Ice Hockey: Beavers break down divisional barriers

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The Independent Online
FOUR TEAMS secured places in the Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-finals over the weekend and the fact that three are from the Heineken First Division is proof that what was once a great divide is narrowing rapidly.

If there is a surprise side, it is Basingstoke Beavers, a team few would have expected to have played four and won four in their four-team mini-league.

Admittedly their 16-4 drubbing of Slough Jets was against a side weakened by injury, suspension, and a dismissal for abuse. Jets began without Joe Stefan, Warren Rost and Peter Quiney, and then lost Gary Stefan for abuse.

Beavers have Kevin Conway, Rick Fera and Mario Belanger in the Cup's leading scorers' list and the scalps of Cardiff Devils and Bracknell Bees as proof of their winning ways.

Beavers are joined by Sheffield Steelers, who beat Fife Flyers 7-5 in front of a home crowd of 7,000. The close-fought game was tipped 6-5 in Steelers' favour with 18 seconds remaining. Fife, desperate for an equaliser, pulled their minder, only for Steve MacSwain to pounce on the puck, skate past three defenders and score in an empty net for the win.

The third side is less of a surprise. Ayr Raiders, relegated from the Premier Division last season, nearly did not start this season, but they began the weekend by beating Fife 9-7. The import Kevin Lavallee and Lindsay Lovell were instrumental in a 10-6 win over Murrayfield Racers. Ironically, Lovell learned his trade at the Edinburgh club.

The three 'minnows' are joined by Cardiff, who beat a Bracknell Bees side icing just two imports 8-3. Devils' Nicky Chinn was dismissed for fighting, with five minutes of the match left, but Devils' superiority was then marked by two shorthanded goals from Doug McEwen in the resulting penalty.

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP Qualifying round: Ayr 10 Murrayfield 6; Bracknell 3 Cardiff 8; Durham 9 Whitley 8; Humberside 8 Medway 3; Peterborough 6 Nottingham 7; Sheffield 7 Fife 5; Billingham 7 Whitley 11; Fife 7 Ayr 9; Nottingham 11 Medway 3; Romford 5 Durham 7; Slough 4 Basingstoke 16.

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