Due rewards for Romford Raiders

16:58 04 May 2012

Romford Raiders enjoyed a double-winning season in 2011/12

Romford Raiders enjoyed a double-winning season in 2011/12

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Power to the People: Delighted for Danny

The 2011/12 ice hockey season is in the record books then and what a campaign it turned out to be for Romford Raiders.

An English National League and South East Trophy double were deserved reward for player-coach Danny Marshall and his men, who only just missed out on making it a treble in the play-offs.

And there is a feel-good factor around the club once again, with owner Ollie Oliver in talks with rink bosses to run operations for another campaign.

But it was only two years ago that the club’s future was hanging in the balance, after an extremely difficult EPL season.

John Scott, having stepped in to save the team in the summer of 2009, worked wonders to keep the team on ice during some dark days as the defeats piled up.

There were echoes of 1995, when Raiders pulled out of the British League and reformed at the lower level. But I don’t think the past two seasons in ENL have done too much harm.

The only shame is that the long-term future of the club will remain in doubt, with the bulldozers eventually set to go in at Rom Valley Way.

But for now, lets reflect on a memorable season.

A year ago, after a solid rebuilding year, I said Raiders needed to add to their trophy cabinet this time around.

They did, and without making too many changes to their line-up as Marshall allowed his squad to grow an understanding with each other.

Grant Baxter and Pierre Wilhelmsson left, but Matt Turner, Grant Taylor and Andrius Kaminskas came in.

Shaun Yardley and Shaun Wallis also played cameo roles in the second half of the season and the trick now will be for Marshall to move things on an extra step.

His squad already has good depth and production on all lines. Marshall, Juraj Huska and Yardley combined for 267 points on the top combination, while Turner, AJ Smith and Anthony Leone were not far behind with 237.

Third-line grinders Taylor, JJ McGrath and Tom Davis managed 110 between them and the six defencemen contributed a further 190 as a group.

It must have been hard to pick winners for this season’s individual awards, but I don’t think there can be many complaints with the outcomes.

Smith and Turner enjoyed prolific campaigns, dovetailing nicely, while Tyrone Miller was a steadying influence on the blue line (although Julian Smith must have run him close!).

And to see Billy Phillips claim the vote of the supporters was particularly heartwarming.

The home-grown youngster is developing into an exciting, attacking defenceman who wears his heart on his sleeve. Supporters clearly love his spirit.

He skates well, has an eye for a pass and a cannon of a shot, finding the net 20 times as he averaged a point per game this season.

Sometimes his passion for the game has got the better of him — a total of 261 penalty minutes in 45 games is evidence of that — but Phillips is still learning his trade and certainly improved his discipline in the run-in after serving a four-match ban.

He joined an exclusive list by winning the Recorder Trophy — and may just have pipped Marshall to being the youngest winner — and the fact he is a local lad, a former Emerson Park pupil, makes it all the better.

Gord Jeffrey was a big believer in developing young talent, giving the likes of Paul and Marcus Cast, Rich Tomalin and Elliot Andrews, among others, their chance in the club’s early years.

Looking at the team which took to the ice this season just past, there is no shortage of Romford ‘blood’ as Marshall, AJ Smith, Leone, Phillips, McGrath, Taylor, JJ Pitchley, David Oliver, Frankie Harvey and Glen Jackson all played for the club’s junior teams.

Just as it should be.

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