This Week: 13th January
This week we come from the â€˜newâ€™ Widnes ice rink. Opened just over a year ago it is still one of the newest ice rinks in the country and since August has been home to the Widnes Wild. There has been ice hockey in this part of the world before with the Liverpool Leopards but that was a long time ago. The Wild have in a short space of time captured a good fan base, which includes many new to the sport. Â Widnes came out of this one down 5-3 but they are a side that has something to build on both on and off the ice. There will be on Widnes and the Wild later in the week.
Away from the Wild this week has all been about the actions on the ice with some surprising scores and challenge cup quarterfinals.
Panthers Confirm Semi Spot
The Nottingham Panthers finally confirmed their place in the last 4 of the challenge cup after making the trip to Glasgow in midweek. The Panthers were already 8-0 up from the first leg but it was a gutsy effort from the Clan to run last seasons winners close in the end. A 7-2 victory on the night made it a respectable aggregate result of 10-7 but a defeat is a defeat and the Panthers will face the winner of the Steelers and Stars tie
Wednesday night also saw the third quarterfinal between the Fife Flyers and the Cardiff Devils get underway. The Devils looked to be in full control of the tie but a late fight back brought the Scotsmen to within 4 goals. Nonetheless the Devils will be happy defending a 7-3 lead in the notoriously difficult Fife Ice Arena. The Belfast Giants await the winners in the next round.
The Coventry Blaze had promised something this season but their recent run of results has seen them slid down the standings. Despite taking a 3 goal lead in Sheffield the midlanders where pegged back to lose in Overtime. That defeat meant the Blaze had lost their last 3 games in extra time and thanks to Hullâ€™s win on penalties the Blaze slipped to 7th in the standings and that was before dÃ©jÃ vu on Sunday.
Another first period 3 goal lead for Blaze this time over the Panthers was erased shortly afterwards. The Panthers going on to win 5-3. That was marred by a brawl during the post game handshakes involving most notably Blaze players Adam Henrich and Matt Selby and Panthers new signing Joe Grimaldi.
Giants Make Leaps
The Belfast Giants fired a massive warning shot to the rest of the league of the weekend that last weekendâ€™s loss to the Dundee Stars was a one off not to be tolerated. Back to back games with Cardiff Devils gave the Giants 4 points as expected but the Giants managed to score 18 times in those 2 games to beat the Devils both home and away.
Loses on Saturday for Braehead and Dundee also assist the Giants title hunt.
Saturday night saw a string of unexpected results. In the EPL the lower placed side in each of the 5 matches won the games. Whilst most sides were breathing a sigh of relieve at the outcomes the Slough Jets now found themselves on the playoff bubble. But results were not limited to the EPL.
In the EIHL their were wins for Hull and Fife against top half opposition and it was a late comeback from the Sheffield Steelers than prevented them from dropping 2 points to the Coventry Blaze.
The Elite League delights fans next week with matches on 6 consecutive nights. A single highlight is had to choose with Fife hosting Cardiff in the Challenge Cup second leg, both legs of the Sheffield â€“ Dundee tie and the small matters of a Forth derby and a Blaze showdown with the Devils.
In the EPL it is ties at the bottom of the league that catch the eye. Take note of the Peterborough Phantoms and Bracknell Bees on Sunday night as teams with the most to gain and lose out of dropping bottoms to a rival for a playoff spot.
In the NIHL there is a rare full weekend of NIHL South 1 fixtures with Wightlink Raiders trip to Invicta Dynamos a stand out fixture. The Raiders are clear at the top of the table but Dynamos lay in second place with games in hand and are looking to catch up.