SWINDON, UK – The EPL Top Ten Charts, after two weeks, have enough information to make their compilation, even with such little detail, at least worthwhile for those of a curious disposition.
So starting with netminders, and while everyone is expecting good things from Bison’s Stevie Lyle, after four games he at least is producing the indicators of living up to that reputation. His Goals Against Average of just 1.25, for instance, is markedly lower when compared to those netminders having also played four games – Bees’ Tom Annetts and Carl Ambler, Phoenix’s Steve Fone and Wildcats’ Dean Skinns. Of course, four games is much to go on and you wouldn’t be wanting to give up the day job if you had achieved that sort of figure after such few outings, but it is an intriguing pointer when you also take into account he has faced more shots than any other netminder. But there’s more because the frequency at which he faces a shot is about average, so you can’t say his defence is taking a lion’s share of the incoming pucks. The number of shots that get past him and are converted to goals, and the frequency at which that occurs is truly stunning, being around half his nearest rivals. In fact, I can’t recall in recent years, including last season’s Steeldogs’ wonderboy Ben Bowns, coming anywhere close to these numbers, and if he keeps this up someone is going to have to put senna in his porridge to slow him up. Or should that be to speed him up? Lyle also has the only shut-out of the season so far, against the Phantoms.
In the penalty-takers charts we find some of the usual suspects have yet to find their way into the top ten. The Jets’ Adam Greener is where you would expect him, leading the Brit charge, but it is the Steeldogs’ new Canadian forward Derek Campbell who has jumped straight in as far as penalties per game average is concerned and shows the promise of a strong top contender, probably even outstripping his boss Andre Payette.
The Flames’ captain David Longstaff started the season strongly as the leading points scorer, and stayed there although now in tandem with the Jets’ Darius Pliskauskas, but easily the top Brit.
It is also the Flames leading the goal scoring thanks to Canadian Curtis Huppe, but only by a game in hand over the Wildcats’ Aaron Nell who leads the Brit chart.
A third Flames’ player, Jozef Kohut, heads the assists chart but he is not alone as the Jets’ Slava Koulikov is with him and also leading the Brits.
Steeldogs’ Pavel Gomeniuk, a familiar face in the ‘D’-man stakes last season, is there again sharing the top spot with the Jets’ Mindy Kieras, while the top British D-man is yet another Flame and also familiar to the location, Paul Dixon
Hat-tricks seem to be coming along nicely with Huppe and Kieras having bagged one each for the imports, and Lightning’s Leigh Jamieson and Bison’s Joe Miller one a piece for the Brits.
Steeldogs 2 – Phoenix 4
Friday and a rerun of the recent War of the Roses series which meant a close game was almost inevitable, and which proved to be the case. This time, though, it was the Phoenix who came out on top. For two periods there wasn’t much to separate the pair unless you count box time, of course, then the home side had it with two misconduct penalties. Then in the third Manchester started things off and although the Steeldogs equalised, and for a second time thanks to Derek Campbell unassisted, a late power-play goal ensured the home side wouldn’t get back on equal terms to dispute an extra point.
On to Saturday and another four-game evening.
Wildcats 3 – Tigers 2
With both sides desperate for a win, although of course the Tigers have yet to experience any home advantage, the home side didn’t get things all their own way. They quickly jumped into a 2-goal lead, as they do, but ex-Wildcats Jaroslav Cesky had one on the board for the visitors in a quick reply. The Tigers even went into the final period all square, and put enough shots on goal, but lacked finish. But, points for artistic impression have to go to the Tigers’ Declan Ryan for stopping an amazing fifty-five shots, the most faced in the league so far, which suggests the Wildcats are not out of the finishing woods just yet either, even though at least their losing run came to an end.
Bees 4 – Phantoms 3 after overtime
The Bees continued on their winning roll, making that three games on the trot, but had to work for it. Although a goal down followed by a very close middle stint the Phantoms were rewarded with an equaliser through Jeff Glowa early in the third. The Canadian repeated the action ten minutes from time to force the overtime and the Phantoms claimed a well-deserved point.
Jets 0 – Flames 5
Although tight enough in the first it was in the second period the Jets came down to earth with a bump as the Flames not just took the lead but followed on the half hour with three goals in nine minutes and ended the home sides dream start to the season. The Jets couldn’t even manage to capitalise on their five power-plays, so Mark Lee chalked up his first shut-out of the season and the Flames a forth consecutive win, which included two points from Andrew Sharp and not a minute in the box which makes you wonder if his role is changing.
Bison 5 – Lightning 0 and Lightning 2 – Bison 1 after PSO
After suggesting five might be an unlucky number for the Lightning, they clocked up a forth 5-goal defeat in five games on Saturday, so probably best I don’t mention that number again. On the other hand, maybe it wasn’t my fault and more to do with the ‘secret’ Bison weapon of announcing their leader Doug Sheppard would be out for weeks with an injury, only to play him. However, in a game with a script not dissimilar to their defeat by the Flames a week earlier, the Lightning went a goal down early and then spent most of the game chasing. I say most, because they did have their chances but missing Adam Calder didn’t help, and neither did Stevie Lyle in the Bison net, who has the habit of upsetting ambitions and in doing so claimed his second shut-out of the season for a Bison 3-game home-winning run.
On Sunday the two faced each other again, and things were a tad different with the Lightning looking more like a team that would like to pick up the odd point or two this season. With plenty of end-to-end stuff there was nothing much to separate the two, so they decided to do it on penalties, where Adam Brittle did the necessary and Alex Mettam was superb in goal. And all without Calder who is still absent which is a perfect illustration of the beauty of the EPL’s unpredictability.
Flames 5 – Bees 6
Sunday, and talking of unpredictability, hands up all those who predicted the Bees would go to Guildford and come home with a win. Go on, stick your hands up. Hmm, just a few of the faithful then. But not only did they answer that clarion call, they did it from four goals down with a period already gone by the board. Last season the Bees won and lost two penalty games against the Flames plus a win by six goals to four, so this was not totally unfamiliar ground, but it must have a been a really sweet victory, especially for Shaun Thompson who picked up a hat-trick which isn’t something many can do against the Flames.
Phantoms 2 – Steeldogs 5
About the nicest thing you can say about the Phantoms’ performance was they opened the scoring thanks to Tom Carlon after nine minutes. Then the promise of more to come went out the window as a minute later Greg Wood scored the first of his hat-trick and the Steeldogs for more than half an hour did what they do best and disrupted, unsettled and intimidated. True, it cost them 48 minutes in penalties, but it also got them the points, and with the Phantoms unable to even make much of their powerplays it all made ‘Fortress Bretton’ look more like a bouncy castle until the final period by which time it was way too late.
Phoenix 5 – Wildcats 4
The Phoenix often seem to make hard work of the Wildcats like last season when with a superior league position they still lost twice and won once in overtime. Even this time and the dominant side they still allowed the Wildcats to become a serious threat in the final stint and to pepper Steve Fone at times, with a final tally of nearly fifty shots. A late disallowed goal didn’t help the Phoenix nerves, but in the end they were able to call on some depth with four of their five goals coming from four different members of their Brit contingent, including an opener from Andy McKinney with his first goal for his new club.
So where does all this leave us? The league chart has an unfamiliar look to it as after three weekends it is not the Flames or the Phoenix at the head, but the Bison. Even more unfamiliar is seeing the Bees riding above the Jets, Lightning and Steeldogs.
Contact Bill.Collins@prohockeynews.com For more EPL facts and stats, news and a headline mailing list take a look at www.iceman-epl.com Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews