Rink round up

Monday, 14th March 2005
With some of the Elite League teams having reached the end of their regular season, the jostling for Play-Off positions is coming to a close.  The past week's action kicked off at London on Tuesday with a visit from the Cardiff Devils, with the Racers keen to rack up as many points as possible before the Play-Offs.  But the Devils came out of the traps faster, and pushed to a two-goal lead early in the first through former Manchester Storm forward Russ Romaniuk and Steven Fisher.  The Racers fought back to tie the game by the end of the first, with Joe Ciccarello and Steve Moria finding the net.  Eric Cairns and Dennis Maxwell put the Racers two goals to the good in the second period, and the home team held off the Devils for the rest of the game, Dennis Ladouceur netting late in the third to give the home team a 5-2 win.
League winners Coventry Blaze didn't rest on their laurels going into their final two games, which were both away fixtures in Belfast.  The Giants, beaten into a secure second place by the Blaze, were keen to prove their worth against the Champions in the run-up to the post-season, and this was reflected in the outcomes of the two fixtures.  Friday night's fixture saw Curtis Huppe and Chris McNamara trading goals in the first before Adam Calder put the visitors ahead.  Ex Phoenix Captain George Awada found the net twice to swing the game back towards the hosts, but a second goal from McNamara levelled the scoreline at 3-3.  The first shift of the third period saw Adam Calder once again put his team ahead, but the Giants tied once more, this time through Mark Morrison.  Marc Levers and Ashley Tait traded goals to make the scoreline read 5-5 until a late marker from Dan Carlson put Coventry ahead.  Ex Storm player Curt Bowen tied the game with less than thirty seconds on the clock, and overtime couldn't separate the two teams, the fixture ending 6-6.
Saturday's season-closer for the Giants against the Blaze saw an early push by the league winners, with Chris McNamara finding the net in the first minute.  Ashley Tait put the Blaze at 0-2 ahead before Curtis Huppe pulled one back for the Giants.  Adam Calder restored the two-goal lead before Russell Cowley put the game at 4-1.  Curtis Bowen netted two goals in two minutes to bring the Giants back into the game, and Tony Hand tied the game early in the third period.  Ashley Tait scored again to put Coventry back in the driving seat but a quick response from the home team saw Huppe net again less than a minute later.  At 5-5 the game went into overtime, with Joel Poirier found the net with 17 second of overtime remaining to take the game 5-6 for the Blaze.
Elsewhere in Saturday, bottom-placed Basingstoke Bison played host to Sheffield Steelers in a surprising game which saw Doug Sheppard claim a hat-trick and the Steelers sent home without a point, despite Sheffield starting the scoring through Erik Anderson.  Duncan Dalmao opened the scoring for Basingstoke, and Sheppard's first of the night put the game at 2-1 for the home team.  Paul Sample and Mike Peron netted for the Steelers but these goals were cancelled out by Sheppard's other two, with the game sat at 4-3 heading to the end of regulation.  Sheffield pulled the goalie but the move backfired when Dalmao put the puck in the empty net to take the game 5-3.

Cardiff Devils rounded out their season with a trip to Nottingham on Saturday to face the Panthers, and a home fixture against league whipping boys Basingstoke Bison on Sunday.  The Nottingham fixture saw Konstantin Kalmikov and Mark Cadotte get on the scoreboard in the first period, and those two goals proved to be the only scoring points in the game, the Panthers taking the game 2-0.  Sunday's home game for the Devils proved more fruitful for the Welsh team, with John Cullen opening the scoring for the Devils early in the second period, closely followed by a Vezio Sacratini marker.  Ex-Stormer Shawn Maltby brought the Bison back into the game before Sacratini found the net a second time.  Shaun Thompson brought the Bison a second goal, but the fixture ended 3-2 to the Cardiff team.

London Racers played host to Sheffield Steelers on Sunday night,  with Adam Dobson making his third start in net for the Racers.  Erik Anderson opened the scoring for Sheffield, but Joe Ciccarello tied the game up on the powerplay.  Steve Moria put the home team ahead, but a late marker from Mark Dutiame tied the game up and head it into overtime, where neither team could find the net and the game ended 2-2.

by Richard Allan

1 Coventry Blaze 50 33
6 11
181 104 77 77
2 Belfast Giants 50 31
7 12
170 104 71 66
3 Cardiff Devils 49 29
4 16
149 119 63 30
4 Nottingham Panthers 50 25
5 20
136 101 61 35
5 Sheffield Steelers 49 25
4 20
116 108 57 8
6 London Racers 49 19
8 22
114 122 49 -8
7 Basingstoke Bison 49 15
5 29
126 175 37 -49