January 22, 2012

Surprises in UK Hockey (20th – 22nd January)

It was a weekend where results did not always go as they were expected. Teams chasing a playoff birth picked up points against title challengers whilst mid table sides showed they were not out of the title hunt just yet.

Elite League
The Belfast Giants warmed up for their top of the table clash with the Nottingham Panthers on Saturday by beating the Edinburgh Capitals in comfortable style. However despite outshooting the Caps 42 – 11 Jarolin’s equaliser sent the teams in all square at the break.

After the first intermission however the Giants responded as they so often have this season. 3 goals from Garside, Lloyd and Clark in just over 3 minutes put the home team in control as they dominated the Capitals. A Robert Dowd brace in the third period either side of Ian Bowie’s consolation goal for the Capitals sealed the 6 – 2 win and an 8th defeat in 10 for the Capitals.

The inspired Belfast performance from Friday night could not carry over to Saturday however. The Panthers produced a fine first period display to take the lead including a first goal for Finnish forward Sami Ryhanen. It was a lead the Panthers did not relinquish despite facing a barrage of shots in the third period. Final score Nottingham 3 Belfast 2 and an import win for the Panthers that keeps them in the title race.

There were 2 important wins at the bottom of the table too as Dundee hit the slumping Hull Stingrays for 5 to crawl ever close to that last playoff place whilst fellow strugglers Fife had a night to remember in Kirkcaldy. The Flyers fell behind twice to the Coventry Blaze before equalising twice and forcing the game to penalties. It was new Flyers signing Denis Kadic who netted the only penalty shot to take a valuable 2 points that edges the Flyers closer to Hull and keeps them level with the Stars at the bottom of the league.

Saturdays other game was in Braehead. It was an evenly fought game between the Clan and the nearest league rivals the Cardiff Devils. In the third period though it was Phil Hill for the Devils who netted the decider just 30 seconds after Krestanovich had equalised for the home side.

There were 4 more games on Sunday night as Nottingham headed into the NIC to face an inform Flyers side. The Panthers though showed no weariness from their journey from Northern Ireland as they controlled the game through goals from Ryhanen, Beauregard and Fox before a consolation goal from Bakrilk gave the visitors something to cheer. A final goal from Benedict sealed the Panthers victory and ensured that they stayed in second place in the league table 5 points behind the Giants.

Hull finally ended their winless run as they travelled to the Murrayfield Ice Rink. It was a tight first two periods in which Osman had given the Stingrays the lead before a hectic last 8 minutes. That was all it took for 5 goals to be scored but the Capitals could not get back on terms as the Stingrays finally picked up a first win of the year.

After defeat to the Flyers the Blaze were back home to face the Clan. It was a game that was even on the shot count but it was Blaze that took their chances to take the win. Braces from Robert Farmer, Matej Kralj and Dustin Wood saw the Blaze put 6 on their Scottish rivals.

Meanwhile back up in Scotland the Sheffield Steelers were looking to make the most of one of their games in hand as they faced the Dundee Stars. The Stars though were confident following their win in Hull and took the lead three times only to be pegged back. After a lengthy delay for the plexi glass to be repaired to was the Steelers who nipped it on penalty shots.

In the EPL Saturday was a big night at the top as 4 out of the top 5 were in action against each other and with Slough being forced to postpone their home game due to an ice issue it was all to play for.

Manchester hosted the league leaders on the back of 8 wins in row and they made it 9 as they moved 2 points behind their opponents. The Steeldogs too made big in roads as they took the win at Milton Keynes.

At the foot of the EPL there was an important win for the Peterborough Phantoms who beat Telford and moved to within 4 points of the playoffs whilst Basingstoke fended of Swindon in the mid table clash.

On Sunday night there was another big game between the Phoenix and the Flames but this time in the Spectrum. The Phoenix could have taken the top spot with their tenth successive victory but it wasn’t to be as a third period rally lifted the Flames. Thanks to wins for Slough over Bracknell and Milton Keynes over Basingstoke the Phoenix fell from second overnight to fourth. But now there is only 6 points between the top 5.

That would have been 4 points between the top 5 but Telford showed some true grit to pick a vital two points at home to the Steeldogs.

Friday 20th January
Elite League
Edinburgh 2 Belfast 6

Saturday 21st January
Elite League
Nottingham 3 Belfast 2
Coventry 2 Fife 3 (aps)
Dundee 5 Hull 2
Cardiff 3 Braehead 2

English Premier League
Guildford 1 Manchester 4
Basingstoke 5 Swindon 3
Telford 5 Peterborough 9
Sheffield Steeldogs 2 Milton Keynes 0

Sunday 22nd January
Elite League
Fife 1 Nottingham 4
Hull 4 Edinburgh 2
Braehead 2 Coventry 6
Sheffield 4 Dundee 3(aps)

English Premier League
Manchester 2 Guildford 5
Sheffield Steeldogs 1 Telford 3
Slough 4 Bracknell 3
Milton Keynes 2 Basingstoke 0

Neil Tucker

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