EPL Weekly Roundup Wk 13

SWINDON, UK – First off we take a look at the week 12 EPL top tens charts.
Points Scoring
No change in the EPL’s leading points’ scorers with the Wildcats’ Jonas H öög at the head and the Flames’ David Longstaff the top Brit. Although both added points as a result of the mid-week games, the one-point gap stays although Longstaff increased it by one over Wildcats’ Aaron Nell in the Brit chart.
Goal Scoring
The top EPL goal scorer remains the Flames’ Curtis Huppe while the Jets’ Frankie Bakrlik moved up to number three and the Bison’s’ Jaroslav Cesky up to number six. In the British chart Nell leads by a whisker from Longstaff who has two games in hand.
Assist Scoring
Phoenix ’s Tony Hand is still the leading assist scorer but Longstaff has moved into second place all round meaning a British pair dominate all four charts.
D-Men
The Bee’s Marcel Petran is the leading EPL D-man on points despite the fact he has moved on and it is looking like it might be several weeks before he is ousted. The Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan is still the leading Brit although he has dropped a place in the EPL chart to be replaced by the Phoenix’s Robert Schnabel. Despite his short sojourn on the unemployed list, the now-Bison James Hutchinson stays mid-table and the second most productive British D-man.
Netminding
The Lightning’s Alex Mettam while second in the netminding chart has closed the gap on leader Stevie Lyle of the Bison to under one percent. This is the closest gap between these two places since the Jets’ Greg Rockman managed it in week six.
Penalties
Despite missing a game in the week the Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell still heads the penalty-takers in the EPL with the Jets’ Adam Greener the leading Brit with both having pulled away from the competition a tad.
So, into the week and lets see what news was about.
The Bees’ having lost the services of the league’s top-scoring D-man Marcel Petran to Kazakhstan, or somewhere near Russia as we say in the trade, announced the search was on for a replacement, and while likely to be difficult, said, ‘hopefully in the next few weeks we should have something sorted out.’
After a weekend on the bench to consider the future balance of his side, Coach Andre Payette at the Steeldogs said he would be returning to the ice next game which was the mid-week encounter against the Wildcats. In the meantime he signed forward Danny Wood, who had just been released from neighbours Sheffield Steelers. Wood, prior to playing in Sheffield saw service in the USA and even had time with the Scimitars all those years ago, or 2004 to be precise.
Talking of assessments, having run with five imports for a few weeks the Wildcats decided it was a luxury that couldn’t continue and announced the release of Michal Kapicka. Last weekend the Wildcats left Tomas Fojtik out of the side to comply with the 4-import rule, and iced three import forwards including Matias Perkki ö back from several weeks’ injury. Following the 5-2 defeat at home to the Lightning Coach Aldridge said, ‘Looking at it now having made three defensive errors, maybe having two defensive imports in the line-up would have benefitted us.’  
As for Kapicka, being the Wildcats’ third highest scorer behind Nell and H öög and around the twentieth highest scorer in the league, the Czech forward would be an excellent capture for the Tigers. Or even the Bees if they wanted to juggle a forward for a D-man.
Following the Phoenix’s recent spell in the doldrums Coach Tony Hand had a chat with Scott McKenzie, who has been struggling to find his top form at his new club, and later said, ‘I felt we needed a change, and after talking to him the upshot was that he would move back to his old club in Telford.’ That must surely be excellent news for the Tigers, who are desperate for a forward, and where last time McKenzie racked up a point a game.
In his place comes Bari McKenzie who was recently released by the Elite League’s Cardiff Devils. He started his career with the Lightning back in 2003 and has also seen service at GBU18 and GBU20 level and elsewhere in the EIHL and the NIHL where he has clocked up some pretty impressive figures.
Midweek games, of which there were three
Steeldogs 0 – Wildcats 5
The visitors got off to a shocking start, that is if you are a home fan, with two goals in just over a minute followed by some pushing and shoving which came to nought with just a minor penalty on the home side in the first half hour. Then it went a bit flat. The Steeldogs had brought out their two new signings for their first home appearance, that is, Czech import Lubomir Korhon and Danny Wood. With Payette back from the bench in place of Campbell, who as fifth import was dropped for the evening, it was a surprisingly lacklustre performance from the home side with an amazing dearth of penalty minutes which saw the Wildcats make quite a clinical job of the whole operation.
Jets 1 – Lightning 3
The Lightning came in a determined mood which saw them take the lead after eight minutes and after a few smoke signals the wagons were circled as Bakrlik went on the warpath after what has been reported was a jab from the Lightning bench. Chris Wiggins took exception to Bakrlik’s upset and jumped over the fence to discuss the matter only to take an unnecessary scalping as both players were sent to the happy hunting ground. Things continued in a similar vein as the Lightning added a second, and then just before the second break another eruption occurred when Nicky Chinn was also removed this time for hooking. The final period opened with a Jets’ goal and the promise of an exciting climax, but a second goal from Kamil Tvrdek with ten minutes to spare was the clincher which took the Lightning to third in the table.
Tigers 1 – Flames 4
For the second time in two days this pair met in Telford and, basically, had a rerun of the earlier script with even the shots on goal matching. As we have come to expect from the Tigers, you couldn’t fault the work rate and the defence pretty solid again, but the killer ability in front of goal isn’t there and the defeat gave them a record seven losing games on the bounce.
Back to the week which continued with more news.
In Peterborough Coach Kynaston said he still hadn’t decided whether or not to call up controversial D-man James Morgan for the weekend to cover the loss of players to the GBU20 squad, but the next day it was confirmed Morgan would ice Sunday against the Flames. Also recruited was 17-year-old forward Harry Harley on loan from the NIHL Whitley Warriors.
Another signing, but this time for the Jets as 19-year-old British D-man Greg Pick who having iced for the side mid-week, put pen to paper for the remainder of the season. Pick joins the Jets from the US junior system and apparently on returning to the UK recently rang Coach Koulikov on the off-chance, and after a try-out got an on-chance.
Now we come on to Saturday’s five games.
Bees 3 – Phoenix 5
A close first period although a bit scrappy at times saw the visitors 1-goal up by the break, but then in P2   the Bees threw everything at Jorge El-Hage in the Phoenix goal for his first full game and who proved more than adequate for the task. Even when the Bees took the lead, it was short lived with the soon-to-depart Scott McKenzie grabbing the equaliser with his second goal of the evening. Also with a second for the evening was James Archer who added one early in the final period with the Phoenix now minus an injured Robert Schnabel but still having assumed the driving seat, which is where they remained for the win.
Bison 5 – Phantoms 3
It was dangerman Maris Ziedins who opened the scoring for the visitors, but Jaro Cesky made sure the first period ended as it began – all equal. The second period started with the Bison taking the lead and Phantoms’ top bad boy Jozef Sladok taking the time to welcome Joe Greener back from injury with some teasing repartee and an exchange of friendly slashes for which the ref took umbrage and Sladok took 2+10. With both sides short benched partly due to GB commitments, the Bison dug in and edged away but a battling Phantoms couldn’t quite find the way back despite an admirable effort.
Wildcats 4 – Steeldogs 2
The lesson meted out to the Steeldogs by the Wildcats four days ago wasn’t quite repeated with the visitors twice taking the lead, and both times having things quickly readdressed in a first half punctuated by several bouts of comparing handbags which, apparently, caused some disagreement over styling. The second half saw the deadly duo of H öög a nd Nell inflict a goal each in a couple of minutes supported by some much improved defensive work which ensured the lead stuck and the points stayed in the bag.
Lightning 1 – Flames 5
They came, they saw, they conquered, and there wasn’t a lot the Lightning could do about it. Flatfooted in the first period especially at the back which left Alex Mettam in the lurch and although he managed to pull off several important saves, after four goals he was replaced by Steve Wall and for the two remaining periods when things settled down with more focus and hard work. Apart, that is, from a bizarre penalty on Lightning’s captain Adam Carr who took a walk and a match when Jez Lundin received a blood injury after colliding with the boards and which by all accounts Carr had tried to avoid being party too. But the Lightning power-play, which has been less than spectacular for some time now again failed to produce the goods and the game cost the Lightning their second place in the table.
Jets 8 – Tigers 2
After two respectable displays against the Flames in the past week, the devastation of a week ago imposed by the Lightning was repeated as a short-benched Tigers also missing Coach Watkins on GB duty fell to the Jets. Resist as the Tigers tried, for the home side it was like picking off grouse sneaking through the undergrowth which suggested their colours should be changed to the new army Multi-Terrain Pattern. In the final period, and with a 4-goal buffer Danny Milton took over in the Jets’ goal for a warm-up and ten minutes later Brandon Stones replaced Declan Ryan at the other end. But it ended with over sixty shots on the visitors and although they managed to nab a pair for the pot, the Jets faced half that number and Bakrlik and Dan Davies both downed a brace.   After Saturday’s games the Phoenix went above the Lightning into third place while the Wildcats joined the Bees on points.
Sunday, and four games.
Tigers 2 – Jets 3 after PSO
Well, last night’s suggestion to change colours must have paid off because the team that faced the Jets was not the same species as the night before, and even held a lead for twenty minutes. In fact, the Tigers managed very well in their right plumage with a superb all-round performance that was hard to fault. They may have been out-shot, but they were not outclassed and although a point from the penalties probably won’t prove a great advantage practically, it was worth its weight in gold as an incentive and in morale terms, so who knows what might happen when the new faces arrive?
Phantoms 3 – Flames 5
They came, they saw, oh no, I did that. In fact the Phantoms were playing sneaky and lured the Flames into a false sense of security by going three goals down in just over twenty minutes. So it was no surprise when, bim-bang, two goals in a minute and the recovery button had been engaged. But, this time the plucky city side were outflanked and although outshooting the Flames quite respectably, it was the visitor’s power-play that did the damage. So, while not the best debut for James Morgan, he got a decent reception and showed he still has plenty to offer the club.
Steeldogs 1 – Bees 5
The recent fine tuning by the Steeldogs doesn’t appear to have been fine enough, and with Coach Payette absent in the Ukraine was it a case of while the boss is away… as the recent trend of reduced time in the box was flung out the window. Hockeywise the first two periods were close enough with only a Bees’ goal in it as they seemed to shrug off the loss of Marcel Petran. But in a game which saw nearly an hour of penalties all told, Greg Wood, who not happy with his ten minutes for a check from behind, went for the double-or-quits option, and lost. The final period fell apart for the home side, particularly at the back, so Pavel Gomeniuk’s ten minutes at the end didn’t actually make a lot of difference especially with Annetts pretty solid in the Bees goal. But the real worry now is, who is going to break the news to the boss?   
Phoenix 2 – Lightning 0
The Lightning hit the ground running and started throwing their weight around in what looked like an attempt to prevent the Phoenix from playing their game. And to some extent it worked because the first half was up and down but with its scrappy moments with the Phoenix outshooting the visitors by 25-3 and Ross Bowers getting measured up for a ten minute sit down for abuse. The second half settled down to a war of attrition with the Lightning looking a much better side than the night before even if they did only manage eighteen shots on Jorge El-Hage and gave him a first EPL shut-out. In the end it was almost a shame the Phoenix had to go and spoil it by scoring, although with Steve Wall facing over forty shots you couldn’t help thinking he wasn’t going to let it happen. But at least they had the decency to wait until the final minutes. The crowning glory of the night, though, must have been the noisy and emotional send-off for Scott McKenzie as he set off south on his bike to Telford.
So, after Sunday’s games the Flames closed the gap on the Bison down to one point, and the Jets moved above the Lightning. In the EPL Cup the semi-final sides were also decided as the Phoenix, Flames, Jets and Bison go through to the 2-leg series. And that wraps it up for another week. For more EPL facts and stats, news and a headline mailing list take a look at www.iceman-epl.com
Contact Bill.Collins@prohockeynews.com

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