BY DAVID CARR
New Streatham RedHawks captain Ben Paynter was a happy man as they won both of their back-to-back pre-season challenge games against Romford last weekend.
It was a first taste of competitive action in over 18 months for the historic South London ice hockey club, following their league and cup double winning campaign that ended in early 2020.
The team have in fact yet to formally lift the league trophy in front of a crowd and are still finalising the best time to do so.
Off-ice changes have been significant over the enforced 18-month break, with player-coach Adam Carr retiring and handing over the reigns to former captain Michael Farn and a number of new faces coming into the squad.
Goalie Tom Annetts, experienced defenceman Sam Waller and forwards David Millner, Ben Ealey-Newman and Josh Ealey-Newman have added quality to an already strong outfit. Local teenage prospects Milique Martelly and Harvey Briggs have also signed.
Departing the championship winning roster along with Carr were long-serving defensive duo Adam Wood – who has moved to the north-est – and Rupe Quiney, who retired.
The new look RedHawks team beat Romford 4-3 in Essex on Saturday evening, before winning 5-1 twenty four hours later at Streatham Ice Arena.
“All the guys were really excited to get going,” admitted Paynter, announced as the new captain earlier in the summer.
“It took us a while on Saturday to find our feet after a long lay-off but on Sunday we really showed some of the quality we have in this squad.”
The return game in Streatham was particularly emotional for fans and players alike. The scoreline was a little more comfortable than the previous evening as the squad went up through the gears, as they learned each other’s games. The home crowd were especially heartened by the performances of local teens Milique Martelly and Harvey Briggs, who, along with last year’s rookie Conner Smith displayed further evidence that junior club talent is finally stepping up into NIHL 1 hockey after difficult times in the last two decades.
“All the new guys really made a good impression on their first weekend,” said Paynter.
“They showed exactly what they bring with a couple of nice goals and a team-first mentality, sticking up for their team mates. The two new young guys Martelly and Briggs showed exactly why they’ve been called up, and Waller doesn’t look like he has missed a weekend, let alone five seasons.
“There is a good feeling around the room with everyone settling back nicely and it was great to be back on the High Road with fans in the building.”
Streatham’s league title defence begins this weekend with a road trip to the resurgent Slough Jets on Saturday, followed by another game against Romford at home on Sunday, but this time with points at stake.
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