This Week 9th December
This Week there was a lack of top flight action but the EPL stood up and hit the headlines.
Smital To Lead Bees
Long time stalwart of the Bracknell Bees Lukas Smital has been announced as the new player coach of the Berkshire side. The Bees announced on Monday that the coaching partnership of Cox and Robinson had been fired due to financial issues. The Bees were no longer in a position to pay non-playing staff at the club. It is a harsh blow for the Bees whose recent performances against the Basingstoke Bison and the Manchester Phoenix had shown the league what they are capable off.
Smital began his reign with a dramatic 8-7 overtime win of the Sheffield Steeldogs before beating the Telford Tigers 6-5 for a 100% start. Those wins also left the Bees into 5th place in the EPL table.
Adams Saga Comes to An End
After 10 years with the Welsh capital side Gerard Adams has left the Cardiff Devils. Adams had been the head coach of the Devils but a poor start to the season saw Adams pressured into quitting playing duties to concentrate on the coaching of the Devils. Results didnâ€™t improve and Adams returned to the ice before director and former player Brent Pope took over the coaching duties. Adams had continued to play but has now left the side.
Solway Win Changed to Awarded
One of the biggest stories this week has been that of the Solway Sharks and Telford Titans. Last Saturday the Titans travelled to Dumfries to play the Sharks (the longest road trip in the NIHL) with just 8 players. The Titans did have the option to postpone the tie as the fixture had already been moved but nonetheless the Titans wanted to give the fans the game they deserved to see. The EIHA has now decided to award the game to the Sharks at a score of 5-0 as the Titans played an understrength team. The outrage has come from both teams as the Titans have also been fined and the Sharks have lost a 35-1 win. In a show of solidarity the Solway managed has backed the Titans appeal.
Ice Returns to MK
With the Milton Keynes ice rink still going under refurbishment a new temporary rink has finally opened. ICE MK is a unique venture in the UK as it is a not for profit rink being ran by volunteers and skating enthusiast. Saturday night saw the first competitive ice hockey action on the site of a former supermarket as the MK Thunder of the NIHL took on fellow homeless side the London Raiders. It was the visitors who ran out 4-1 winners.
The EIHL returns to full force next week and there are 5 consecutive nights of action from Wednesday. The highlights of the fixtures will be Saturdays clash between the Giants and the Steelers at the Odyssey but our pick is Sundayâ€™s Challenge Cup quarterfinal first leg between the Nottingham Panthers and the Braehead Clan. The Panthers have been the undisputed cup kings over the EIHL era but the Clan have proved they can mix it with the top arena teams in the league and currently lie 3 points ahead of the Panthers in second place in the league table.
In the EPL league leaders the Manchester Phoenix sit the week out leaving the Guildford Flames with a chance to regain top spot. For that reason the Flames clash on Saturday night at the Skydome in Coventry against the Milton Keynes Lightning is our EPL game of the week.
In the NIHL we have picked out 2 games to watch. The NIHL South 1 is incredibly tight at the top with 4 points separating the top 5 teams. Two sides looking to make up ground and challenge are the London Raiders and the Cardiff Devils and they meet on Saturday night at Lee Valley. Meanwhile on Sunday there is a top of the table clash between the Dragons and the Barons at Deeside Leisure Centre. The Dragons have been on top most of the season but the Solihull Barons have hit top form in recent weeks and are looking strong to take top spot away from the Welshmen.