This Week 31st March
This week was the tense playoff quarterfinal weekend with spots in Nottingham up for grabs for the EIHL and in Coventry for the EPL top 8â€™s.
There were expected results, close calls, blowouts and the underdog. Or everything you would want from the playoff quarterfinals.
The league champions booked their place in the finals with 2 comfortable wins over the Hull Stingrays.
The Sheffield Steelers went to the Coventry to face a Blaze side that only booked their place in the last game of the season. The return leg is on Tuesday night but the Steelers hold a 1-goal lead going in to the second leg.
The Dundee Stars and the Fife Flyers played out the first all Scottish EIHL playoff tie. The Flyers have been flying recently but with results to left them into 7th place in the standings. A tight 4-3 game in Kirkcaldy saw that confidence lift again and the return leg in Dundee was a blow out for the Flyers. A 4-1 win that set up a semifinal with the Belfast Giants.
The 4/5 tie is normally a close call but with the Panthers on a high after their Challenge Cup come back they were the favourites. It did not go to plan. The Clan went back to Glasgow with a 4-0 lead which was doubled on Saturday as they added a 5-1 win to take a 9-1 win and become the first Scottish side to reach the EIHL final four.
The line up for the semi finals will be Belfast â€“ Fife and Breahead will face the winner of the Sheffield/ Coventry tie.
It was one of the most open playoffs in years in the EPL. The top 4 had been the form sides all season but the teams below had form down the run in. The Manchester Phoenix had lost some of their impetus in recent weeks but picked up the league title with 2 games to spare. They found themselves a goal down after the first leg in Bracknell but staged 40 minutes that was amongst the best this season to win 6-3 on the night and 8-6 on aggregate.
The Basingstoke Bison were the form side in the top 4 in the final games of the season and that continued in the playoffs. A 2-0 win in Sheffield set them up nicely but a 6-1 home win rubber stamped them as one of the favourites in Coventry.
The closest tie on paper was the closest tie of the weekend. The Flames entertained the Tigers with the Tigers fancied as a playoff hopeful. The first playoff tie in Telford for many years ended in a tense 4-4 tie. The return tie in Guildford was equally close but the Flames ended the Tigers season with a 3-2 win to book their place at the finals.
The MK Lightning had played most of the season lost in mid table but went to Swindon and got a 3-2 result. The Wildcats though have been very stubborn and able to pull out wins when they needed it. This weekend was no different a 3-1 win in Coventry was enough to defeat the Lightning and set up a return next week.
Challenge Cup Comeback
The Giants were looking in a good position in Tuesdayâ€™s second leg but the Panthers stayed a stunning come back with 4-1 victory on the night. That left the scores even and a dramatic penalty shoot out went the way of the Panthers for their 5th straight Challenge Cup. Next season though the Challenge Cup will feel different with the Cup final taking place on Sunday 8th March in a one off game in Sheffield
Capitals Are Still Around
Nobody has spoken about the Edinburgh Capitals in recent weeks with the side out of the playoffs but this week they announced that goaltender Tomas Hladlovsky will be returning to the side next season. It is a positive move with the Slovakian being a corner stone of the side this year.
The EIHL have announced this week that they hope the Belfast Giants will be accepted as the UKâ€™s representative in the new CHL European tournament. That will be the first time that a UK side has taken part in the premier level European tournament in over 10 years against the best sides from Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and other nations. The Challenge Cup winners will also have an opportunity to play in Europe with the Continental Cup place being taken by them. If the Giants are not accepted in the CHL then they will take the Panthers place in the Continental Cup.
Next week is playoff weekend in both the EIHL and EPIHL. Â