EPL Weekly Roundup Wk 14

SWINDON, UK – First on the agenda is a look at the week 13 EPL top tens charts which, for a change, shows some name swapping at the tops.
Points Scoring
The first name change this week is at the top of the points scoring table where the Flames’ David Longstaff now rules supreme having unseated the Wildcats’ Jonas Hoog as the top EPL scorer, so occupies the top spot in total number of points scored, and by game average both at EPL level and as the top Brit.
Goal Scoring
However, there is no change in goal scoring so the Flames’ Curtis Huppe remains the leader of the EPL while the Wildcats’ Aaron Nell stays the top Brit, and both hold the same positions by game average.
Assist Scoring
Another major change occurred in the Assist Scoring Chart where the Phoenix’s Tony Hand has held the top spot for some weeks, but has vacated all four leading positions in favour of Longstaff.
D-Men
The ex-Bee’s Marcel Petran is still the leading EPL D-man on points, and has not been seriously threatened since a week ago. But in the British chart the Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan has finally after many weeks found a partner at the top as the Flames’ David Savage joined him as the joint highest scoring D-men.
Netminding
Bison’s Stevie Lyle still looks pretty firmly ensconced at the top of the netminders chart having edged just beyond the one per cent buffer, but there is not much between the next two, Lightning’s Alex Mettam and the Jets’ Greg Rockman.
Penalties
Further changes occurred at the top of the EPL Penalty-Takers Chart as the Phantoms’ Jozef Sladok nudged Steeldogs’ Derek Campbell into second place both on total minutes and game average. But no change in the British chart as the Jets’ Adam Greener still leads, but the Flames’ Andrew Sharp edged a bit closer.
Week 14 was a fairly quiet spell although what did happen was quite significant.
In Sheffield, where the Steeldogs have of late been chasing their own tail, and Andre Payette was still absent on international duty, owner Shane Smith loaded both barrels with 12 gauge and went hunting for bear. Or, in this case, hunting imports because unlike bear they hadn’t been doing enough damage. According to the club, ‘Shane has made it clear this week that there are no more excuses, it has been said to all the imports to step up or ship out.’
The home grown players, however, got off quite lightly with barely a winging. ‘The Sheffield lads are doing their best,’ continued the statement, ‘but we know some aren’t at their best but they are trying. They may be making mistakes as everyone does, but they are trying and our leaders need to show more by stepping up and leading the team.’
Despite being in Smith’s cross-hairs, though, there were some acknowledged mitigating conditions like ‘personal issues’ affecting Derek Campbell’s performance. In an unusual, and dare I say, brave move, Campbell issued his own statement accepting his personal responsibility for falling short. ‘If there is one thing I have learned over the years of playing is there is no bad crew,’ he said, ‘just bad leaders, and right now I’m one of the leaders on the team and I am not leading.’
This has the ring of seppuku, or ritual suicide, about it which is perhaps fitting what with the recent disembowelment that has seen the Steeldogs concede nineteen goals for just four replies in as many games, and a string of losses only relieved by wins against the Tigers.
So, having penned his ‘death poem’ like a true samurai Campbell is now spiritually prepared to either step up, or plunge his tant ō, ceremonial knife, into his abdomen which, being the Steeldogs, suggests it might be a good idea to read the small print in his contract.
But whether Campbell lives or…, er, stays or goes, the recent sacrifice of Estonian D-man Dmitri Rodin was, according to the club, part of addressing these recent problems by ‘going back to the defence of last season because, ‘It worked.’   In other words, an import ‘D’ has been replaced with Lubomir Korhon, an import ‘F’, and with talk of a further forward under consideration.
So, with Scott McKenzie returning to his old club, the Tigers wasted no time in snapping up Rodin although, surprisingly, signed old favourite Juraj Senko from the EIHL Edinburgh Capitols the day before. That now gives the Telford side five, yes, five imports, three of which are D-men, because Senko has joined as a forward. This is still a bit curious, not just the fact they have five foreign players which in itself takes some believing and suggests a honeymoon that can’t last, but having expressed satisfaction recently with the defence, why, you can’t help but wonder, three D imports?
On to Saturday, then, and just a measly two games.
Flames 3 – Bees 2
The Bees certainly weren’t going to let the home side have everything their own way and the Flames only managed to forge ahead minutes before the first break. But the lead was short lived as the Bees were back on board within minutes of the second period starting, and when just before the second break the Flames again took the lead, the Bees reeled them back in again two minutes later. The final period was too close to call and with Tom Annetts in the Bees’ net heroically facing over forty shots to Mark Lee’s twenty-seven, and for the forth time this season the Bees faced a penalty shoot out, while the Flames their first, which they won.
Jets 2 – Bison 6
The Jets are beginning to look not so much as having lost their map with only a thrashing of the Tigers to write home about recently, as just having taken a wrong turning. Before the first half was over against the Bison they were already being punished, and although two goals from Frankie Bakrlik threatened to stem the tide for a around ten minutes, it wasn’t enough. With fifty shots on Stevie Lyle something was clearly missing, and as the Bison turned the screw with two power-play goals in the final period they proved to be much more productive for a similar number of shots.
And that’s it for Saturday so on to Sunday’s games of which there were four.
Phantoms 5 – Bees 4
The Phantoms started this game with everyone awake, so obviously no plans for a late comeback, and although pretty even it was James Morgan who tapped in a rebound to get the Phantoms off the starting blocks just before the first break. Within a minute of the restart the Bees were level, but then in a devastating ten minutes Ondrej Lauko pocketed his second hat-trick of the season and the Bees were left looking for a trick of their own to get back in it. But, they made a spirited attempt in the third period with Annetts again earning his money with a total over forty shots, and while the Bees looked like they might be on for a point, the buzzer sounded a little too early.
Steeldogs 4 – Bison 6
It wouldn’t be fair to have expected too much from the Steeldogs after the disruption in the week, new players to bed in, and the demands of international duty, but there were, in fact, a number of positives to be gained from this match. A bottom team against a top team scoring four goals all even handed, for one, and more goals than the Steeldogs have scored since early November another. Also, imports Campbell and Korhon were both on the scoresheet with two and three points respectively, and scoring first in minutes and outshooting their visitors were all good pointers. True, conceding six goals including two on power-plays still needs to be looked if the defence is to be believed as adequate, but while the game progressed quickly in the Bison’s favour, by half way the Steeldogs had settled with enough promise to offer better things when the squad is finally back to normal.
Tigers 2 – Wildcats 3
This was another game where the home side shouldn’t be judged too harshly with a short-bench through international duty and three new players – McKenzie, Senko and Rodin – and an import, on this occasion Tomas Janak, to drop. In fact the Tigers were far from overwhelmed with the new boys all in the points and also scored the first goal. But the Wildcats’ line of Perkki ö , Nell and H öö g is a dangerous combination and proved to be the Tigers’ undoing, although yet more Tigers’ injuries, this time to Patrick Greene and McKenzie, didn’t help or a relatively small number shots on Tom Murdy back at last in the Wildcats goal.     
Lightning 5 – Jets 4
The Jets minus their top scorer Frankie Bakrlik through sickness was not doing them any favours, and it eventually took its toll. After a goaless first period things livened up momentarily with a goal apiece followed by a short poetry reading which saw Nicky Chinn expelled for jumping off the bench to explain the intricacies of iambic pentameter to Wales when all he did was fluff his lines. But the third brought things to life as the Jets twice took the lead only to lose it and, in a snippy game with the look of overtime written all over it, Grant McPherson popped in the winner despite the Lightning being outshot.
After Sunday’s games the Bison pulled away a fraction at the top of the table and the Lightning leapt over the Jets into fourth place. Lower down the league the Phantoms jumped the Steeldogs and moved into the play-off zone. But with the holiday period upon us, and now half way through the season, there will probably be a certain amount of readjustment, particularly for the Steeldogs and Tigers, and lots to look forward to in the new year.
Can’t wait.
 Contact Bill.Collins@prohockeynews.com Follow us on Twitter @prohockeynews

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