RAF Eastern Crusade Anglo Cup Winners 2011

Ice Hockey in the RAF is extremely healthy. Not just in the physical terms you’d expect from playing the fastest team sport in the world, but in terms of success, and development. The RAF Aces (the full representative team) have recently steamrolled the Army and Navy at the Inter-services to become champions for the third year in a row. Ice Hockey has earned recognized status in the RAF, thousands of pounds have been raised for charity, and thousands of miles travelled to represent the Service. Yet not many people are aware the sport is so accessible.

The RAF Eastern Crusade Ice Hockey Club are a regional club that draws players and fans from any station within reasonable driving distance from the home rink. The main contributors to the team are; Coningsby, Marham, Wittering, Waddington and Cranwell but also any station in between. The club has seen a lot of change in recent times, with the swift improvement of the base level players, coupled with the arrival of new coaching staff (SGT Barnes, RAF Marham and assistant SAC Guscott, RAF Coningsby) has seen the team go from tournament ‘also rans’ to serious contenders for silverware.

The RAF Anglo Cup has been about for 3 years now. As the title suggests, it’s a competition for teams based in England and a good opportunity for them to lock horns outside of the Tri-service and RAF Champs. This year only 3 teams took part: Cosford Stars (2009 and 2010 winners) Benson and Brize Bluewings and Eastern Crusade. The format is simple: play each other home and away and the resulting top 2 teams play each other in the final. Four games to get through and make the final. This may sound easy, but is not necessarily the case. Eastern Crusade have been the under dog for the previous (and only) 2 years in this competition, and massive improvements were required to really mount a serious threat – the new coaching staff and existing players were determined to take on the challenge…

After a great season the Eastern Crusaders found themselves in the final of the Anglo Cup which took place on Sunday September 11th at Oxford Ice Rink with Eastern Crusade playing Blue Wings. The match should have taken place in Milton Keynes, but due to technical issue with the Ice, the final was in danger of being postponed. Luckily the Oxford rink managed to accommodate the final and despite the late hour (2100) the final went ahead. A minute silence was held before the start of the game as a sign of respect for the victims of the 9/11 attack 10 years ago and the recent air crash involving the Russian Ice Hockey team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.

Crusade started the final rather scrappily, but settled down and managed to secure a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period. After a robust team talk from the manager, the game went up a notch and the goals came thick and fast to end the second period 8-0. With victory in sight Crusade came out in the third period even stronger and at just over 8 minutes in double figures were reached. Further goals were scored and with less than 3½ minutes to go goal number 15 was scored. This 15-0 win secured the Anglo Cup for Crusade with goals coming from A1C Hemquist, SAC Guscott, SSgt Hahn, CPL Collins, SAC Dunn, SAC Tomkins, Matt Thompson and CPL Hodgson.

The hard work and team spirit clearly paid off as all in all it was a truly fantastic season for Eastern Crusade. The Anglo Cup was added to the RAF plate and the silver medals won in 2 separate events in Augusts’ RAF Championships in Dundee. And, after a massive reversal of fortunes from the start of the season, things are looking up for the team. Be proud of your Ice Hockey team, wrap up and support them!

The team is always on the look out for new players at all levels. If you’re interested, you can contact Manager Jay Guscott on 95721 8033 or 8199

Written By: Margaret Mann & CPL Elliott

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