Following on from Strasbourg 2013 (Click here) the Clovers were back preparing for the French, but this time……… we were ready!!
Once again excitement started to grow in the Covers camp as it got closer and closer to May. The gruelling matchups of the year before did nothing but put an extra fire in our bellies. last year we had gone in blind, but this year we knew what was required of us.
Ben and the board had spent the run up to Christmas promoting & building the team, ensuring we survived the dreaded transfer to wheels, and when the ice came to the Point in December Coach’s Ger Duffy and Paul Maher wasted no time getting down to business. The result was now to be put to the test 6 months later!
On a cold but bright May morning Clovers players gradually arrived in the departure area of Dublin Airport in their new green jersey’s (which would become even more popular than the white ones!) While our numbers were slightly down on the previous year we had managed to hold on to a formidable force of old faces, including Alan Flemming, Aaron Guli, Peter McGovern and our captain Conor Flemming. We had also attracted a few new faces including Morgan Kan, Lorna Hoey, Giorgio Pavesio and Adam “ahh Bud” Pepper to fill out the squad.
The feeling was electric and while we were here to have fun and be happy we were back on the ice, this year brought with it an sense of expectation we had not experienced the year before. We were faster, stronger, and we were gonna prove it.
On arrival once again we were greeted by Steph, Morgan and the Strasbourg Gryphons and treated to a full length game on the night before the tournament started. This was invaluable for the team as they had been on wheels for the last few months and now had a chance to regain their ice legs. For myself, Aaron Collins, this would be the first and last time I would kit up for a game in the 2014 Tournament.
Having injured my wrist playing American Football for the South Dublin Panthers, the weekend earlier, I had refused to admit I would not be playing in France. I had spent the last 6 days doing everything I could to treat sprain, strain and tendon damage (including some pretty rough physio) and as I sat in the changing room wrapping my wrist for the game I couldn’t help but see myself sucking it up, taking to the ice like Conor Banks in The mighty Ducks and putting one in the top corner!
One by one the Clovers stepped on to the ice and as I wheeled around the red line calling to Conor Flemming for a warm up shot I felt mighty! Very quickly followed by regret as the puck came to my stick and sent a shot of pain up my arm like a shotgun. Later I would find out I had multiple fractures but for now I was confined to running the bench and supporting my team any way I could.
The Clovers on the ice however came out swinging, and the Gryphons now found themselves playing a very different team than they had faced the previous year. In the end the Gryphons B team had taken the victory, but the Clovers had proven they were here to play!
The following morning the tournament started and we found ourselves greeting old friends from all over France. Although the setup was the same as the year before if felt different to us. We were no longer the new guys and as we played our games the other teams took notice. Our games became faster, closer and more exciting and by the middle of that day we found ourselves winning our second game of the tournament against the Strasbourg Gryphons C Team! this was the fist win we had had in France!
That evening we had clamed our second win and proved the work we had put in was paying off. As the saying goes, “those who work hard, play hard” and a Clovers Trip wouldn’t be complete without some mischief. With our iron clad generic “What happens in a France trip stays on a France trip” rule, a few beers at the rink and 2 victories under our belts we went out on the town! For Adam Pepper and Peter McGovern difficulty came in the form of navigating French road signs as the made their way back to the hotel after the games.
With an early start to the day after a hard night of drinking we made our way to the rink in the train. For those that saw it, the cigarette incident may have been the highlight of their day, but alas I am bound by the France rule…. you know who you are!!
At the rink we were preparing for 4 games that day, the first 2 of which were against the infamous Strasbourg Gryphons A and Geneva teams who had run away with it on the ice against us the year before. Sluggish from the day before and playing the superior teams we found ourselves outmatched and conceded the games.
After lunch we took to the ice with Strasbourg B. With one win already against us on the first night the Gryphons came out confident & strong. Straight of the bat they pushed on our defence and drove us into our own half but only to have the Clovers push back. Pressure mounted, tensions rose, the atmosphere was electric! The game was a cracker, and by the end of the 3rd period it remained 0-0 forcing a penalty shoot-out.
For us, Adam Pepper took to the net, for the Gryphons Tebo stepped between the posts. Shot after shot the men managed to protect their corners with Adam boosting the crowds from their seats and Tebo stopping everything we could throw at him (including some fancy footwork and remarks from Aaron Guli).
Both men held out for a full round of penalties but when Aaron Guli got back on the ice for his second chance, he was gonna make sure. Circling once, he began his drive, pushing the puck out in front of him. as he drew closer to the puck he took a slap shot, 4 meters from the net, blasting the puck into the top corner to win and make for a stunning game.
Our final matchup was against Dammarie, Paris, who had been at all the Clovers games in noisy support. Before the game they took to the ice to give us a heart felt rendition on Irelands Call of which we will not forget. During the game another of our comrades (Kevin Robert) ended up in a sling due to a heavy hit on the ice. When asked if he was ok, Kev answered “I think so, ye”, to which Coach Ger Duffy commented “then get **** off the ice ye big V*****!”.
With the games over the Clovers had won 3 out of eight games, improving immensely on our previous score of zero the year before. We had also retained the Beer Cup, of which new player Andrew Reuter contributed to wildly (and then went for a walk..) We had proven, even with no ice, that the Clovers could rise to any challenge, and have a blast doing it. We had made even more friends and formed stronger bonds. Once again we cannot thank the other teams and organisers enough. The Strasbourg Gryphons are a credit to themselves and French hockey and we look forward to seeing them all soon.
Looking forward to this coming may the Clovers are already gearing up for your best trip yet. With 25 players confirmed and two teams competing there is no telling what we will accomplish this year, but either way you can be sure we will have fun doing it!
Check back with us regularly for more about our team!! GO CLOVERS!!