On Saturday 8 January 2022, Luxembourg's Beaufort Knights lost 1-5 to Belgian opponents Olympia Heist.
In a so far unpredictable 2021/22 Royal Belgian Ice Hockey Federation (RBIHF) division 1 ice hockey season, Herentals Toekomssteam, who ended the abandoned 2019/20 season in 1st place, are currently 7th. The Leuven Chiefs, historically one of the most successful teams in Belgium, lie at the bottom of the division, despite a 3-8 win over the 4th-placed Knights. At the top of the league, the newly formed Mechelen Whales sit in 2nd place. Finally, the Antwerp Phantoms, who in 2019 were fighting to avoid last place, today are among the favourites for the championship, having scored an average of 11.4 goals per game. There have been upset results all-season long.
On Saturday, the trend of unpredictability continued for the Beaufort Knights in a 1-5 loss to Olympia Heist - a scoreline which did not always reflect the match itself.
The first period began on a snowy night in the north of Luxembourg in front of a reduced-capacity crowd of 200 fans as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. Although substantially less than the typical 400-550 attendance, the Beaufort Knights still attracted the largest crowds in the RBIHF Div 1. The home fans at Beaufort Ice Park cheered the Knights on throughout a goalless first period in which both teams had good offensive opportunities.
Reminiscent of the 3-8 defeat in Leuven back in November, the second period would prove to be the Knights' Achilles heel. 30 seconds into the period, Olympia Heist were on the board after the defence failed to close down Jentl Buelens who walked in from the blue line and had a clear shot on goal to score. Less than two minutes later, it was 0-2 after Tom Peeters hunted down the puck and, after some sloppy defending, from the Knights, found himself alone in front of Michel Welter to tap in a pass from Don Geerts. Things went from bad to worse 30 seconds after that when Arne Van Espen powered his way through the middle of the ice and past three Knights to fire in the 0-3 goal.
Despite a pair of minor fights which resulted in players from both teams being ejected from the match, play settled back into the close-fought contest of the first period. That was until a bad line change in defence from the Knights and a stretch-pass from Olympia Heist sent Kevin Glassee and Jonathan Rymenants racing in on a 2-on-0 to score, leaving Michel Welter with no chance. The second period ended Knights 0-4 Olympia Heist.
Early in the third period, the Knights would finally get on the scoresheet through top-scorer Brad Holman. After lifting the stick of an Olympia Heist defenceman to receive a pass from Sacha Backes, Holman fired a snap-shot into the top corner to make the score 1-4 and re-kindle some hope for the home side. Throughout the period, the men from Beaufort had chances to reduce the deficit but were denied time and time again by the outstanding Jente Vanroy, who continues to prove that women can be amongst the elite players in the division. She made 29 saves to give Olympia Heist the chance to win and at 56:11, Kevin Glassee scored on yet another breakaway to make it 1-5, moving Olympia Heist back to the top of the division standings.
The Beaufort Knights now have two weeks off to rest and prepare for what will be the busiest week of the season. A must-win Luxembourg Hockey League (LHL) matchup on Tuesday 25 January 2022 against Puckers Luxembourg will be followed by back-to-back home games in the Belgian Division 1 against Kortrijk and Antwerp on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 January 2022 respectively.