This Week 20th October 2013
This week has been a busy one on and off the ice for clubs. There has been player movement, retirements, restructuring and the now obligatory disciplinary matter.
Devils Make Changes
It has been a difficult start to the season for the Cardiff Devils. Following the statement of confidence by owner Paul Ragan in coach Gerard Adams the team has made moves. Suprisingly out of the door on Monday morning was long term British forward Phil Hill. That was followed 24 hours later by the news Adams would no longer ice and the defenseman would concentrate on his coaching duties from now on. Despite being 2 men down the Devils had a spirited performance on Thursday night against the Giants eventually going down by a single goal. A mauling of the Coventry Blaze in the Skydome on Saturday night in the challenge cup followed that up. Whether it was the changes or the fact that the Blaze and the Devils are both almost certain of a quarter final place remains to be seen but it was a surprising sign that the tide could be changing on the Bay.
Hill in Nell Out?
Following his release from the Cardiff Devils phone calls were frantically being made across the EIHL and no doubt some EPL clubs for the services of Phil Hill. However the Sheffield Steelers snapped Hill on an initial months trial. It was just in time as the Steelers lost Rylan Galliardi who quit the club in midweek. Rumours almost immediately surfaced too about the future of Aaron Nell on side. It seems unlikely Nell will move though before a replacement for Galliardi is found and the Steelers secure the long-term signature of Hill.
Watt returns to the Wildcats
After his release from the slow starting Slough Jets early this month Ryan Watt returns to the Swindon Wildcats.
European Hockey Returns
European hockey returned to the UK as the Nottingham Panthers hosted the second round of the Continental Cup at the NIC. There was a late change as Spanish champions Bibipolo Vitoria-Gasteiz replaced the Estonian qualifier Tallinn. After victories against the Spanish and dutch side The Hague the Panthers faced pretournament favourites Dinamo Riga Juniors in the final game coming out 3-1 winners. The Panthers now head to Italy in November to face Asiago of Italy, Neftekamsk of Russia and Kazakh side Pavlodar.
Tigers Elite Bound
New owner of the Telford Tigers has vowed to bring the good times back to the Shropshire side. Wayne Scholes is already prepared to splash the cash to improve this seasonâ€™s side but he is not wanting to stop there. Nor will Scholes be happy stopping in the English Premier League and has set his sights on a place in the Elite League. It is a bold statement given the Tigers small rink capacity but was still greeting with delight amongst the Telford faithful.
It is a busy week with 2 midweek games and Friday night hockey returns to the Odyssey. But across the leagues next weeks fixtures as a feel of a weekend in which the cream of 2013/14 will come to the top.
In the Elite League our pick of the games is that encounter on Friday between the Belfast Giants and Nottingham Panthers. But another interesting match up is at the bottom of the league where the bottom two, Hull and Edinburgh, have a home and home series over the weekend. Saturday also serves up a rematch of Sundayâ€™s tie at the Motorpoint. The Steelers heading to Belfast having narrowly beaten the Giants on home ice.
The Premier League serves up a mouth watering match up between the Guildford Flames and the Basingstoke Bison. A win for the Bison on Sunday and they will be on the scene as title contenders whereas a win for the Flames would establish them as a favourite. Sunday also sees the Sheffield Steeldogs face the Peterborough Phantoms. Both sides are at the bottom of the table and both know that wins against each other will be huge come March and the playoff placing. A lose against the Bees and the Phantoms over the weekend has not helped the Steeldogs cause either.
League action returns to the banks of the Mersey next Sunday as the Widnes Wild play their first league game on home ice against the Blackburn Eagles in the NIHL. Elsewhere though Saturday serves up a roses clash between the Manchester Minotaurs and the Sheffield Spartans but the big game is on Sunday. The Blackburn Hawks face the Billingham Stars.