Ice Hockey: Lacklustre champions find Racers too hot to handle: Hand tops scoring list

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THE last weekend of the final Heineken season (the company are withdrawing their sponsorship after 10 years) produced one surprise, two records and a 'resignation' from the First Division.

The surprise was the heaviest defeat of the season for the champions, Cardiff Devils: 15-7 at the hands of the runners-up, Murrayfield Racers. Tony Hand opened the scoring after 30 seconds, and Chris Newberry made it 2-0 to Racers within the minute.

It was a chance for the Scots to run riot and they did so, hitting six goals in the last 10 minutes of the second period to go 9-1 ahead. But the action was not finished: in the third period three minutes of four-on-four play saw seven goals.

Hand's three goals and seven assists helped him become the first British player to top the scoring list, with 66 goals and 119 assists from the 35 games, three points ahead of team- mate, Chris Palmer, who tallied 96 and 86 in 36 matches.

If Hand took the record for points this year, Ivor Bennett of Durham Wasps set what could be an unassailable record. Wasps might have gone down 10-4 to their local rivals, Whitley Warriors, but Bennett's appearance was his 351st consecutive league match.

Lee Valley Lions, bottom of the First Division, have declined to enter the promotion / relegation play-offs with the top English League First Division sides. The three-week gap until the play-offs is too long to financially maintain the squad, and Lions will automatically enter the English League next season - a move that will give them a chance to regroup and strengthen.

Results and tables, page 33