SWINDON, UK – In the EPL points scoring tables for week 21 the Wildcats’ Aaron Nell heads the EPL table alone with last week’s joint leader and team mate Jonas Höög now a point behind. That means, of course, Nell is still the leading British player with second placed David Longstaff of the Flames dropping another two points further behind. Nell also stands alone from Höög on points scored by game average, but only by a whisker, and other than Longstaff in third place these three are comfortably ahead of the rest. A similar position pertains in the Brit chart with only Nell and Longstaff scoring above two points per game on average.
Nell also takes over at the top of the EPL goal scoring, dropping the Flames’ Curtis Huppe into second place. In the Brit chart, where Nell is still dominant having extended his lead over Longstaff, the Bison’s Greg Owen has also caught Longstaff on points but not position because he has played three more games. Again, Huppe has been ousted on game average by Nell who now is the only British player to exceed a goal per game.
Höög retains his lead in assist scoring in the EPL by a point from the Phoenix’s Tony Hand who stays the leading Brit having moved a little further ahead of Longstaff in second place. Nell in third remains with a comfortable buffer ahead of the pack, all of which is duplicated by game average.
No change in the highest scoring D-men with the Jets’ Mindy Kieras leading the EPL and now team mate Pavel Gomeniuk in second place having finally ousted ex-Bees’ Marcel Petran as has the top British D-man Ben Morgan of the Steeldogs. The Flames tighten their grip in this department, though, with now four players in the top ten as Paul Dixon joins the leaders.
In penalty-taking there is no change at the top with the Steeldogs’ Andre Payette again at the head of the EPL chart, and the Jets’ Adam Greener heading the bad Brit boys. As far as game average goes, the Lightning’s Nicky Chinn is replaced in the top ten by team mate Chris Wiggins despite not currently playing, and the Phoenix’s Robert Schnabel replaces the Bison’s Carl Graham who himself replaces the Wildcats’ Shane Moore in the Brit chart.
A little club news this week and the Bison’s Stevie Lyle received his call-up papers to replace the injured Stephen Murphy of the Belfast Giants and took off for the Olympic qualifiers only to be replaced by Dan Green late of the Nottingham Panthers which caused something of a stir. On the one side there were those that felt 17-year-old Bison backup Connor Standing should have been given the opportunity to step in as starter, while on the other side there were those who couldn’t see a problem with a guest player for what is, afterall, a couple of games. The argument goes that bearing in mind the EPL is supposed to be a ‘development’ league, Standing should be developed by throwing him in at the deep end. Opposing that stance is the view that serious damage could be done to the confidence of a young player with little ice time if such a gamble didn’t work out. Of course Standing should get more ice time, and he would probably welcome more, but he has a formidable mentor in Stevie Lyle and some big boots to fill one day, and any good could be undone if say the Bison were to lose the games he was starting and he was felt responsible when in reality he had been forced into a position he wasn’t ready for. And, anyway, the Wildcats, for instance, brought in Dean Skinns rather than give Graeme Bird more ice time, and not a whisper of complaint was made, so hard to see, at least for me, how you can criticise a club for trying to get the best results for its fans?
With the Wildcats in mind, Coach Ryan Aldridge will shortly be faced with a similar problem he encountered last year which resulted in the release of Czech forward Michal Kapicka. I mean, of course, too many imports. With the Matias Perkkiö set to return from Finland, and having brought in fellow countryman Henri Sandvik who while still early days has shown to be an excellent replacement, presumably Aldridge is going to let someone go. Whatever the case, it will be a bit of a shame considering the level of talent in his grasp. And talking of talent, what an exciting signing 17-year-old Ollie Betteridge is proving to be with more than a point per game on average and having slotted in with the likes of Nell and Höög as though he had been playing with them for years.
On Saturday Sandvik and Betteridge were in the points again for the Wildcats 6 – Phantoms 2 clash in Swindon. In this their forth pairing the Wildcats had yet to win having gone down twice after regulation time as well as a narrow loss in Peterborough. But this time the night belonged to the Wildcats after a fairly equal first period which included a first goal from GBU18 captain Floyd Taylor before the 17-year-old went off injured making that number four on the sick list.
In Guildford the Phoenix in the first half or so couldn’t match the Flames and by the second break had a 3-goal mountain to climb. Although they had their moments and battled hard in the final leg, they were outshot and, truth be told, missed Steve Fone in goal and the finesse supplied by the veteran Tony Hand in creating opportunities. So Flames 7 – Phoenix 4, which included a pair by Jozef Kohut in the final ninety seconds gave the home side their first win over the Phoenix in their four meetings.
Bison 3 – Tigers 0, so not just a shut-out but by a team missing two internationals which includes the EPL’s top netminder, but by a side they had beaten a week earlier. The Tigers also only managed twelve shots on replacement goalie Dan Green, an EPL season low, which also gave the Bison a record five shut-outs this season. To add to the Tigers’ problems Czech forward Tomas Karpov received a blow to his right eye socket which had it been a few millimetres lower could well have meant goodbye to the sight in one eye instead of stitches and a throbbing head.
In Milton Keynes the Lightning 8 – Bees 2 saw the home side produce possibly their best performance this season. The second period opened with a pair from Blaz Emersic, continued with a second from Adam Brittle and included the first two of a hat-trick for Finn Janne Jokila which was completed early in the third. By that time the Bees had been scattered to the four winds with an opportunity for 16-year-old Jordan Hedley to see out the game in the Lightning goal. So a great boost for coach Nick Poole having now taken to the bench, and on top of the win against the Flames last Sunday and the Lightning having had their share of inconsistency this season, it makes you wonder if it is still a bit early to ask if the coaching move is paying off?
If it is a clinical performance you are after then in Sheffield the Steeldogs 0 – Jets 8 was a good example. Basically, they arrived, opened up with both barrels after just a few seconds and completed their second biggest rout of the home side (the last time 7-0) of the season. In the first period the Jets outshot their opponents by 15-5, and went on to nab a brace for Frankie Bakrlik, Darius Pliskauskas and Slava Koulikov, then left on the next train home before the Steeldogs had managed to get four penalties on the board. Perhaps the Mr Nice Guy approach wasn’t the answer.
On Sunday Mr Nice Guy stayed at home, or should that be went on the road, because the Steeldogs stayed in Sheffield for a second game and the Steeldogs 5 – Bison 4 was a much more heated exchanged. Craig Elliott and Alex Symonds both took a long walk at the start of the second period and must have got lost because neither came back. The Steeldogs were in control pretty much to start with and, in fact, maintained a 2-goal lead almost up until the second break which included two short-handed goals, so they sent the Bison away with a bloody nose. Dalibor Sedlar probably had his best game so far in the Steeldogs’ net in facing nearly fifty shots, while Dan Green standing in at the Bison saw about half, so it wasn’t as though the visitors didn’t have their chances although that now makes it three games from five for the Sheffield side.
The shock of losing last night on top of their first 4-point weekend must have provided inspiration because Tigers 6 – Wildcats 3 was a much more determined display. Even Tomas Karpov with a well-protected face after stitches to his eye socket the night before was unfazed by his injury and nabbed a brace, the second of which was unassisted and short-handed. The Tigers even outshot the Wildcats who changed goalies half way through the game and chalked up their first win over the Swindon side this season.
At a point in the season when any team with aspirations for sticking some silverware in their trophy cabinet would be wanting to keep things tight, the Phoenix completed a disastrous weekend with sixteen goals against for a Phantoms 9 – Phoenix 4 result. The home side have done well against the Phoenix this season with seven from ten points, and it wasn’t as though the visitors didn’t have their chances. But a Phoenix first break lead was overturned in the middle stint when a 9-minute assault developed into a bit of rout in the final leg in which Robert Schnabel collected another abuse penalty and showed just how important Tony Hand is to the Manchester side. If only he could work on his telepathy!
It was unlikely the Bees would so easily go belly-up against the Lightning on their own ice as they did the night before in Milton Keynes, and taking the lead early in the second period proved this. But it still ended Bees 2 – Lightning 4 and while last night it was Janne Jokila that lead the attack, tonight it was Kamil Tvrdek with his third hat-trick of the season, which also makes him joint leader in that department, that did the damage. For the Bees, damage was also done by Scott Spearing who picked up 2 misconduct penalties for a total of 38 minutes all on his own!
Three losses from three games and Jets 2 – Flames 5 made it four in a row as the home side came down to earth with a bump after last night’s massacre in Sheffield. The visitors were always in control and although the Jets contained them in the middle period when there was no scoring and the suggestion things could get interesting, the Flames went marching on with three goals in five minutes at the start of the last leg including a pair from David Longstaff, and outshot the Jets by a ratio of 4:3.
So, a lot of scoring over the weekend both for individual teams and overall with more than eighty goals all told and Sunday producing a record for a 5-game night with 44. At the top of the table the Bison didn’t get things all their own way, while just below them the Flames did. But it was the Lightning that came out best in overtaking the Jets for fourth place. In the immediate future the Phoenix face the Flames again and a rejuvenated Lightning face the Bison. The Tigers also have the chance of causing more upsets as they face the Bees and Phantoms, and we don’t have to wait seven days because there are two mid-week games to look forward to.
For more EPL facts and stats, news and a headline mailing list take a look at www.iceman-epl.com