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Ice hockey: Surreal to see Perlini hitting heights at Winter Classic

PUBLISHED: 12:01 05 January 2019

The 2007/08 Romford Hurricanes team

The 2007/08 Romford Hurricanes team

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Watching a former opponent Brendan Perlini in the NHL Winter Classic was a surreal experience that brought back memories

Ice hockey loving children dream of going out onto a frozen pond and playing their beloved sport, in the UK we don’t get that chance too often, but it is always a fond memory of any player or fan.

The NHL’s Winter Classic has become a landmark day in the calendar for hockey fans, due to feel of an outdoor game, even for the little loyal community in the UK.

Although it may not be the biggest sport in our country, there is still a hardcore of fans which follow it religiously.

And this year there has been plenty to cheer about and the New Year’s Day outdoor match continued that movement of British players making their mark on the big stage and triggered some good memories of my own.

Under-12 stats from 2006/07 seasonUnder-12 stats from 2006/07 season

I sat down to watch the clash between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks and it was Brendan Perlini, a former Guildford junior, who netted the first goal of the game.

As soon as he found the back of the net all the moments of coming up against him in under-10s and under-12s came back to me.

I was often tasked with the challenge of shutting him down and marking him out of games to help Romford Raptors get a result.

Coaches including Lenny Cole and Ben Pitchley would tell me to stick to him like glue and basically find out what he had for breakfast!

We used to bolster a squad that now features some of the current two Raiders teams, including defencemen Jack Cooper and Stevie Dunnage.

We also had Telford Tigers netminder Dennis Bell, and often were joined by the likes of Jake Sylvester, Brandon Ayliffe, and Peterborough Phantoms forward Glenn Billing when they played up.

It was a real challenge, but something I enjoyed, the task of cancelling out the best player in the league was always one I would thrive on.

Guildford had the majority of the best players from the South West at the time but knowing we could cancel Perlini out would often give us half a chance.

He did however go to win the league scoring race – despite my efforts on shutting him down in under-12s back in 2006/07! It didn’t end up being a bad season for myself as I finished third in the scoring ranks.

Moving on from the 22-year-old forward, it’s not just him who is flying the flag for the British game, as Team GB qualified for the top division at the World Championships for the first time in 25 years.

And they will now come up against the likes of Canada, USA, and the rest of the elite ice hockey nations.

Perlini will be hoping to be selected for Canada if he has a strong second half to the season and he could then come up against his brother Brett who is expected to possibly be selected for GB.

The 28-year-old Brett Perlini currently plays for the Elite League Nottingham Panthers and is becoming a vital part of their team.

He also played for Guildford juniors and finally returned ahead of last season after years of playing NCAA and ECHL hockey in North America.

The forward even got drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, but has failed to play in the NHL. Dad Fred Perlini played for Streatham and Lee Valley, among others, during a long career in British ice hockey.

Another name that has made headlines recently is former Sheffield Steelers youngster Liam Kirk, who currently plays in the Ontario Hockey League for the Peterborough Petes, after he was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes last summer.

I personally haven’t come up against Kirk, but have seen him in action, and he appears to be a natural goalscorer and the best hope of an Englishman making it into the NHL.

The former Steelers man I’d imagine will be one of the first names on the squad list for GB’s World Championships campaign in Slovakia in May.

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