able to find the roof of the net from a snapshot and put the Knights on the scoreboard. The game ended at 1-1.
The next game was unfortunately to be the last game of the tournament for the Knights, as they came up for the second time against the Durham Ninjas. The game started with some end to end hockey, with each team spoiling for a goal with some good chances. The Ninjas were the first to go up on the board after a quick faceoff win found its way to the point man, who fired an absolute laser of a shot into the top shelf of the goal. The Knights battled back however, and brought the game back to a 1-1 tie, on a goal from Spike Butchart. The Ninjas pulled forward in the scoring race again, as some nice plays lead to a great shooting opportunity, which the Ninjas capitalised on. The Knights still worked hard, and put everything they had into the game, however as they started to tire, the Ninjas continued to pressure and extended their lead to 2, the score line at 3-1. Following their third goal, the Ninjas were able to find the way around Richard Cartwright to set themselves up for a shot on an open back door. In came sliding Tom Walkeden, who blocked the shot which was marked for the back of the net. In the process of blocking the shot, Walkeden covered the ball with his hand, leading to a penalty. The Knights battled hard on the penalty kill, with the line of Tom Wright, Joe Wait and Andy Stafford. All three threw their bodies in front of the ball to defend their chances of pulling the game back. The penalty kill was to be a successful one, despite good pressure from the Ninjas, however as Walkeden just stepped out of the box, an unfortunate bounce found its way to the stick of a Ninjas forward on the back door, who put the Durham side up by 4-1 and ended the Knights’ hopes of a semi-final appearance. The game finished at 4-1 and the Ninjas went on to win the Tier 2 competition against the Steelers A team.
Head Coach David Grant spoke of his pride in the whole performance throughout the weekend from the team “I think we saw some of the best Knights hockey whilst in Gateshead over the weekend. Every single player not only put the effort in (which everyone does regardless) but they rose their game and collectively took their games to a different level, one which I hope will inspire them to do so again when we go back to league action.
With some of the combinations changing throughout the weekend due to circumstances, it was asking a bit from the team to stay with the structure and it was done superbly, only falling apart towards the end of the final game against the Durham Ninja’s because of the effort they gave in battle for the cause. I was proud of many aspects of the clubs play over the weekend and I hope they can take everything good back to Central Conference action.
I felt that every player raised their game ten-fold over the weekend, but one I can’t go without mention was Cartwrights performance. I decided that he should have the net throughout Sunday as he’s worked hard in training and for the Lancers, and deserved a shot at a stage of a tournament where the club could compete. Taken with both hands, Rich pulled off a string of saves and not only gave the team a chance, but gave the team in front of him the confidence to push forward.
I said to the whole team after the tournament ended, that I was proud of every single one of them, and that remains the case. Every player showed what they could do, and every player put on their best performances on one of the biggest stages in the ball hockey calendar. They’ve shown they can do it, and I want them to do it when we’re all back in the Central Conference”
Throughout the weekend, every single person sporting the silver and blue played their hearts out and gave everything they had to give for their team. The Coach’s Player of the Tournament Award was given to Richard Cartwright, who put in an immense performance in both days of the tournament. The Captains Player of the Tournament award was given to Joe Wait.
The Knights would like to Congratulate Greasley, Durham and Maidenhead on winning their respective tier titles, and a huge thanks to the organisers from the North East Dekstars on putting on a fantastic weekend of Ball Hockey