This Week 28th September
This Week there has been a few talking points that have lit up public opinion and the great one hit the shores of the UK.
The Great One Visits The UK
On Wednesday night Wayne Gretzky was in the UK as he visited his beloved Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs ceased the chance to present him with his one shirt and 99 on the back only to spell his name wrong. Whilst this sparked outcries from hockey fans it is not the first time it has happened. Gretzky once played a game for the New York Rangers in a misspelt jersey.
NIHL Cup Announced
There is nothing like planning and better late than never the NIHL North has announced its cup competition for this season. Widnes, Solway, Blackburn and Billingham will compete in a round robin format for the Cup. In a positive move for the NIHL though games tied after 60 minutes will go to overtime and penalties.
The early season action has all been in the Challenge Cup and in Group A as they near the completion of the group stage couldn’t be tighter. Wins over the weekend for Edinburgh, Fife and Belfast keeps the tables close with 3 teams tied on 6 points. They are followed by Dundee on 5 and Braehead on 4 points and currently out of the knockout stages. However with Edinburgh having played 7 out of 8 games their 6 point haul may not be enough for first appearance in the quarter finals.
In group B Manchester’s home victory over the Coventry Blaze has made it a closer race for the 4 spot and a place in the quarter finals. Nottingham’s win over the Cardiff Devils on Saturday elevates them up to second place in group B.
In the league the attention was on the Manchester Storm’s first visit to the Sheffield Steelers and reigniting what was the biggest rivalry of the ISL years. The Storm bounced back to form after two disappointing weekends and spared on by the 4-1 win over Coventry on Saturday they went down bravely 3-1 to the Steelers.
Belfast were not really talked about much in the preseason or early season but quietly have gone 4 games unbeaten in the league. A 2-1 win over the Blaze at the Skydome came on the back of a 4-1 win over the Clan in the cup and the Northern Ireland side are now 1 point behind the strong starting and highly fancied Panthers. One side perhaps not living up to their preseason billing early on are Clan who followed a Cup defeat in Belfast with a defeat to the Panthers in Nottingham.
As the Storm crossed the Pennines in one direction crossing the other way were the Sheffield Steeldogs. The Steeldogs hit the ice in Deeside but it was the Manchester Phoenix who came back to win 5-2.
Sunday night was proof why the EPL is so open this season. After beating the Manchester Phoenix on Saturday the Wildcats were tamed 6-0 by the Flames on Sunday. Despite being shutout on Saturday the Bracknell Bees responded by beating the Basingstoke Bison 4-1. Last years winners the Telford Tigers went home winless as they lost on Saturday to the MK Lightning and were shutout at home to the Peterborough Phantoms. The Phantoms are looking the most consistent this weekend as they succeeded in not conceding a goal in both their games.
Sadly though there was no chance of fortune for the Hull Pirates who are still to record their first win.
The new promoted Telford Tigers caused the biggest upset of the NIHL season so far as they travelled to Solway. The Tigers winning 6-3 against the 2 time champions in Scotland. The side in their second year have come along way from the last Telford side to play at this level in Solway. The then Titans lost 35-1 with only 7 players and a goal but this Tigers side with the backing of the Red Hockey group have changed that around. It didnt get any better for the Sharks though as they lost to another newly promoted side the Solihull Barons 5-4.