EIHL Half Term Report
It is New Year in the EIHL and sides have reached the half way marker in their season. No doubt some teams will be happy and some teams will be thinking of the mountain they are to climb if they are to reach their preseason aims. I am taking a look at each team to see which category they fall into and what their prospects for the rest of the season may be.
With a new coach behind the bench many people were looking at the Giants to see what they could do and I doubt many would be disappointed. Top of the league with a 13 point gap and wins over 2nd, 4th and 5th in the league over the Christmas period. The Giants also finished top of their challenge cup group although that is almost a given and are safely through.
Predicted finish: Top of the league. Even though the Giants have played more than the teams around them they are far enough in front to be throwing it away should they not take the title.
The Clanâ€™s struggles in the challenge cup at the start of the season are all but forgotten now. A second place in the league with wins in Sheffield this season has made for a happy bunch in the first half of the season. In the second half the challenge will be to carry it on especially against their conference rivals. The Clan are in the hunt for the Gardiner Conference but are a point behind the Dundee Stars and have played 3 games more.
Predicted finish: 3rd. The Clan are capable of getting points south of the border and with a good start behind them a top 4 finish should be do able.
The Devils have had a season to forget. Owner Paul Raganâ€™s title hopes disappeared with his game of musical coaching staff in October and November. The Devils have steadied the ship since and have a quarter final in the Challenge Cup against Fife to look forward too. At just 2 points above the playoff cut off the Devils could be vulnerable down the stretch.
Predicted finish: 8th. The Devils have talent and have steadied the ship and should do enough to get into the playoffs. However losing Brent Pope to media commitments in Sochi cannot to be helpful to the cause.
The Blaze had some glimpses that this could the season they mount a challenge at the top. A huge 5-0 win over the Giants in Belfast at the start of the season had set them up nicely and further wins in Nottingham and at home to in form Dundee gave more indicators that this could be a promising season. Since then though the Blaze have found themselves out of the Challenge Cup in the group stage and slipping down the table. Following defeats to Cardiff, Braehead and Nottingham the Blaze are now in mid table 6 points inside the playoffs and equally of the chasing pack.
Predicted Finish 6th. Unless the Blaze can put together a good run of results they will be stranded in mid table.
The 2013 â€“ 14 season will always be remembered by the Stars fans as they spent all those weeks at the top of the table. A lack of success away from Scotland has hindered hopes of a title challenge but the fortress they have created on home ice has put them in a good position. That good position could also lead to some silverware with the Stars leading the conference standings.
Predicted finish: 5th. If the Stars can continue to pick up the points at home and against conference rivals a top half finish is a reality.
The Capitals season has struggling to get going really. However recent changes and additions to the squad have made a difference to the side and results are coming. The struggle for the Capitals will be getting results away from Murrayfield and without those points the Caps will be the first on the golf course come April.
Predicted finish: 10th. The Capitals have struggled to pick up wins away and are already points behind in the playoff race.
A few weeks ago the Flyers would have been my dark horse for the Gardiner Conference title. Having played few games their counterparts the Flyers were looking like a team that could make a move in the second half of the season. A poor Christmas with defeats to Edinburgh and Dundee has perhaps changed that view.
Predicted finish: 9th. The Flyers have some catching up to do and I cannot see them getting the â€˜helpâ€™ they need from the Devils or the Stingrays to make the playoffs.
The Stingrays have perhaps benefited from the Devils poor show the most. Instead of being grouped with the Caps and the Flyers at the bottom the Stingrays have been elevated into a playoff spot. That does however take away from the Stingrays results. Wins against Nottingham, Cardiff and Coventry have been backed up with good results in conference matches.
Predicted finish: 7th. The Stingrays are in for a good battle with the Devils for 7th and 8th spot down the stretch but the Stingrays ability to grab 2 points at unlikely times will help.
The Panthers have certainly enjoyed their championship year. A domestic treble and hosting the Continental Cup will make 2013 a season to remember for the fans. However there can be no excuses now. Yes they have had injuries but the league does not take that into consideration and European distractions are behind them. The Panthers may have 3 games in hand over the Giants but even a 10-point gap is a tall order.
Predict finish: 2nd. The Panthers need to avoid slip-ups over the lower teams to avoid losing more ground.
The Big Doug Era may be underway at the Motorpoint but the Steelers have dropped points in games a champion side would not. Much like the Panthers they have a lot of ground to make up on the Giants and find themselves in a pack. A strong run of results will help but so far only the Giants have seemed capable of this.
Predict Finish: 4th. The Steelers have the experience down the stretch but the teams around them will be looking for the same points.