SWINDON, UK – Firstly, last week’s situation, that’s Week 5, in the EPL points tables.
In the EPL charts last week Wildcats’ Jonas H öö g consolidated his position at the top of the points-scoring table by extending his lead by a pair to three points. The remainder of the top places are occupied by the same names, that is apart from the Phoenix’s Tony Hand and Michal Psurny who have both entered at number ten. That was hardly surprising really with the Manchester 6-game winning run, but what is surprising is Hand has not been joined in the Brit chart by a team mate just yet even on game average. Another oddity in the points game average chart, though, was the loss of Jozef Kohut from the quintet on a 2-point average and above, and the appearance of Jets’ returnee Terry Miles who claimed two points from his first game.
H öö g has also taken over as the league’s leading goal scorer from the Flames’ David Longstaff. Phoenix’s Psurny has also entered the chart at the expense of the Bees’ Shaun Thompson. In the British goals by game average chart the Steeldogs’ Greg Wood replaced Longstaff at the top which also saw Tom Carlon from the Phantoms make an entry. A hat-trick by the Jets’ Czech forward Frantisek Bakrlik took him up the EPL goal average chart to number two on average behind Wood.
The assists charts are not led by H öö g, but by Hand who replaced the Swede in the EPL chart and Longstaff as the leading Brit. But on game average it is Miles who again pops up with his two points with the Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell second in the EPL and Hand second in the Brit chart.
There was no change in the leading D-men points scorers with the Bees’ Marcel Petran still heading the pack and Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan the leading Brit. But there was a clutch of entries at the bottom of the top ten chart with Tom Norton and James Hutchinson from the Phantoms and Lukas Zatopek from the Lightning all making an entry. In the British D-men chart Steeldogs’ Steve Duncombe and Lightning’s Michael Farn also both entered.
Bison’s Stevie Lyle, while still way ahead of the pack in the netminding chart, has seen a slight dent in his stats which dropped him from super hero to super-human. With the Jets’ Greg Rockman missing a week, understudy Danny Milton had a superb game which had he been a regular netminder would have seen him high in the top ten.
Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell still holds the EPL title of naughtiest boy on the block, but only just because the Phantoms’ Jozef Sladok made a determined attempt last weekend to take the lead when he got thrown out of the Lightning game, although he did manage to snatch the penalty game average title. In that same game Lightning’s Adam Calder took a big hit in the penalty department for a high stick which took him up to number 8 in the EPL chart. Brit-wise it was Scott Spearing from the Bees who jumped back to the number 1 spot with his third 10- minute penalty of the season with the Jets’ Slava Koulikov making a surprise entry into the top ten thanks to a high-stick call.
Into the week and having commented on the injury situation previously the apparent trend of more injuries involving the head this season continues to be the case.
While not the only match to produce a blood injury because Bison’s Alex Symonds took a stick to the face against Telford, it was the clash between the Jets and the Bees which seemed to be particularly prone to injuries with no less than three incidents involving the head and hospital. Bees’ Andy Munroe and Matt Foord both signed up for severely sore faces but it was Martin Masa who received special praise from Coach Cox following a puck to the face and a trip to hospital for a handful of stitches. Cox said, ‘Well, Ollie, that’s another fine mess you’ve got me into.’ Actually, no, he didn’t say that. What he did say was, ‘I don’t think many other guys would stay in hospital until 4am and then go out and play the sort of minutes Masa had to just a few hours later.’ In fact, it’s pretty impressive all three found the formidability to play the following evening seeing as Munroe had a broken nose, Foord seven stitches in his head and Masa enough injury points to qualify as a premier league footballer and take a few weeks off in the Bahamas.
Worryingly, though, while blood has been freely distributed once again not all incidents were called as penalties despite the head being involved. And, as we move deeper into October we find there have so far been five injuries to the head which actually equals last October’s total. Not only that but injuries over all are also about the same number, and that’s with two weekend’s still to go!
The Tigers can now see the light at the end of the tunnel as the refurbishment of their rink nears completion. Their first home game should take place Sunday, and will be welcomed with open arms. Missing these few opening weeks of the season will have caused several problems. As coach Tom Watkins explained, training has been difficult with just, ‘the odd practice at Coventry and Solihull in the middle of the night.’ But it isn’t just that, with six games played, all away venues, the Tigers have not had any benefit from the greater number of fans they can expect at home games. That also creates another problem: if the fans aren’t there, neither is the revenue. OK, so it will even itself out by the end of the season but running costs are there from the start and are, well, ‘running’ costs.
On a good note the squad was enhanced by the signing of 18-year old Elliot Knell who became not just a Tiger instead of a Spartan, but the 43rd teenager to join the league this season.
So on to Saturday and Week 6 games.
Steeldogs 0 – Jets 5
In a game surprisingly devoid of penalties with just twelve minutes all told, the Jets, still minus Ladislav Harabin but with Greg Rockman back in the net, were almost clinical in their dissection of the home side. The game started tight until seconds before the first break when Aaron Connolly got the first of his pair with his second coming less than half a minute behind Darius Pliskauskas just after half way. The Steeldogs didn’t really have an answer and Dmitri Zimozdra in goal had a game he won’t want to tell his mum about as it culminated in 2 conceded goals from just six shots in the final period before he was replaced by Brad Day. At the other end Rockman was again superb for his first shut-out of the season which bumped the home side down the table.
Bison 3 – Phoenix 1
The Phoenix winning run came to an end in Basingstoke as the Bison opened the scoring thanks to Joe Rand after a couple of minutes and consolidated their position with a pair from Doug Sheppard just before half time, although a goal from Cairan Long for the Phoenix in between did threaten a comeback for a few minutes. In the third the Phoenix had their chances but couldn’t find a way though the Bison defence, and when they did that man Lyle was in the way. So with a 3-game winning streak, which equals their previous best run, the Bison returned to the top of the league table.
Phantoms 3 – Flames 7
The Flames came back from the dead with a blitz against the Phantoms which started with four goals in nine minutes in the first period and ended with Curtis Huppe completing his second hat-trick of the season minutes from time. The Ferrara brothers all got their names on the gamesheet, and youngsters Jordan Cownie and Lewis Hook worked their hearts out, but there are still some serious holes in the Phantoms’ performance when the highlights were an early lead from Jeff Glowa which lasted less than 30-seconds and Jozef Sladok getting the better of Andrew Sharp.
Lightning 4 – Tigers 5
Perhaps it was the smell of home ice that was the incentive for the Tigers as they finally got points on the table. The promise had been there for weeks, and the Lightning was sloppy at times at the back and got punished for it. Steve Wall was in goal for Alex Mettam, and while it would be unfair to blame him entirely, he wasn’t the saviour the home side needed. But Adam Carr, with two short-handed goals, one unassisted, was magnificent up front, and a pair from Adam Calder gave the Lightning a 4-2 lead as they approached the second break, but the Tigers fought on with new boy Elliot Knell sealing it with still ten minutes to spare, so anything but a lucky win.
Wildcats 4 – Bees 5 after penalties
The Wildcats seem to be taking over the extra-time mantle from last season’s Bees as they made it three on the run after sixty minutes, twice consecutively against the Bees and five occasions over all. All have been losses, three decided on penalty shots, so into double figures for attempts but barely a goal scored which is odd when you consider Jonas H öö g leads the league in goals, and top-scoring Brit Aaron Nell. But with Ryan Aldridge having returned to the ice from his bench coach seat, missing penalties is probably not the highest grievance on his list. Or maybe it is because had those three lost penalty shoot-outs been wins, the Wildcats would now be second in the league.
Sunday, and another five games for a change.
Flames 6 – Bison 2
Who would have thought the Flames would produce a scoreline like this against a side that so far has only allowed enough goals to count on your fingers. Not only that but Lyle in the Bison net had a save rate percentage starting with an eight which might give him nightmares seeing as it is something that doesn’t happen very often and he might not recognise in the dark. But it wasn’t so much as the Bison played badly as the Flames regained their confidence after a poor run. So after a thirteen-goal, 4-point weekend the Flames must be feeling they are back on track as the top of the table starts to look a bit crowded.
Jets 4 – Wildcats 1
You might think from the scoreline that it was a little bit one-sided, and it was, although the shots were there for the taking with the game ending with just one shot on goal in it. Rockman had another excellent outing in the Jets’ goal and in the middle period faced twenty shots to concede the Wildcats’ only success of the evening from Nicky Watt, and that on a powerplay, while the visitors took eleven shots for two goals. And that just about encapsulated the whole game because while the Wildcats are normally expected to be an attacking side, even that seems to be faltering at the moment as the Jets made it eleven goals in two games.
Phoenix 3 – Lightning 2 after penalties
A game of two halves. The Phoenix started strongly, in fact a bit too strongly as Ciaran Long put Dan Harris out of the game with a check to the head which caused Grant McPherson and Andy McKinney to swap notes. Afterwards, the hockey allowed just six shots on Steve Fone in the Phoenix net during the first period while thirteen were delivered to Alex Mettam. In the second period the Lightning reversed the trend with fourteen shots on Fone, with Mettam facing just five. The final period saw a measly two on Fone and 3 on Mettam. So a game of, er, three halves, as us footballing types say, which shows just how close the whole thing was with the Phoenix making that four games they have taken to extra time, all of which they have won.
Tigers 0 – Phantoms 7
At last the first home game for the Tigers, but sadly one they won’t want to remember. The Phantoms, who had left their home rink with their tails between their legs the previous night bounded along like a frisky dog looking for a mate. OK, so the Tigers are not the Flames, but still it was a dominant display that gave the Phantoms their best win so far and Ondrej Lauko a hat-trick while netminder Damien King grabbed his first shut-out of the season.
Bees 8 – Steeldogs 1
After last night’s loss at home the Steeldogs must have been thinking things couldn’t get much worse, but the Bees on home ice soon showed that was wishful thinking. With a much feistier approach from the visitors which resulted in nearly an hour in the box, or in the case of Derek Campbell, the dressing room, the Steeldogs still looked as though something was missing. The Bees, though, were not intimidated and romped ahead to their biggest win so far this season and a 3-game home winning run which puts them only two points off the top. Sunday evening and the Phoenix had returned to the top of the league table with the Bison and Jets a point behind with the Bees and Flames only one point further back. While the Phantoms crept a wee bit closer to the middle order, the Steeldogs, Wildcats and Lightning don’t have a lot to shout about at the moment with now six points separating the top eight places; a slight increase over last weekend.
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SWINDON, UK – Firstly, last week’s situation, that’s Week 5, in the EPL points tables.