By Austin Mitchell-King of Dunchurch
As many of you know, I am an ice hockey player and was nominated last year by my Coaches at Coventry Blaze Academy to attend the Midlands Conference trials. In December I learned that I had been selected as a Forward for this year’s Under 13s team. There are four English Conferences and a Scottish one. The Midlands is composed of seven clubs, so competition is fierce and I was really thrilled! I have been training overnight most weekends at Nottingham Ice Centre (I sleep through Sundays!) in readiness for two major tournaments: one European and one against the other English Conferences during the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. I was lucky enough to get my chosen number #24 and the English Ice Hockey Association chose our playing kit and off-ice clothes: menacing black and grey, embroidered with our names and with the English flag on a shield as a logo. Hence we earned the nickname from our supporters as “The grey army!”
My team mates include two other Coventry Blaze players, five from Sheffield, four from Nottingham, three from Sutton and two from Telford. On Thursday 3rd April I travelled out with the U13s Midland Conference Ice Hockey team to play in an U14s tournament in Tilburg, Holland, with seven teams competing. There were teams from Holland, Belgium and Denmark. However before the tournament we had a warmup match at the National Ice Stadium in Eindhoven against the Dutch national Under 14 team. This was a huge, impressive stadium. The rink was amazing - bigger than our normal size and confusing with all the signs and notices in different languages. Even the advertising boards around the rink were confusing! Our opponents were well trained and went on to come second in the tournament. The first period of this warm-up game was a challenge and we were losing 2-0, when I am pleased to say, that I scored the first Midlands goal to begin our come-back. From then we went from strength to strength, finishing with a 6-3 win.
Around six o’clock on Saturday morning, we left the hotel for our first match against the home side, Tilburg Trappers. We had a relatively easy win 3-0 before going on to play HYC Herentals, a Belgium side with the largest goalie I have ever seen! This didn’t help them though because we won 1-0! We then lost 2-3 to the Dutch National team, who wanted revenge from the previous day. We won the next two matches, v. Turnhout Tigers 6-0 and Coldplay Mechelen (both Belgian teams), 5-2 respectively. Our last match was against a Danish team, Esbjerg IK, who were the tournament winners and beat us 4-2. They had two highly skilled players that we couldn’t contain, despite our team efforts.
We were awarded third place in the tournament and our team also had the privilege of winning the Best Goalie Award.
All the teams took part in a special ceremony and we collected bronze medals for third place and a Tilburg Trapper puck for a memento. It was an amazing weekend and one that will live with me for many years to come.
I am already back training overnight with the Conference team (Nottingham Ice Centre, Sutton or wherever we can get ice time) in preparation for the prestigious English Conference tournament in Hull next month. Watch this space!