EPL Weekly Roundup Wk 04

SWINDON, UK – The EPL Top Ten Charts and Greg Wood made a dramatic jump up the points charts both on total and game average, but it wasn’t to last as the Wildcats’ Swedish forward Jonas H ööp put paid to the Bison mid-week and in doing so claimed the EPL points crown.
Wood did however maintain his lead at the top of the goal scorers’ charts while the Bees’ Martin Masa now leads in assists, although the Flames’ Jozef Kohut has it on game average. The Phoenix’s Tony Hand and the Jets’ Slava Koulikov dispute the top of the two British assists charts.
The Bees’ also have a strong showing at the top of the D-men chart with both Marcel Petran and Jan Bendik, while it is still the Flames with Paul Dixon and Jez Lundin leading the Brits.
Netminding is still led by the Bison’s Stevie Lyle, who despite the mid-week shut-out is going to take some shaking to get him from the top of the tree.  
The Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell is now the undisputed leader in attracting penalty minutes, and while the Bees’ Scott Spearing is the top Brit, that is likely to change this week as the Greener boys are close on his heels and the Wildcats Nicky Watt is also giving chase.
Into the week and the Phoenix said goodbye to Jake Nurse who requested a release due to problems with travelling and work, and returned to the National League Metros.  
The Tigers, however, announced a replacement for backup netminder Ben Hunt, at least temporarily, with 19-year-old Brandon Stones late of the Coventry Blaze in the Elite League joining the squad.
In Bracknell forward Grant Rounding, on a 2-way with the NIHL Hornets, was signed as a purely Bees’ player. And, following last week’s defeat of the Flames Bees’ owners Katie Eleftheriou and Stuart Robinson decided to put their weight behind coach Gareth Cox. ‘We have always had faith in him, and will continue to support him,’ said Robinson.
Meanwhile, Coach Ryan Aldridge, now also basically a bench coach at the Wildcats, must be feeling his decision to steer clear of the ice was justified after his side’s visit to.
Bison 0 – Wildcats 2
The game that didn’t so much start on the wrong foot for the Bison as simply didn’t start as someone had to be sent out on the club bike to find a ref. With Ian Hayden and Josh Dolphin eventually answering the call to arms the game got under way over an hour late with the visitors looking much the more settled side. And it paid off with two goals from H öö g, some solid defending particularly against the powerplay, and a superb performance from Dean Skinns in goal which yet again shows the unpredictability evolving this season. The result meant the Bison suffered their first home defeat of the season and the Wildcats gained their first away victory.   
On to Saturday and the Wildcats faced another big test as they hosted the visiting Guildford Flames.
Wildcats 6 – Flames 2
Did I say ‘big test’? Huh, bring ‘em all on because not even Klingons off the starboard bow would have been enough of a threat to upset the rampaging Swindon side. Four goals up around the half hour was too much for the Flames to recover, although if anyone was going to do it, it would have been them – or the Bees. Even Dean Skinns got in on the act becoming the first netminder to score a point this season. It wasn’t that the Flames played badly, so much as it being one of the best Wildcats’ performances in years. Unfortunately the Wildcats’ elation was marred by Michal Kapicka taking a stick in the mouth which cost him some teeth,   about a quart of blood and a trip to hospital.     
Jets 4 – Phantoms 2
After their shut-out by the Flames last time out, the Jets were back on the rails although a win was by no means a foregone conclusion. For over fifty minutes things were close enough for you to worry your hard earned shilling was not entirely safe were it placed on the home side as twice they took the lead and almost immediately lost it. Even with Joe Graham off injured the Phantoms managed their defence well enough including a wash and brush up between Jozef Sladok and Josh Bruce, but missed their chances in front of the opposition’s net. In the last few minutes the Jets snatched the winner but the game was really only put out of the Phantoms’ grasp by a powerplay empty net goal thanks to ‘Frankie’ Bakrlik as the clock ran out.
Lightning 4 – Bees 2
This game had the promise of great things what with the Bees coming from an impressive victory from behind against the Flames, and the Lightning winning at home against the Bison. As it turned out it was more workmanlike from the Lightning and missed opportunities by the Bees rather than exciting. Lukas Smital opened the scoring unassisted and a few minutes later Adam Brittle replied short-handed, and then Grant McPherson and James Galazzi had a few words following Ross Bowers inviting Alan Lack to view his elbow from close quarters, which all came to nought, although it did keep you on the edge of your seat with expectation. In the end things settled down and the Lightning were strong enough to bring the Bees down to earth with a bump rather than a crash.
Steeldogs 3 – Tigers 1
And talking of crashing. Although the Steeldogs took the lead, it was Jaroslav Cesky who popped up to keep it equal in a spirited display by the Tigers for almost all the game. Yes, of course, we had to have a half time interlude for some mud slinging and stamping of feet, but the Tigers gave as good as they got. That was until Andre Payette and Derek Campbell linked up for a pair of goals in the dying minutes. Even so, Declan Ryan still achieved nearly 93% success in goal, while his counterpart, Dmitri Zimozdra, managed a whisker under 97%, which shows their were opportunities enough at both ends.
Sunday, and you couldn’t help feeling there was a clash of good luck and bad luck gremlins at work in all of the games, although I will leave it to you to decide which was casting their spells and where.
Phoenix 2 – Jets 1 after OT
After two minutes the Jets took the lead in Manchester and held it for fifty-five minutes in a tight game that the Phoenix eventually managed to push into overtime where they picked up the two points. The Jets might have made more of it in the middle period even though the Phoenix heavily outshot them and came back strongly in the third which they maintained for the extra time. The victory gave them four wins on the trot, which now equals the Bees and the Flames.
Phantoms 1 – Bison 2
The Phantoms were treated even more cruelly in a game where they really did deserve at least a point. While the Bison took the lead early, the home side through grit and determination, and an inclination for not shying away from physical confrontation which saw Luke Ferrara off ice for a while injured, ensured they were always fully up to speed. When the Phantoms made use of a powerplay with seven minutes to go it looked like a point was there for the taking, but the Bison had said the magic words – Stevie Lyle – which was akin to throwing up a force field and then administered the coup-de-grace with seconds to spare. But the Phantoms can take heart that they are improving, and look what that did for the Bees.
Bees 3 – Lightning 4
The Bees, in a rerun against the Lightning, were looking a lot more at home possibly because they were in Bracknell. They took a deserved early lead which they held until half way when a short-handed goal from Nick Poole followed immediately by an unassisted effort by Michael Farn saw the period end in favour of the visitors. In some frenetic activity in the final stint Masa scored his second to put the Bees back in with a serious chance, but with three minutes to go an equaliser was washed out. Masa and Smital were so aggrieved they suggested a visit to Specsavers might prove useful to the ref who was so pleased by their concern he gave them both 10-minute vouchers to spend as they wished in the box. To rub salt into the wound a Shaun Thompson goal was also disallowed leaving the Bees wondering what they had to do to get a point.
Flames 4 – Steeldogs 5 after OT
This time last season the Flames were into their record-winning run and after the Wildcats defeat the night before, must have been looking to the Steeldogs to regain their composure. Unfortunately for them the Sheffield side were not playing ball and had a three goal lead before the Flames knew what was happening. The Flames stemmed the flow with three quick goals on the half hour, and quickly equalised when the Steeldogs went ahead again early on the third. By then it could have gone either way, and it did because the Steeldogs collected the two points for a rare defeat in overtime over the Flames on home ice.     
So who would have thought the league table at this stage of the season would look like it does with not just the Bison at the head, but the Flames in third place? But it isn’t just that, the exciting thing is the top eight teams are separated by just three points, and a few points for the Tigers and Phantoms will have them right in it as well, so a very different situation compared to last season. Who’dathoughtit?       
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Contact Bill.Collins@prohockeynews.com

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