Slough Jets lined up against the mid table Guildford Flames following on from a 4 point weekend against the Steeldogs and Phoenix. They say winning is a habit and it’s a habit the Jets are looking to get into as based on the talent available within the team there’s no reason the Jets shouldn’t be winning a great deal more than they lose.
One of the talking points of the summer was the signing of Greg Chambers within the EPL. Peter Russell made it clear on his twitter early in the summer that he had NOT signed Chambers before being replaced by Doug Sheppard and it was pretty clear that Shep had also not moved to sign Chambers as his own announcement completed the imports on the squad.
There are some Jets’ fans that were upset by this lack of signing but I can say the fact we didn’t sign him certainly didn’t bother me. We had Sheppard, Pliskauskas and Calder up front with Kieras at the back. In our forward imports arguably we have the best combination in the league and the addition of Chambers to our line-up would have at best meant one of those three import forwards missing out and that would just not make any sense.
Chambers at the age of 28 should be in the prime of his playing career. He should be at the height of his physical fitness and conditioning yet last night looked out of condition and off the pace. Arguably the stage crew have the best view of the game in the building and from my vantage point I could only notice Chambers for the fact he wasn’t making any impression.
The Jets and Flames have enjoyed a close rivalry for years, the teams are pretty local to each other and these games have always been competitive. It’s the first time Chambers has taken part in one of the derbies but he just didn’t seem up for it.
Lots of players have hype around them, Adam Calder’s January signing to the Jets was a signing of a very much hyped player and each time he hits the nice he justifies the hype around him. Chambers’ summer signing within the EPL had more or less the same hype as Calder’s signing but I fail to see that he has as yet justified this.
On to the game and a great performance by the Jets. Every professional sportsman will up their game for the bigger match ups and this was no different for the Jets team. 78 seconds in the Jets got off to a great start with a bit of luck and a deflection of the puck from a Flames’ defenders skate past Mark Lee making it 1-0. The Flames goal at the other end of the ice in the middle of the period, their only goal of the season was scored while Stuart Potts totally prevented Gregg Rockman from making the save. Potts came in to crash the net, probably to try and screen Rockman but in the process took out Alex Symonds and ended up on top of Rockman. Rocky did his best to get free but couldn’t make it back to his net in time to save the shot and it was 1-1 with 3.12 left in the first period.
The Jets dominated the middle period of the game with 25 shots on Lee while conceding only 9. Shep has talked about tight defence and since a pretty lose start defensively the team has really tightened up. Cutting a team like Guildford down to just 9 shots in the period is a good performance while those same defenceman help their forwards with quick outlet passes catching the Flames and allowing those 25 shots on Lee. Adam Calder continued to justify his reputation with a peach of a goal at 30.49 and with the end of the period looming Ryan Watt matched himself against Jez Lundin after a shuffle in front of the net. Lundin did well against a pumped up Ryan but the fight recorded the first win of the night for the Jets and the players served double minors.
With Calder’s game winning goal in the bank the Jets were able to play a more open style of play in the third period while the Flames has to chase the game. Darius Pliskauskas scored at 45.42 and that 2 goal lead then secured the fate for the Flames. Despite some pressure from the Flames on Rocky he stood big and made some massive saves to keep the Flames at bay.
Dixon called the Flames timeout with 96 seconds left in the game and what followed confused me. I can understand that he might want to pull the netminder and try the extra attacker but was the 96 second gamble really worth it? It’s a long time to defend an empty net and despite one miss for the Jets on the first opportunity Darius scored into it with 6 seconds left.
The Jets forwards played well last night, the defence played well too and Gregg Rockman put in a match winning and man of the match winning performance. He saved 37 of 38 shots including some absolutely top drawer saves and his role was massive in the confidence that the team could play with out front.
After a shaky start to the season the Jets sit joint top still in the table and are going from strength to strength. The Flames are probably where we were a few weeks back, wondering why with the talent they have on their roster they are only mid table. The good thing for us is that Doug kept faith with what he had in the room and now things are coming good, I wonder whether the same will happen in Surrey or whether changes will be made.
The following day Jets came away from Telford with a 4-5 OT win against one of the rejuvenated sides in the league. The performances on Telford, Bracknell and Sheffield have really impressed so far this season however I’m not sure these teams will be able to sustain this level of play and intensity all through the season. They are currently playing at 120% like a play-off run in which can be maintained for the final few weeks of the season, injury permitting but I don’t see that any team can maintain that sort of “over performance” over the course of a 54 game season.
It’s great for competition that the entire EPL is competitive for the first time in years but I’m not 100% certain that all the teams will maintain this form and intensity as the season continues and some may easily start to fade in form.