Rink round-up

Monday, 20th March 2006
With the regular season in the bag and Belfast celebrating the League title, the post-season has begun in earnest with the start of the Play-Off campaigns.  Belfast Giants, Cardiff Devils, Coventry Blaze and Edinburgh Capitals have been placed into Group A, and Group B consists of Basingstoke Bison, Newcastle Vipers, Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers, the groupings being decided on the standings in the league table.
Sheffield and Basingstoke opened their respective Play-Off campaigns last Wednesday when the Steelers hosted the Bison in Sheffield.  Kent Simpson put the home team on the scoreboard first with a powerplay marker in the ninth minute, only for the scores to be drawn level less than thirty seconds later, Edijs Brahmanis the marksman.  Early in the second period Basingstoke forged a lead after just fourteen seconds of play, and it took until the end of the period for Sheffield to redraw the game.  Shawn Maltby had picked up a high sticks game penalty halfway through the period before the Steelers scored the equaliser through Martin Masa, the scores sitting at 3-2 going into the third thanks to Kent Simpson's second of the night.  The final goal of the game came in the third period through Mike Peron, taking the points for Sheffield with a 4-2 win.
Sheffield were in action again on Saturday in the first leg of the British Knock Out Cup Final, where they held the visiting Coventry Blaze to a scoreless draw, netminders Jody Lehman and Martin Klempa keeping their teams in it with 28 saves and 24 saves respectively.  The second leg of the final will take place at the Skydome in Coventry on Saturday April 1st.
Cardiff Devils and Belfast Giants opened the Group A Play-Off competition with a fiery fixture in Wales on Saturday.  A 5+Game penalty for kneeing saw Cardiff's Regan Darby head for an early shower in the first period, but Belfast were unable to capitalise on the resultant powerplay.  The first period came to close just after the Giants had gotten on the scoreboard through Shawn Skiehar, and it took until the 35th minute for Cardiff to get into the game, Brad Voth getting the home team off the mark and drawing the scores level.  Just before the interval Rejean Stringer gave Cardiff the lead going into the third, and a period of end to end hockey saw no score until Stringer popped home his second with a little over a minute remaining on the clock, Cardiff taking the points with a 3-1 win.
Nottingham Panthers started their campaign with a home game against Newcastle Vipers, the second place Panthers facing the third place Vipers in Group B action.  The first period saw a trading of goals, Dave Clarke and Jan Krajicek cancelling each other out to set the scores at one apiece.  David Longstaff, the ex-Manchester Storm forward, gave Newcastle the edge just after the halfway point of the game, only for another ex-Stormer Joe Cardarelli to retie the scores only 23 seconds later.  In the third period, Blaz Emersic gave Nottingham the lead four minutes after the restart, and it took until the 57th minute for Newcastle to tie the game through another ex-Stormer, Jonathan Weaver.  With no overtime played in Play-Off games, the score remained at 3-3, the points being shared.
Sunday night saw Newcastle and Nottingham face each other again, this time on Tyneside as the Vipers hosted the Panthers.  A scoreless first period gave way to a second period in which Newcastle took the lead throuhg Matus Petricko.  Paul Moran popped home an equaliser three minutes later, but Newcastle edged themselves back in front with a Paul Ferone powerplay marker.  Taking a 2-1 lead into the third period, the Vipers built on it with goals from Cory Morgan and Jonathan Weaver making it 4-1 before Nottingham came back through Matt Myers and Brandin Cote to make it 4-3, before the clock ran out, Newcastle taking the points and sending the Panthers home empty handed.
Edinburgh Capitals hosted Cardiff Devils on Sunday, and a tightly fought first period yielded no goals.  The deadlock was broken in the second period when Dino Bauba found the net on a four on four play to give the Caps the edge and take a 1-0 lead into the third period, where a rally by the Devils saw four goals in six minutes, the Caps defence crumbling under the pressure from the Cardiff team.  Nathan Rempel found the net for the first and fourth goals, and markers from Vezio Sacratini and Phil Hill saw the game end 1-4 to the visiting Devils.
Last season's League Champs Coventry Blaze were at home on Sunday to this season's League Champs Belfast Giants, and it was the visiting Giants who drew first blood only eleven seconds into the game.  It took until the halfway point of the game for the Blaze to get on the scoreboard, Adam Calder finding the net.  Calder netted again late in the period to give the home side the lead only for Leigh Jamieson equalised fifiteen seconds later.  A scoreless third period saw the game end 2-2.
Basingstoke Bison hosted Sheffield Steelers on Sunday, and the home team got off the mark first with a goal from Greg Owen in the 16th minute. Paul Sample equalised less than a minute later.  Basingstoke restored the lead with a short-handed marker from Shawn Maltby halfway through the game, and they held on to the lead until the 55th minute when Mike Peron reset the tie. But only twenty seconds later Jerry Galway put the biscuit in the basket for the Bison, Basingstoke winning the game 3-2.
by Richard Allan