EIHL’s end of season awards

Ice Hockey’s Elite League handed out its annual awards as part of the festivities of finals weekend.

Cardiff Devils goalie Ben Bowns was given the nod for British Player of the Year. The Rotherham born keeper also earned Netminder of the Year. This was due to him leading the league in goals-against average (2.50) and save percentage (.918).

Bowns’ teammate, Andrew Hotham was named Defenceman of the Year. He was the highest scoring defenceman for the second campaign in a row. The Barrie (not Barry Island) born skater was responsible for 16 goals and 68 points in 63 regular season and Challenge Cup matches.

Mathew Sisca of the Manchester Storm secured both the Elite League top goalscorer and leading points scorer titles. His coach, Omar Pacha collecting the trophies on his behalf.

Sheffield’s Paul Thompson earned Coach of the Year plaudits after securing back-to-back titles.

Player of the Year went to Cardiff’s Joey Martin, who notched up 31 goals and 84 points in all competitions. The Canadian’s performances were good enough to be Forward of the Year.

The All-Star teams were also announced.

Bowns and Hotham were both named to the first team. As were Steelers’s Ben O’Connor and Tyler Mosienko. Joey Martin and Nottingham’s Juraj Kolnik completed the set.

Coventry Blaze goaltender Brian Stewart was the standout on the second team. Belfast player/coach Derrick Walser made the side along with his trusted centre James Desmarais. Two Storm players also made it in the guise of Paul Phillips and Mathew Sisca. Then last year’s outstanding skater, Mathieu Roy took a step back but was good enough to be honoured.


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EIHL playoffs: Finals weekend review

Semi-finals

#2 Cardiff Devils 2-6 #8 Coventry Blaze

Forward Chris Bruton’s hat-trick earned him the man of the match award as the reigning playoff champions return to the final.

The eight seeds stunned the regular season runners-up as the West Midlands-based outfit were 4-0 up in the opening 20 minutes.

Brett Robinson, Cale Tanaka and Josh Godfrey were also on the scoresheet for the Blaze. And they will now matchup against the weakest squad they have had to play in this year’s competition.

Joey Haddad and Gleason Fournier added consolation. However, Cardiff ends a promising season empty-handed.

#4 Nottingham Panthers 4-1 #6 Fife Flyers

Corey Neilson’s side took control with two quick goals in the second period. David Clarke found the top corner then Logan MacMillan scored on a counter attack.

Fife’s top point scorer, Ryan Dingle had a spectacular goal that gave his Flyers some hope early in the last 20 minutes to be played.

However, Brad Moran restored a two-goal lead. Shortly after Evan Mosey ensured it would be the home team that would face Coventry in Sunday’s final at the National Ice Centre.

The Blaze had beat Cardiff Devils 6-2 in the first semi earlier on in the day.

Third/Fourth-placed match

Cardiff Devils 6-0 Fife Flyers

In the match no player wants to participate in, the Flyers were the less interested of the two sides.

Luke Piggott and Chris Jones hit doubles while Ryan Russell and Jake Morissette both netted singles.

The Welsh side, who led the Elite League for the majority of the season before losing it to Sheffield Steelers, were 3-0 up in the first period.

A couple more goals arrived in the second session, and Devils achieved their shutout with a sixth three minutes from time.

Final

Nottingham Panthers 2-0 Coventry Blaze

It is a cup double for Corey Neilson’s side as they also lifted this year’s Challenge Cup at the National Ice Centre. They led at the end of the first period thanks to a strike by Stephen Schultz.

Blaze goaltender Brian Stewart made many saves that kept his team in the match going into the closing stages.

However, it would not last. Schultz turned provider and set up Kevin Quick to fire the second past Stewart and into the roof of the net.

Panthers keeper Miika Wiikman was able to secure a 30-shot shutout, having made many fine saves throughout the course of the match.

Although, Nottingham was worth their win. On their own patch, they could have won by a greater margin had it not been for the Coventry netminder.

The Canadian also saved on breakaways from Brad Moran and Evan Mosey before a great stop to deny Juraj Kolnik.

The focus now turns to the offseason and for the out of contract Panthers Head Coach Corey Neilson is looking to extend his stay. He said:

“There are a lot of great places out there, but this has always been special to me. If they want me back, of course, I will consider it. Hopefully, they recognise the things I’ve done.”

The Canadian was solely a player for two years with Nottingham. He then combined the role with coaching for the next five before switching his focus to the sideline full-time in 2013.

“I was privileged enough to wear the jersey for so long, now I get to be in charge of the biggest club in the Elite League. Over the 10 years, I feel we have had a great amount of success with championships and trophies that we are proud of.”

The Nottinghamshire based squad bounced back in 2016, having failed to win anything in the 2014/15 season. That campaign was the first time in seven years that they did not celebrate with silverware.

“It’s always a blast to be in your home rink and to be able to raise the trophy in front of all these great people that support us through thick and thin, high and low. Every game this year, these guys have given their hearts. They have not been great every single game, but they certainly gave everything they had. I could not be prouder.”

Fans and players alike will be hoping that Neilson stays on and will be coaching them to further success when the season starts in October.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

EIHL playoffs: Finals weekend preview

Semi-finals

#2 Cardiff Devils v #8 Coventry Blaze

The Welshmen just edged past the Dundee Stars on Sunday. They netted the couple of goals needed in the last period to progress into the final four 6-5 on aggregate. The seventh seeds exceeded expectations in the Cardiff Arena winning the first-leg 4-1. Andrew Lord’s side lived up to their regular season billing. Andrew Hotham and Joey Martin (the league leaders in assists) set up the goals required to progress.

Blaze became the first eighth seed to knock out the champions and they did so in some style. The Sheffield Steelers were 4-0 down after the opening 25 minutes. The talent shone through and managed to make it respectable clawing it back to 5-3. Coventry made the 90-minute journey to Yorkshire knowing they could get beat by one and qualify for the semis. Even with that safety cushion, it was looking like Chuck Weber’s team were going to miss out. However, like their upcoming opponents, they got the job done in the last period. Scoring twice to level it up at three each.

Devils won six of the eight regular season matchups against Coventry. This includes the one contest at a neutral venue. Cardiff knows how to perform in the cups and that will likely see them edge past the Englishmen.

#4 Nottingham Panthers v #6 Fife Flyers

The Gardiner Conference runners-up beat the two-time reigning champions over the weekend. However, they needed overtime to do so at the Braehead Arena.

After a thrilling Fife comeback in the final 81 seconds of the first leg, the same tense affair played out in the second instalment. Braehead levelled the tie up twice at home with efforts either side of TJ Caig’s strike. The Canadian deservedly won the man of the match with his second and decisive strike in overtime.

Panthers beat out the Belfast Giants to secure home field advantage at the National Ice Centre. Overcoming the fifth seeds 7-4 on aggregate. Nottingham was 3-2 down in the first tie but turned it around late as they took a one-goal lead over to Northern Ireland.

Nottingham and Fife only met four times in the regular season with the home team coming out on top on three of the four occasions. With that in the mind, Corey Neilson’s men will likely reign supreme and go onto the final.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

EIHL playoffs: Quarter-finals preview

Seven of the eight teams returned to the playoffs this year. The exception being the now defunct Hull Stingrays. Their vacancy was filled by 2015’s worst side, the Dundee Stars.

Braehead Clan and Cardiff Devils switched seedings as have Coventry Blaze and Fife Flyers.

Edinburgh Capitals missed out again as they dropped from ninth to 10th. Newcomers Manchester Storm fell away in the concluding few weeks and finished ninth.

2014/15 winners Coventry will be looking to repeat their post-season win when the action gets underway on Saturday night. Three of the four reverse fixtures will take place on Sunday evening. Belfast Giants v Nottingham Panthers commences on Monday.

In Nottingham, the one-legged semi-finals will be contested on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, the third-place game and the final.

Quarter-Finals

#1 Sheffield Steelers v #8 Coventry Blaze

Sheffield won the regular season title, but they lost six of eight matchups v Coventry. Steelers won the first and last matchup of the campaign.

Both sides split the points at Sheffield Arena. Blaze are unbeaten when coming face-to-face with Paul Thompson’s men at SkyDome. I can foresee the reigning playoff champions “upsetting” the Yorkshire outfit.

#2 Cardiff Devils v #7 Dundee Stars

This matchup pits the best defence against the best offence in the country. Netminder Ben Bows had conceded 139 while the Stars scored 200 in the 52 fixtures.

Both squads earned four points against one another. Although, the Welshman beat out their Scottish rivals in the two-legged Challenge Cup tie.

Steve King has already led his team to a final in the cup this year and I expect him to coach his way out of the first round.

#3 Braehead Clan v #6 Fife Flyers

Braehead is the form side in the division. They have won their last seven fixtures to lift the conference title. On their way to becoming back-to-back Gardiner champions, they bypassed their post-season opponents, Fife.

Todd Dutiaume got the better of compatriot Ryan Finnerty this season winning four out of six meetings.

Although, this is a bad time for Flyers to be playing their Renfrew-based rivals. The Kirkcaldy outfit has lost their final three and momentum is with the west coasters. However, I would not be surprised to see the Clan bow out at this stage.

#4 Nottingham Panthers v #5 Belfast Giants

The two closest matched seeds provide the toughest to call tie of the first round. Belfast and Nottingham had seven encounters. The English outfit won four and lost the final two.

Giants ended on a high with three wins to secure the fourth spot from Panthers. Nottingham had lost their last two and six of their previous 10. Oddly enough this malaise has taken place after the Challenge Cup victory.

Corey Neilson should guide his men into the finals weekend, but only just.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

EIHL week in review

This week’s big winners are Sheffield Steelers as they won the Elite Ice Hockey League’s regular season for the second season in a row. Steelers earned 72 points throughout the campaign, two more than runners-up Cardiff Devils.

The big losers are Edinburgh Capitals who once again lost heavily in both of their games.

Last week’s results

Wednesday:
Cardiff Devils 4-3 Belfast Giants;
Nottingham Panthers 5-0 Coventry Blaze

Friday:
Belfast Giants 5-3 Fife Flyers

Saturday:
Manchester Storm 2-5 Cardiff Devils;
Belfast Giants 5-1 Fife Flyers;
Braehead Clan 8-1 Edinburgh Capitals;
Dundee Stars 2-1 Coventry Blaze;
Sheffield Steelers 4-3 Nottingham Panthers

Sunday:
Coventry Blaze 6-2 Manchester Storm;
Edinburgh Capitals 3-6 Braehead Clan;
Cardiff Devils 4-3 Nottingham Panthers;
Fife Flyers 1-3 Sheffield Steelers

On Wednesday, Cardiff made up their game in hand on Sheffield as they maintained pressure upon the Yorkshire outfit with a 4-3 victory against Belfast.

Devils matched the result in Sheffield on Saturday and left Manchester with two points and as Erhardt champions. Unfortunately, for the Welsh side, it was not enough to be crowned champions. This allowed Steelers to run out to a guard of honour in Kirkcaldy on the last day of the season. They finished in style with a 3-1 dispatching of Todd Dutiaume’s squad.

The task was clear for Braehead. Two wins and they would place third in the table heading into the post-season and in the process regain the Gardiner Conference title. Fortunately for them, they were playing an Edinburgh side which had lost 16 straight going into this week and had no hope of finishing higher than last for some time now. Ryan Finnerty’s Clan had enough to get the four points needed and just edged Flyers in the process. As an extra, they have won their last seven and hit form at the exact right time to play Fife in the playoffs that start on Saturday.

Other results

The marquee matchup on Friday lived up to its billing with an entertaining eight-goal thriller between Belfast and Fife which Giants edged 5-3. 24 hours later, Flyers failed to regroup and lost 5-1 in Northern Ireland.

Nottingham’s National Ice Centre hosted Panthers’ 5-0 drubbing of Coventry in a game which had little meaning to both sides with their playoff seedings already decided.

Dundee went into the playoffs with a three-game winning streak after a 2-1 at home against Coventry. A day later Chuck Weber’s men bounced back with a 6-2 flourish over Manchester. Blaze will have a challenge when they matchup with Sheffield in the first round of the playoffs.


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

EIHL week in review

Last week’s results

Wednesday:
Coventry Blaze 6-1 Nottingham Panthers

Saturday:
Edinburgh Capitals 2-10 Dundee Stars;
Braehead Clan 8-3 Manchester Storm;
Cardiff Devils 5-2 Belfast Giants;
Nottingham Panthers 2-4 Sheffield Steelers

Sunday:
Manchester Storm 3-6 Braehead Clan;
Sheffield Steelers 6-3 Coventry Blaze;
Cardiff Devils 4-3 Belfast Giants;
Dundee Stars 13-2 Edinburgh Capitals;
Fife Flyers 1-2 Nottingham Panthers

Blaze lived up to their nickname as they won 6-1, and briefly became the form side in the Elite Ice Hockey League. Taking the mantle from the recently anointed Challenge Cup winning Nottingham Panthers. Coventry was victorious in their last five and moved up to seventh in the rankings.

A day removed from Sheffield’s 4-2 triumph at Nottingham’s National Ice Centre. They brought an end to Coventry’s good form. Paul Thompson’s team dispatched Chuck Weber’s outfit 6-3 at Motorpoint Arena. Steelers remain top of the table after their four-point weekend.

The Englishman was not the only head coach to win both of matchups over the weekend. Braehead, Cardiff, and Dundee held their ground after picking up maximum points.

Braehead Clan’s victories, home and away over Manchester has eliminated Storm from playoff contention. The Renfrew-based unit remains third, five points off the summit.

In their doubleheader, the Dundee Stars netted 23 times against the Edinburgh Capitals. In response, Riley Emmerson’s men could only score four times. Drubbings like these are the reason that they are at the bottom of the EIHL table. Marc Lefebvre will be looking behind him with Coventry in reach. Although, they have assured post-season Ice Hockey due to these results.

Cardiff had two home matches against Belfast. The first being a 5-2 victory while Giants reduced the deficit of defeat to one, a day later.

Flyers could not take advantage of Nottingham’s post cup final hangover. The Scots lost in overtime to Panthers 1-2. If Fife had beaten their opponents, they would have been one spot and a point behind Corey Neilson’s side. Alas, they remain in sixth where they will likely finish.

With just one week remaining before the post-season, here are the penultimate week’s fixtures.

This week’s fixtures

Wednesday:
Belfast Giants v Cardiff Devils;
Nottingham Panthers v Coventry Blaze

Friday:
Belfast Giants v Fife Flyers

Saturday:
Manchester Storm v Cardiff Devils;
Belfast Giants v Fife Flyers;
Braehead Clan v Edinburgh Capitals;
Dundee Stars v Coventry Blaze;
Sheffield Steelers v Nottingham Panthers

Sunday:
Coventry Blaze v Manchester Storm;
Edinburgh Capitals v Braehead Clan;
Cardiff Devils v Nottingham Panthers;
Fife Flyers v Sheffield Steelers


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.

EIHL week in review

Last week’s results

Tuesday:
Fife Flyers 1-4 Belfast Giants

Friday:
Cardiff Devils 1-6 Nottingham Panthers

Saturday:
Belfast Giants 1-2 Braehead Clan;
Coventry Blaze 12-4 Edinburgh Capitals;
Sheffield Steelers 5-2 Fife Flyers

Sunday:
Nottingham Panthers 1-0 Cardiff Devils;
Manchester Storm 2-8 Fife Flyers;
Edinburgh Capitals 5-6 Coventry Blaze;
Dundee Stars 1-2 Braehead Clan

Belfast Giants were mounting a late challenge for the title when they beat Fife Flyers on Tuesday. It was their sixth straight league win with goals from Mike Forney, Kris Beech (2) and Mike Radja. Michael Dorr pulled one back to make it, 2-1. But, the Northern Irish outfit was just too much for them on the day.

Their title hopes stalled on Saturday as the Braehead Clan won 2-1 in Belfast. As that was happening, the league-leading Sheffield Steelers inflicted Flyers to successive defeats. It was a much-needed victory for Paul Thompson’s men. They had won and lost four of their last eight regulation matchups.

Nottingham handed Cardiff Devils their third consecutive defeat days before the Challenge Cup final. The Panthers are in form, having won seven of their previous 10 and are still in with a shot of the league title. It is an outside chance.

On Sunday – two days after Nottingham’s 6-1 drubbing of Cardiff – the sides faced off again. This time in the Sheffield Ice Arena, for the cup final. This occasion was a tight, low-scoring affair. Nottingham beat the defending holders in sudden death overtime with an Evan Mosley goal. With that, Corey Neilson’s side are this week’s big winners.

The big losers are the Edinburgh Capitals. The side bottom of the table lost both games this week and are now winless in 15. To add to Riley Emmerson’s woes. The double header with Coventry Blaze ended in an 18-9 loss on aggregate. The first contest being a 12-4 hammering at the SkyDome.

In other results. Manchester Storm fell out of the last playoff spot with an 8-2 drubbing. To make matters worse this was in front of their home support against Todd Dutiaume’s men. Omar Pacha will be confident for his team to bounce back, having won eight of their last 10.

Braehead won again on the road. This time by two goals to one in Dundee as they kept the pressure on the top two with their third straight win. Clan now sits five points from the summit.

This week’s fixtures

Wednesday:
Coventry Blaze Nottingham Panthers

Saturday:
Edinburgh Capitals Dundee Stars;
Braehead Clan Manchester Storm;
Cardiff Devils Belfast Giants;
Nottingham Panthers Sheffield Steelers

Sunday:
Manchester Storm Braehead Clan;
Sheffield Steelers Coventry Blaze;
Cardiff Devils Belfast Giants;
Dundee Stars Edinburgh Capitals;
Fife Flyers Nottingham Panthers


You can follow @MichaelWood_SJ on Twitter.