2015 RAF Ice Hockey Championship Marham Share in Victory
On 3 September 2015, the RAF’s top 2 Ice Hockey teams took to the freshly cut ice at the Dundee Ice Arena to close-out what had been an intensive 2015 tournament season.
The 2015 RAF Championships final was well and truly set to be a highly contested match, with this year’s Tri-Service Champions, the RAF Bluewings (central England Stns), looking to secure the double over the returning 2014 RAF Championship victors, the RAF Vulcans (East England Stns). The tournament itself began the previous day on the 2nd September, and saw 5 RAF teams battle it out in a round robin, before heading into the playoffs and finals in the afternoon of the 3rd. The newly branded RAF Vulcans, who won last year’s tournament under their previous name, RAF Eastern Crusade, had a hard fought tournament, and needed to battle hard to reach the final. The Bluewings however, who had gone undefeated throughout the tournament, entered the final with a quiet air of confidence.
The first period started as expected; the Bluewings, true to form came out looking to dominate, playing very high tempo hockey and forcing the Vulcans to make tough defensive plays. The Vulcans stood firm with some standout defence from SAC James Flynn (RAF Honnington) and RAF Ice Hockey veterans Cpl Matt Cryer (RAF Coningsby) and Flt Lt Tim Loosely (RAF Marham). The solid defensive play eventually wore the Bluewings down, and after some exceptional team play, the Vulcans found themselves breaking out into the Bluewings offensive zone, culminating in the opening goal, scored for the Vulcans by SAC Lewis McCabe (RAF Wyton).
As the period was drawing to a close, some tired legs from the Vulcans and a flash of excellence from Bluewings left wing Cpl Richie Gray (RAF Halton), resulted in the Bluewings netting their first goal, bringing the first period to a close at 1-1. After an inspired team talk from the Vulcans captain, Flt Lt Loosely, and coach, Cpl Cryer, the Vulcans came out swinging (not literally as some might associate with the sport), displaying pure passion and determination to retake the lead, with a hard fought second goal coming half way through the final period from Sol Park (RAF Lakenheath) supported by Fg Off Lee Cope (RAF Marham). The Vulcans were then forced to battle defensively as the talented Bluewings forwards loomed, constantly testing the Vulcans goalkeeper, Flt Lt Darren Williamson (RAF Waddington). With 1 minute left in the final period and the adrenalin pumping, the Bluewings began their final drive to try and equalise the score, forcing a penalty shootout. As hard as the Vulcans tried they could no longer hold the mêlée of shots from the Bluewings, and in the last minute SAC Ryan Hutchinson (RAF Odiham) equalised, sending the game to penalties. The Vulcans, deflated after victory was in their grasp, return to their bench to decide on the penalty takers. First up to shoot would be Sol Park for the Vulcans. Park, the USAF wonder, effortlessly skates down the ice, faking the Bluewings keeper out of his pads and netting the first goal of the shootout. Turn after turn, the Vulcans and Bluewings fought it out in the shootout, with both goalies pulling out big saves. The final attempt for the Bluewings to equalise dawned, with SAC Adam Rossbottom (RAF Northolt) being forced to score, if he did the shootout would continue, if he missed, the Vulcans win. Rossbottom makes his way down the ice, trying to fake out Williamson in net, and with one final move on the keeper Rossbottom takes the last shot of the tournament…Williamson stands tall and pulls out a big save, Vulcans win!! Gloves and sticks are flung into the air as elation from the Vulcans players pours out; the underdogs take it from the favourites in an incredibly hard fought final and a fantastic display of RAF Ice Hockey. The trophy was theirs and would be shared between the units from which the Vulcans recruit its players; its current home is the RAF Marham trophy cabinet in SHQ if you fancy a look…..
The RAF Vulcans are one of the four regional RAF Ice Hockey Teams in the UK – we cover the RAF Stns in the East of England (roughly Waddington down to Honington) with our Centre of Gravity being the Ice arena in Peterborough. The standard of skating and hockey ability in the RAF varies from novice to league players so if you used to play or would like to take up the sport, we would love to hear from you (Service, civilian or dependant). Please contact Sgt Gareth ‘Raz’ Nutley (Ext 6344) or Fg Off Lee Cope (Ext 7295) for more info.