This Week: Sunday 17th March
There may have only been one major talking point this week that springs to mind but there has been a number of other stories.
Panthers Win Elite League Title â€“ It was a nervy game on Friday night in Belfast with the Panthers needing 2 points over their rivals to win the illusive league title. However the Panthers 4-3 victory on the Friday was enough to win their first league title since 1956.
Flames Go Back to Back â€“ The Guildford Flames needed a 2 point swing on Saturday to lift the Premier League title for the second year in a row. It was not straightforward however as the Flames could only manage an overtime defeat in Sheffield. That result though didnâ€™t matter as the Basingstoke Bison had already lost earlier in the night in regulation to the Milton Keynes Lightning and thus the Flames result was irrelevant, as Basingstoke could no longer catch them. The Flames joined the Panthers in a jubilant return home on Sunday evening.
Panthers Attendance Rise â€“ The 2013 edition of the IIHFâ€™s attendance rankings was released this week. There were a few surprises caused by the KHLâ€™s growing influence. This included a rise in attendance at all 3 top level sides in Prague and an almost doubling of attendance for Slovan Bratislava since their move to the Russian based league. In the UK though the Panthers rise to league glory was matched by a rise in the numbers in the arena. The Nottingham side moving from 62nd to 54th averaging over 5,000 fans a game.
Dundee Future Secure â€“ After an uncertain future last weekend the Dundee Council vote unanimously to write off an unpaid debt owed by the Ice Arenaâ€™s operators to the council. There is still the matter of the unfiled accounts but it does look like the Stars and their Scottish league brethren win be able to use the arena next year. There was more good news as well as the arena will have a new reception area built.
EPL Cup gets Off to Hot Start â€“ Before securing back-to-back league titles the Guildford Flames were in cup action. The Flames travelled to Slough and came away with a 2 goal advantage ahead of the second leg in Guildford on Wednesday. That result puts them as favourites to become double winners and with the side on form heading towards the playoffs a Grand Slam could be on the cards.
Hand that Rocks the Cradle â€“ With the announcement that the Coventry Blaze will be in the market for a new coach this summer a number of names have been put out there. However it will not be Tony Hand. The Manchester Phoenix chief added a one-year extension to his contract to remain at the club for another 3 seasons but it is as yet unclear as to whether or not Sir Tony will be donning the skates for matches or not next season.
Metros Fate Final Sealed â€“ A week after the Nottingham Lions secured a return to National League North One next season the side they will replace was known. The Trafford Metros have struggled all season long and defeat on home ice to the Coventry Blaze NIHL finally sealed the their fate. It was a victory that also sealed the fate of the Blaze as they will play in the playoff against the second placed side in National League North Two next season.
Bandy Final is Iced Run for World Championships â€“ Last season the Blueliner Hockey Tour visited Stockholm and saw the work on the venue for the opening game of the 2013 World Championships. The National Stadium in Stockholm now known as the Friends Arena this Sunday had its first taste of iced sports after being opening by a soccer friendly between Sweden and England. The Allsvanskan Bandy final took place and featured local side Hammarby whom the Tour visited in 2011. Hammarby played a 9-4 victory in front of a record attendance.
Games to Watch this Week
Next weekend sees the final matches of the league season in the EIHL and EPL. The title maybe already decided in both but the playoff matchups are not. Whilst the races for promotion and titles in the National League could be a lot clearly
Breahead Clan, Dundee Stars, Edinburgh Capitals, Fife Flyers, Hull Stingrays (All weekend)â€“ With the new conference structure guaranteeing the winner a playoff birth means that the race for the remaining playoff births is extremely close between these 5 teams and any 3 of them could make the cut. In particular watch out for the Edinburgh Capitals and Dundee Stars meeting on Sunday as it could be a winner takes all for conference and playoff spot glory.
Solent and Gosport Devils â€“ Chelmsford Chieftains (23rd March)â€“ A big win last Sunday over rivals Romford gives the Chieftains a chance to lift the title against bottom side Solent and Gosport. 2 points would give Chelmsford the title before they meet fellow challengers Wightlink on Sunday.