Elite round up: How things have shaped up

Tuesday, 25th September 2007

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.

Six games into the BMI Baby Elite league season and my prediction league has already gone to pot (a bit like my skating!) Edinburgh with four consecutive home wins in the league and challenge cup, Belfast with only one narrow victory from 6 attempts. The season is shaping up to be a right tough old slog, anybody on there game can beat anybody this season and a few eye opening results have ruffled the feathers of the self proclaimed “Big teams”.

What is going on over in Belfast? After last seasons impressive, net busting start the Giants petered out after Christmas and haven’t looked dominant since. It seems wrong form from last season has segmented itself all over the Odyssey this summer, conceding 27 goals from six games is a statistic to keep the coach awake at night. Home form is crucial to their season, De Rouville is Mr RE-Bound at the minute but his defence certainly aren’t helping. They need to tighten up if anything is to come from this season. Man to watch: Scott Cameron.

After a disappointing opening weekend for Manchester, four straight victories with some magnificent highly charged performances have seen the Phoenix rise to the dizzy heights of second place on the ladder. Fankhouser is looking good to return the high expectations placed on him now that he has worked out his defence and their movement. Tallari Bum-De-yay Tallari Bum-de-yay… a new chant has been heard around the Ice Dome with Joe fast becoming a hard working fan favourite. Expect the Phoenix to be playoff bound with a fighting spirit. The first push in the Challenge cup is this weekend, maybe we could see a glimmer of silverware heading our way? Man to watch: Sean Starke.

The Play-off champions, Nottingham. It seems to me that the Panthers have their gun loaded, cocked and the trigger pulled but someone has forgotten the gun powder. Inconsistency might be a big factor for them this season, but a hat-trick for former Manchester hero Johan Molin at the weekend could see things turn for the better. They are not as dominant as they were during the playoffs last season but a momentum team such as this fight and dig in when the adrenalin starts pumping, one goal leads to confidence and inevitably an attacking rush. Man to watch: Sean McAslan.

Basingstoke have been a tough, hard working and exciting team to watch and this seasons side is no different. Two wins from six in the league and challenge cup is not championship winning form, but with a powerful defence and similar look about them, playoffs are within reach this season. Man to watch: Derek Campbell.

Newcastle have frustrated me in the first few games of the season. I can’t quite put my finger on what is wrong with there side but something doesn’t seem quite balanced? Yes on paper they look a much more attacking goal scoring Vipers team, but with their dirty, gritty performance against Manchester last week and a 7-1 thrashing from Coventry at home, things aren’t what I was expecting at all. Playoff contenders it seems and a result grinder, but not a pretty side to watch. Man to watch: Mark Gouett.

Sheffield Steelers are looking just like the Sheffield Steelers fans, bold, attacking and a sense of arrogance that can only come from winning the title numerous times. I hate to say this given the war of the rose’s rivalry over the years, but the Steelers are the package to push Coventry all the way to the wire. Ashley Tait and Joey Talbot have been pulling in the goals (and PIMs!) with Doug Sheppard grabbing the assists. Expect them to be there or there abouts come the business end of the season. Man to watch: Jason Hewitt.

I haven’t had a chance to take a closer look at Coventry, Edinburgh, Hull and Cardiff so I don’t want to analyse too much but from talking to friends around the Elite league;
Coventry’s Man to watch: Dan Carlson
Cardiff’s Man to watch: Matus Petricko
Edinburgh’s Man to watch: JF Perras (NM)
Hull’s Man to watch: Nikolai Ladygin

I will round up the league again next month when the league table will be more of a settled structure (or maybe not!). But for now enjoy the hockey as it’s a cracker of a season, and for all who have a date with Lord Stanley and his keepers this coming weekend enjoy the cream of the crop!

Ben Haddock

PS: Watch out for some exciting updates to the official Manchester Phoenix website, including a Beginners guide to Ice Hockey.

Sean Starke

Sean Starke is Ben's "Man to Watch" for the Phoenix
(Image: Richard Murray)

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