League roundup

Tuesday, 29th January 2008

Another look at the 2007/08 Elite ice hockey league (EIHL) and challenge cup season and how its shaping up all from a fans point of view exclusively here at www.manchesterphoenix.co.uk

G’Day! I am back from a little sabbatical Down Under. This meant that I hadn’t actually watched a live game of hockey for over 5 weeks and it was beginning to feel like an off season for me, but without the dodgy transfer rumours and crazy internet forum antics. But don’t worry I am back and have watched two cracking games of hockey this past weekend which has given me renewed enthusiasm for the Elite Ice Hockey League and of course my beloved Phoenix.

How things can change in just a short period of time, in my last league roundup I mentioned that Coventry were having a slight blip in form, how Cardiff were storming up the league hoping for a high playoff slot and how unfortunately Edinburgh were rooted to the wooden spoon…

Well Coventry, at this stage of the season are looking good for the league leaders trophy, the blip in form back in November was just that, a minor blip it seems. Their style of play is not too dissimilar from the Manchester Phoenix but the main difference is that the Blaze are allot more clinical on the attack and hold the counter attack very well. A +76 goal difference is not a stat to be disregarded, whilst they also do British ice hockey proud on the European stage. But just before I carve the Blaze name onto the silverware a certain team from Belfast might show them more of fight than I thought at the start of the campaign.

“They need to tighten up if anything is to come from this season.” My words at the start of the season. A new netminder in Stevie Lyle, defence only conceding only 17 goals in there last 12 games whilst the forwards have been busting the net with 45, turning over Nottingham and Cardiff 6-2 away, Sheffield 6-1 away, Shutting out Coventry 2-0 away from home, now that is championship winning form. Pete Campbell has bagged himself 33 goals and 44 assists, but it’s the player/coach Ed Courtenay who heads the Giants points table with 81 points. It was rumoured that Courtenay issued an ultimatum to his players earlier in the season to get them to raise their game or risk losing a job. Unconventional and a little rash I thought but take a look at Belfast now, 2nd in the league and gunning for both the league leaders trophy and playoff glory.

Three pivotal players for the Cardiff Devils were missing from the teamsheet on Saturday night when they took on the Manchester Phoenix, and it was clear to see that this was hurting the play immensely. Struggling with injuries have seen them fall down the league to 6th place with the Phoenix breathing down there neck. Before this past weekend since Phil Osaer became injured for the devils, they had won only one league game. An upturn in form and some good luck on the injury front and Cardiff are genuine Playoff title contenders if they can replicate the form they had before the festive season.

Hull are still blowing hot and cold, never quite being able to string a run of results together. Back in October, the Stingrays travelled to Belfast and a two goal shut-out of the giants opened my eyes a little to then get defeated by the Giants at home 7 goals to 1 just six days later. It is exactly the same now as it was back in October although Edinburgh has managed to take that step away from the wooden spoon which inevitably has pushed the stingrays firmly into the 10th place hoodoo. Rob Rankin has warned that the Stingrays must treat every game “as if it’s our last”, and they really need to keep that cup mentality if they are to close the nine point gap to the Basingstoke Bison and that coveted playoff spot.

That’s all for now, and I hope you’re enjoying your New Year hockey as much as I am.

Ben Haddock

PS: Reward your curiosity, watch some ice hockey.