This Week 23rd December
It is Christmas week and teams are heading into a busy festive period. But last week saw some changes and new faces for teams.
Trouble for EPL Sides
Cost cutting measures at EPL sides has continued this week. Most notably at the Bracknell Bees after dispensing with off ice staff and coaches owners PSM axed import Tamil Tvrdek. The Czech forward was apparently not providing value for money with 11 goals in 24 appearances however there are suggestions that he will not be replaced at the Berkshire club.
Tvrdek did however join the list of players making a move to a new club by signing the other struggling EPL side the Slough Jets.
War of Words
The Fife Flyers win over Braehead last week sparked a war of words between the two sides. Accusations the Clan tried to influence a disciplinary hearing for unnecessary roughness against the Flyersâ€™ Matt Nickerson were levied at the Clan after a picture emerged of the Clanâ€™s Chris Frank following the incident. The Clan were also accused of exploiting the incident in order to sell more tickets for their rematch on Saturday. In the end Nickerson was suspened for 12 games and the Flyers lost to the Clan 5-0.
New Goalie In Cardiff
The Devils had asked Santa for new goalie and he delivered early. The Devils have signed 25 year old American Phil Cook. Cook is a first year professional after playing NCAA for Minnesota State University (Mankato) and started the season with the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL. The somewhat unknown entity in the professional ranks was selected to the NCAA all-academic team twice for his division and replaces the Dan Lacosta. The injury hit Lacosta has been forced into retirement.
Cook made his debut in a narrow 4-3 defeat to the Sheffield Steelers on Saturday.
The Belfast Giants were already in a strong position before they took to the ice this weekend. Nottinghamâ€™s loss in Hull on Saturday whilst the Giants were beating the Blaze also aided the situation. The results will leave the Giants top at Christmas and with a 7 point lead over the Clan. Last years Champions the Nottingham Panthers still have 4 games in hand but thanks to that 7-5 defeat in Hull are now 13 points adrift.
The Manchester Phoenix returned to action after missing last week and losing top spot in the process. However after overcoming the Peterborough Phantoms in a penalty shootout the Phoenix hosted fellow front runners Guildford. A 31 save night from Steve Fone helped the Manchester side to run out 6-0 winners and take top spot back. The Phoenix still have 3 games in hand on the Flames and 2 on the Bison leaving them in a strong position at Christmas.
Champions Hockey League
The format and the first fixtures for the new Champions Hockey have been announced. The tournament will feature 10 groups with only the group winners guaranteed a place in the knockout phase where the 6 best runners up will join them. The tournament will start on August 21st and finish with a single game final in February. The draw will be made the World Championships in May.
The Elite League has picked out its best games for the Christmas period and it would be impossible to pick just one to watch. The Panthers and Steelers ice off against each other, as do the Devils and Blaze and Caps and Flyers. All heated rivalries to warm anyone up this Christmas.
The festive period has given the EPL the opportunity for some rare mid week matches and 3 days of games over next weekend. The pick of the bunch is at the foot of the table with the Telford Tigers facing the Swindon Wildcats next Sunday.
It is sparse pickings in the NIHL as most clubs take a Christmas break. Off the remaining ties next week though the northwest derby between the Manchester Minotaurs and the Blackburn Hawks will be a game not to miss.