SWINDON, UK – First off we take a look at week 10’s situation in the EPL Top Tens Charts.
Flames’ David Longstaff, after missing a week at the top of the EPL chart, has plumped up his cushions and settled in again at the head of both EPL and Brit tables including on game average and while not exactly racing ahead, has extended the gap by a point.
No change at the top of the goal scoring charts with the Flames’ Curtis Huppe ruling the EPL and has added a point between himself and second placed Aaron Nell of the Wildcats, who is the top Brit scorer. But on game average, while Huppe heads that chart, it is Longstaff who has the best British game average.
All remains tranquil at the top of the four assist-scoring charts with the Phoenix’s Tony Hand consolidating his command by increasing the gaps.
The Bees’ Marcel Petran is still the top scoring D-man, and the Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan the top Brit. However, while there is a little movement in names below the leaders, it seems a shame the name of James Hutchinson as one of the league’s top D-men and the second placed British player will shortly disappear.
Who other than the Bison’s Stevie Lyle would head the netminders chart, and of course he still does. The Lightning’s Alex Mettam is still hot on his trail, and the Tigers’ Declan Ryan has moved up a spot.
The Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell is still the EPL’s leading penalty-taker and although the Jets’ Adam Greener still leads the Brit chart, he has slipped down the EPL table as the Steeldogs’ Andre Payette and Bees’ Jozef Sladok move up. Into the week which started with some worrying news from the Phantoms. While the release of James Hutchinson is something of a tragedy because he is one of the league’s top D-men so will not only leave a dent in the Peterborough side, but he would be an asset to almost any other club so is a talent going to waste. But what is worrying in the greater sense is the reason for his dismissal, which the club say was ‘financial reasons.’ The Phantoms, of course, have been through all this before and in addressing the issue arranged an immediate fans’ forum to explain matters and encourage participation. Owner Rob Housden was quick to point out the club was not looking for funding from the fans, and later in the week spokesperson Andy Halfhide in charge of hockey operations said the meeting had been fruitful and it wasn’t expected any other players would be axed. So now it is a matter of watch this space.
Two clubs actually taking on players were the Jets, who upgraded 20-year-old forward Daniel Rose, who has played eight times from his NIHL side, to full-time, and the Bison. Sadly for the Basingstoke side they have lost the services of forward Jacob Corson-Heron for the rest of the season through a knee injury, but have brought in 18-year-old James Smith from EIHL Fife. This is certainly a season for the youngsters with nearly fifty now currently on the books.
To say nothing much has happened in Bracknell this week might be true so gives me no lead into what really should be acknowledged. I refer to the magnificent recovery from 4-goals down last weekend to beat the Phantoms. This feat is so rare it doesn’t even happen some seasons, and while a 3-goal recovery is pretty unusual, the Bees have managed to come back from 4 goals down twice already this season having done so against the Flames in September. So well done lads, lend me a few shillings and I will buy a round of drinks, although not living near Bracknell I would have to drink it all here instead.
At GB level, Under 20 coach Andre Payette announced his squad for the World Championship (Div1B) in the Ukraine in December. Players selected from the EPL include Luke Brittle and Callum Bowley from the Tigers, Jonathan Kirk from the Steeldogs and Paul Swindlehurst of the Wildcats. The Phantoms are well represented with Luke Ferrara, Jordan Cownie, Declan Balmer and Will Weldon, and the Bison with Andrew Melachrino and Zach Sullivan. Lewis Turner has been selected from the Bees, and Sam Godfrey and Aaron Connolly from the Jets.
So now we come on to Saturday’s games, and see what mayhem that produced.
Wildcats 4 – Phoenix 2
Last weekend the Phoenix at home to the Wildcats were, shall we say, a tad fortunate to come away with both points after the short-benched visitors from lower in the table made a terrific comeback to force the game into overtime. Tonight, and again the Wildcats came from behind, twice in the first period which they did so immediately, the first time thanks to Tomas Fojtik who seems to be settling in well. Around half way Phoenix’s Michal Psurny picked up a 2+10 for checking from behind and Wildcats’ Paul Swindlehurst some roughing minutes for slinging his handbag. Things then resumed at pace in what turned out to be a hectic performance all round with plenty of chances either way, but in fact turned out to be a bit of a spanking for the Phoenix from, again, a short benched team.
Jets 3 – Phantoms 1
Although the Jets were on the scoreboard after ten minutes, the game was very tight especially when the visitors equalised through Tom Carlon around half way. But the Phantoms were without Jozef Sladok who was in the naughty boys’ corner for the game and Jeff Glowa then went missing with a broken skate that unfortunately took longer than they wanted to repair. In the end, unlike recent games where the Phantoms have come good in the final stages they ran out of steam even with a reasonable tally of shots on goal, and the Jets stamped on their hands twice in the closing minutes.
Flames 3 – Tigers 1
For half an hour the game was close enough for you to wonder if the Tigers were going to get something out of it, and were not overwhelmed by the home side. But then a faltering four minutes saw the Flames punish them with goals from Rempel and Kvetan. Even then the Tigers were still not overly impressed, and when Andrew Sharp got up to his old tricks it was Daniel Croft, who had earlier taken a knock, who stood up to be counted. The reliable Declan Ryan ably secured the back facing twice the shots Greg Rockman did at the other end, but the Tigers’ reply was a bit late in coming and a Flames empty net goal sealed it.
Lightning 4 – Steeldogs 2
Enough scrappy penalties in the early stages to suggest things would end up in a bar fight, but in fact things ticked along rather than deteriorated. The Steeldogs even started the scoring with an Edgars Bebris goal after thirteen minutes and after a pause for some theatrics from Steve Duncombe which cost him ten minutes the Lightning equalised through Blaz Emersic and before the end of the period were in the lead. Early in P3 Duncombe put the visitors back on an equal footing until Kamil Tvrdek, who is looking like a good replacement for the injured Adam Calder, stuck in a couple from which the Steeldogs couldn’t recover.
Bison 5 – Bees 2
It was a bad omen for the Bees when Greg Chambers scored on a power-play after a minute because he went on to complete a hat-trick for the first time this season, Jaroslav Cesky reinforced the Bees’ problems with an unassisted goal before period’s end. Half way and the Bees scored followed by a little melee that saw Kris Melachrino gather up ten minutes for misbehaving and Cesky adding another. While the Bees had enough shots on goal to match the Bison, there was no getting passed Stevie Lyle as the power of the Bison raged on meaning they broke the deadlock at the top of the table following the Phoenix’s defeat by the Wildcats.
And so we come on to Sunday’s games, with just four of them
Phantoms 2 – Jets 3
In the mystery that is the disciplinary rules the Phantoms entertained the Jets in this double-header again without Jozef Sladok serving an extra game out in the cold. And the loss eventually showed when after a close start the Jets went ahead just before the break in a controversial goal that saw Jeff Glowa take a hike for ten minutes for complaining. The Phantoms seemed to lose impetus, especially up front, which was fine for the visitors who went on to be 3-up with ten minutes to go. Then, as has happened several times recently, whatever was in the water bottles kicked in and a ten second burst saw Joe Graham and Luke Ferrara make it a 1-goal game. They should have taken the drink sooner.
Phoenix 3 – Bison 4
The Bison caught the home side napping and scored what was probably the crucial goal after a minute because the Phoenix dominated most of the play. But what they couldn’t do was make use of their chances, while the visitors could and went 3-up in half an hour. Eventually the Phoenix fought back and for a few seconds with ten minutes to go were within a goal’s reach. They repeated the feat with five minutes left and then the unthinkable happened. With the sand running out, they had what would have been the equalising goal disallowed when the Bison goal came off its moorings. To say it was controversial would be like saying the pope was considering a career change to Protestantism in time for Christmas. Instead Tony Hand and Richie Bentham took 10 minutes apiece for disagreeing with the decision, and regardless of the circumstances there is now daylight between the two at the top of the table.
Tigers 1 – Steeldogs 3
Still battling away, and with a defensive record better than the four teams above them, but the Tigers looked lacking bite up front and it has to be down to their recent player losses which also puts more demands on those left. Around half way when two goals down the home side looked like they might be in with a chance, but couldn’t break through. Lloyd Gibson sealed it for the visitors with two minutes to spare although Declan Ryan in the Tigers’ goal was again superb facing twice the shots did James Flavell at the other end for the Steeldogs.
Bees 4 – Lightning 2
While the Lightning began the scoring and were strong to start, going on to eventually outshoot the home side and massively so in the final period. But it wasn’t enough, and their power play might have produced more because a fraction after half way it all fell apart. Leigh Jamieson took a 2+10 for checking from behind and two minutes later the Bees had scored three times in a minute, which is probably some sort of record. Then it was all the Lightning could do to keep the Bees in check and while they did score again so did Rob Lamey in the empty net.
So as the week ends the top of the table is looking a bit different from this time last week. The Bison now have a clear cut lead at the top and after a disappointing weekend for the Phoenix the Flames are looking at them and salivating. But the rest are not that far behind with only nine points between the Flames and the following six teams. And, next weekend sees the Phoenix face the Bison again.
Can’t wait. For more EPL facts and stats, news and a headline mailing list take a look at www.iceman-epl.com