EIHL Team by Team Review 2014
Itâ€™s all done and dusted. The EIHL season is over and it has been season of mixed fortunes for sides. For all teams it has been surprising in one-way or another and for better or worse.
League champions for a second time in 3 seasons says it all and a huge margin of victory in the end as well. The Giants made both the Challenge Cup and Playoff finals as well but missed out on both in extra time and losing the last game of the season is never a good feeling. Next season could be interesting and intriguing. Coach Paul Adey has left the club after 1 season in charge but European elite level hockey could be on the cards and if that does not work out it will be Continental Cup.
It was a season of disappointment by their own admission. An admission that saw Doug Christiansen lose his job in February. But that said a Playoff title did come the way of the South Yorkshire side and second place in the league is not too shabby either. It will be a summer of changes in Sheffield with whether that is with Gerard Adams in charge or someone new.
No doubt about it the Stars were the team of the EIHL this season. A first Gardiner Conference title and third placed finish in the league will have fans smiling all summer. No doubt though there will be some regrets as the Stars missed out on the Playoff finals after a heavy defeat to the Fife Flyers. The Stars did have the star of the 2014 EIHL season in Dan Bakala between the pipes. Bakala finished the season having faced the third most shots in the league but had the highest save percentage and second best GAA at 2.62 of all starting goaltenders. It is a shame for the league and the Stars that Dan will be playing in Sweden next season.
Clan fans will be quiet pleased with their season. A fourth placed finish in the league is pretty good but the highlight for Renfrewshire side will be the playoffs. Unfancied at the start as they faced the Nottingham Panthers but the Clan demolished the reigning champions over two legs. Defeat in the semifinal to the Sheffield Steelers will be disappointing but a first playoff appearance is something to savour. It was also a good season for Matt Haywood and Matt Towe who have been selected for the GB squad.
Injuries, distractions and disappointments would sum up the Panthers season pretty well. However there were some highlights. A Continental Cup victory on home ice over Dynamo Riga Junior that sent them through to the penultimate stage is one. A comeback in the Challenge Cup final over Belfast to win on penalties will be another. Next season will be a big one for the side. Can the aging stars stay healthy? Can the youngsters step up more? Will Neilson be in charge at the end of season?
It was not the season the Blaze wanted in the post Thommo era. The Blaze started promisingly but that tailed off and cost Matt Soderstrom his post as head coach. Marc Lefebrve steadied the ship but it took until the final day of the season to stumble into the playoffs. What will be most concerning is that the Blaze did not take the bull by the horns in that final league game and make sure of the playoffs with a win instead it was an overtime point that did assure them a place.
The Flyers were set up to come good in the end. The fixtures meant for a hard start and a run in that featured many conference rivals. Helped by 3 points at home against the Giants the hard work paid off as the Flyers made the playoffs for the first time. Not only that but the Flyers knocked out the Stars on their way to the finals and pushed the Giants all the way to the end in the semifinal.
Despite finishing 8th in the standings this was Hullâ€™s best season in the EIHL. What is promising for the East Yorkshire side is that they made the playoffs on the back of a season in which they always looked like being in the playoffs. They will be disappointed that there was no return to the finals and that they were resoundly beaten in the quarterfinal of both the Challenge Cup and Playoffs by the Belfast Giants but hey at least they made the knockout stages. Lets not forget that was on the back of losing an import for the season after Derek Campbellâ€™s misdemeanour. Next season could go better or worse for the Rays as long time head coach Sylvain Cloutier leaves the side.
It was a season to forget and one in which they did not follow their sponsors lead with Smart Solutions. A poor start to the season was followed by confusion as Gerard Adams retired unretired lost his head coach role and eventually left the club. Just as Brent Pope was leading the club and about to get on the plane to commentate in Sochi hope appeared in the form of former Belfast and Sheffield boss Dave Whistle. That did help but the Devils missed out on the playoffs after conceding an overtime goal to Coventry in the final game of the season. The Devils did though make the cup semifinal but were well beaten by the Giants. It was a season to forget but with Dave Whistle confirmed for next season a stable summer is approaching and that could mean a brighter future for the final season in the BBT.
You would be mistaken for forgetting that the Capitals were even in the EIHL last season. A win over Nottingham in Murrayfield was a highlight but you are struggling to find anymore. The Capitals missed the playoffs by a long way and failed in the cup as well. But there is always next season!