EPL Weekly Roundup Wk 12

SWINDON, UK – First off we take a look at week 11’s situation in the EPL Top Tens Charts.
Points Scoring
The battle at the top of the EPL points chart continues with this week the Flames’ David Longstaff being ousted by the Wildcats’ Jonas Höög again. With only a point between them, this interchange is likely to continue and with the followers only basically a good result behind them, the likes of Flames’ Curtis Huppe, already on three hat-tricks, and the Bison’s Greg Chambers it might not be a long wait especially as Höög and team mate Aaron Nell in fifth place have played at least one game more.
When it comes to game average, there is no change in the top three in the EPL with Longstaff leading and Huppe and Höög immediately below. In the Brit chart Longstaff is followed by Nell and the Steeldogs’ Greg Wood.
Goal Scoring
No change at the top of the goal scoring charts with Huppe ruling the EPL and Longstaff the top Brit scorer but the Bison’s Jaroslav Cesky, who is doing very nicely thank you, has moved into the top ten at number eight, and fifth place on game average. Team mates Joe Miller and Greg Owen have also move up a bit.
Assist Scoring
The Phoenix’s Tony Hand is still the leading assist scorer all round but Höög has displaced Longstaff and another Bison player, Greg Chambers, to move up to second and the buffer has been reduced a point to three.    
Marcel Petran of the Bees is still firmly entrenched at the top of the scoring D-men chart and has opened the gap to eight points from the Jets’ Mindy Kieras in second place. Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan remains the top Brit with James Hutchinson still in second place and the Phoenix’s Luke Boothroyd entering to join team mate Richie Bentham. That gives the Flames three entries, and the Phantoms and Phoenix two at the expense of the Steeldogs.   
The Bison’s Stevie Lyle still leads the netminders chart, and as far as I am aware, faced a record sixty shots last weekend against the Phoenix, a record he has taken from the Tigers’ Declan Ryan. No significant change in the gap to second place still held by the Lightning’s Alex Mettam, but Ryan has crept up two places and while facing shots at the same frequency as previously, has gained about a minute’s grace between the frequency of conceded goals.
New Steeldogs’ netminder James Flavell having replaced Dmitri Zimozdra has now been included as a ‘regular’ netminder for the purposes of the table having ‘qualified’ by playing about a third of the number of games as the rest of the goalies, and goes straight in at number eight.    
The only change in the EPL table is the entry of Lightning’s Leigh Jamieson who has ousted the Jets’ Michael Wales, which means the Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell still leads having this week gone into treble digits, the only player so far to do so. The Jets’ Adam Greener still heads the naughtiest Brits. By game average the Steeldogs, Phoenix and Flames all have three entrants in the EPL chart, but the Brit chart is different with the Lightning now occupying three places, an addition of two, while only the Jets have a pair. What ruffians these lads must be!
Into the week, and what better than a touch of controversy with the curious saga of recently released Steeldogs’ forward Tom Squires. It may be remembered he moved to the Steeldogs from Elite League’s Sheffield Steelers and a few weeks ago moved on to EIHL Hull Stingrays where he is having a much improved season.
His arrival at the Steeldogs had been accompanied by some quite patronising criticism. According to the local media a Steelers’ official said, ‘We felt he needed to go out of town and grow up as a man.’ And, ‘People in Sheffield were telling him he was a superstar and getting into his head.’ His advice was Squires should accept a 2-way contract with the Telford Tigers and continue with the Steelers. In the event Squires signed for the Steeldogs and following his recent move onwards the Steelers, it was reported, felt their criticism had ‘vidicated’ their advice. Bearing in mind he is doing all right in Hull and might have been better off moving directly from the Steelers had the circumstances permitted and the lowly position of the Tigers, you have to wonder how such vindication has been achieved.
At the time Steeldogs’ coach Andre Payette revealed the Steelers had ‘categorically refused’ a similar 2-way deal with his side, adding, ‘Tom needs to play with leaders like Ben Morgan and Greg Wood, not a side that is rock bottom for the past couple of years.’
Squires for his part said, ‘I don’t know where all that superstar stuff came from at all.’ While he couldn’t explain why he wasn’t productive with the Steeldogs and called his lack of scoring a ‘weird experience’, when he called the assessment levelled at his person and decisions ‘a character assassination’, you can’t help feeling he has a point.
Less controversially the Steeldogs announced the signing of Czech forward Lubomir Korhan, a former Czech international who has played predominantly in his homeland, but never in the UK. His presence means, of course, the Steeldogs now have five imports. They seem quite happy with this, at least for the time being, because a further import forward might be on the books if needs be. In the short term Coach Payette is to take a step backwards but only as far as the bench and assess things.
Intriguing stuff, and currently adds the Steeldogs to the Wildcats as teams with five foreign players. The Lightning, of course, are covering Adam Calder and the Flames have had five from the start, but it has to be a while since we have seen this many, although the Tigers desperately still need a forth. Also imported was D-man James Hutchinson, recently of the Phantoms, who arrived on the incoming tide in Basingstoke; the long walk from the coast excepted. You might question why the Bison would want a stronger defence with Lyle in the net and conceding fewer than 2 goals per game; the only club in the league below that level. But the side permit a shot on goal on average slightly less than every two minutes which is more often than the Lightning, Steeldogs and Phantoms, so you could say a bigger buffer is not a bad investment. The fact Hutchinson’s scoring ability which made him the second most productive Brit isn’t a bad move either if you are looking to pick up a trophy – or two.
But Hutchinson’s loss to the Phantoms will almost certainly be noticed, and Coach Kynaston confirmed he was considering a recall for former favourite – or bad boy depending how you view him – of James Morgan. Morgan ia a local D-man who after icing for the Peterborough side for eight years parted company over a season ago and has not played since. He let it be known when the squad was being reformed earlier in the year he was keen to return, and Kynaston, while tentatively agreeing to renewed contact at a training level was cagey about committing, and in the event didn’t. But with the loss of Hutchinson and the Phantoms in need of a pinch of something extra plus the loss next weekend of four players to the GB U20 side, this could see the chance Morgan has been waiting for. Forgetting any possible controversy for a moment, it could be a good move because Morgan’s figures, if he were able to repeat them, would almost certainly catapult him into the top ten of productive British D-men. In other words, the spot vacated by Hutchinson.         
Meanwhile over in Telford the Tigers said goodbye to yet another player when 18-year-old forward Jordan Bannon requested release. No reason was given, but he became the seventh player to vacate the club and twelfth in the league to make a move.  
The Bees’ though had their own concerns with the departure of the EPL’s top-scoring D-man Marcel Petran to Kazakhstan. You know, the country next to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan and world’s largest producer of uranium.
So now we come on to Saturday’s games of which there were four.
Flames 4 – Phantoms 3
An even opening period despite the Flames taking the lead which the Phantoms wiped out going into the second break after bringing the best out of Mark Lee. I tell a lie, Nathan Rempel sneaked one in to restore the Flames’ lead in the closing minute. A short-handed goal thanks to Curtis Huppe seconds after the restart looked like that might do it, but the visitors found that extra something late in the game, as seems to be their wont of late, with two goals and the Flames were looking a bit doubtful. But despite out-shooting the home side, Rempel snatched a cruel victory, again in the final minute.
Lightning 9 – Tigers 0
Clearly a game the Tigers will not want to be associated with and they made a good start at doing so by not turning up until after the first break. By then it was all over anyway as the Lightning had six in the bag, four of which formed the quickest 4-goal run in the EPL this season. But although the Tigers dug in for the remainder of the game, it was still a bit of a kick in the park for the home side without even producing a penalty and both Leigh Jamieson and new import Kamil Tvrdek notched up hat-tricks. Steve Wall in the home goal didn’t do badly either and claimed his first shut-out of the season after facing less than thirty shots.  
Bison 5 – Phoenix 2
You could have almost used the same syllabus for this game as last weekend as the Bison, now clearly heading the table and very dangerous on home ice, threw up a defensive wall the Phoenix just couldn’t break down. It wasn’t as though the visitors played badly because they outshot the home side almost 2-to-1, but Lyle was having none of it. It helped that Jaroslav Cesky and Andy Melachrino were in serious mood with 2-goals apiece, and even new boy James Hutchinson got in on the points; all of which gave the Bison their eighth home win on the trot.
Jets 2 – Steeldogs 1
With five imports now on board with the arrival of Czech forward Lubomir Korhon, coach Andre Payette took to the bench and the Steeldogs took to the lead after a minute through Lloyd Gibson. A tight game got tighter as just after half way Frantisek Bakrlik snapped up the equaliser which took some deciding because the puck was back out on the ice ready for the restart before the officials could decide if it went in. But it did, and the final period continued in the same vein ending with just a shot in it over all which might have been the one Matt Towalski used to get the winner seconds after the break.  
Sunday, and back to five games.
Phoenix 3 – Jets 4 after PSO
The Phoenix must be wondering what they have to do at the moment to secure a win when they are not playing that badly, dominate much of time, and certainly record enough shots and even have an adequate number of hits on pipework. Against the Jets they took a 2-goal lead which the home side battled back and eradicated. James Archer put the visitors ahead again but with six minutes to go Bakrlik unassisted took it to overtime with seconds to spare going on to become the hero in the shootout where the Jets collected the points and the Phoenix a seventh extra-time game.
Phantoms 6 – Bison 3
The Phantoms have shown they have mettle, particularly later in a game but you can’t help trying to figure out where this result came from. It wouldn’t be fair to say it was a lucky win when Lyle faced over forty shots, Maris Ziedins produced his first hat-trick of the season and Luke Ferrara scored unassisted. A 3-1 lead for the home side after twenty minutes, and the Bison goal thanks to a power-play, was extended to 5 by the second break. Although the Bison clawed two back, one of which was another power-play, for what really was a bad day at the office but fortunately didn’t damage their lead at the top of the table.
Wildcats 2 – Lightning 5
This had the promise of a good, tight game, and for most of the time it was until the final minutes when Michal Kapicka was penalised after colliding with Blaz Emersic and the Wildcats at 2-apiece seemed to lose their way. Almost immediately Lightning’s Adam Carr scored unassisted, and seconds before the hooter two more had gone in. With Dean Skinns facing over forty shots for a season’s tally of over eight hundred, which is way more than any other netminder in the league, and five imports to play with, it looks like Tomas Fojtik was missed at the back.
Bees 5 – Steeldogs 1
With Steeldogs’ coach Andre Payette on the bench to assess his team’s future now he has Lubomir Korhon in the squad, he has plenty to occupy his thinking. The Bees’ didn’t look seriously troubled by the visitors and even Derek Campbell looked unusually passive for him with not so much as a fleeting acquaintance with the penalty box. But while the Steeldogs did manage a goal just after half way and more effort in the third period, by then it really was all over anyway.
Tigers 1 – Flames 4
After last night’s massacre with the Charge of the Lightning Brigade the Tigers must have been expecting the worse, but full credit to them they bounced back with hard work and determination. Although dropping a goal down to Ben Campbell early on, Tim Burrows had the home side firmly still in the match around the half way point. Eventually it was the Flames’ strength and depth which took its toll, but not decisively until the last fifteen minutes when Curtis Huppe bagged a pair and the visitors extended their best winning run to six games.  
So, after Sunday’s games the Phoenix have now slipped into the clutches of the Flames who match them on points with the Bison five points ahead at the top of the table. Lower down the Phantoms also joined the Steeldogs on points with both being just a win below the Wildcats. And that win could come in the week when the Steeldogs visit Swindon in what could be an important battle for points, while further up the table the Jets host the Lightning in another encounter for vital points. Can’t wait.
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