SWINDON, UK – First on the agenda is a look at the week 15 EPL top tens charts which have produced almost no changes at the tops.
In points scoring no change at the top, then, with the Flames’ David Longstaff supreme both in total and by game average. As you might expect, the Bison now have two top ten players in Gregs Owen and Chalmers, and the Flames with Longstaff and Curtis Huppe, and now the Phoenix have joined them with Tony Hand and Michal Psurny. The Brit chart is far more mixed with eight teams represented and, significantly, the Phantoms with two players, James Ferrara and Tom Carlon.
Despite missing some games Huppe is still the leading EPL goal scorer while the Jets’ Frankie Bakrlik has taken the number two spot away from Wildcats’ Aaron Nell who remains the top Brit.
It is also Longstaff still ruling as far as assists go in the EPL although he has been rejoined by the Phoenix’s Tony Hand who had slipped back a fraction recently. In the Brit chart things have become a lot closer after Longstaff and Hand with third place being contested by four players.
The ex-Bee’s Marcel Petran’s days as the leading scoring D-man look numbered as the Jets’ Mindy Kieras has finally reached the same total. It has taken him an extra six games to do it, which shows the dominance Petran commanded, and it will be some time before third placed David Savage of the Flames, who has displaced Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan at the top of the Brit chart, is up there with them. No prizes for guessing the top netminder, Bison’s Stevie Lyle, who has in fact pulled away a fraction from the Lightning’s Alex Mettam. Team-mate Steve Wall, having now played a sizeable chunk of the available ice time, has joined him. But, it is the Jets’ Greg Rockman in fifth place who has now faced the most shots in the league. A mention should also go to Phoenix’s back-up Jorge El-Hage who although not having enough ice time to be considered a ‘regular’, has performed exceedingly well when called upon.
Still no change with penalty-taking with the Phantoms’ Jozef Sladok the top EPL man and the Jets’ Adam Greener the leading Brit. It is interesting that while the Steeldogs have the highest penalty rate, with the move of Derek Campbell to the Phoenix they have only one player now in the top ten – Andre Payette – although Greg Wood appears to be dong his best to remedy that. Half way through the season it is, then, and while a busy week game-wise, news was thin on the ground. However, the Bees must have been excited about it being Christmas because they signed a player. Czech D-man Pavel Strycek joined the Bracknell ranks from playing in his homeland and will replace Marcel Petran, but will not ice until the New Year.
More good news, this time from the Phoenix camp, as it was announced the log awaited Liam Chong would finally return from injury absence which has so far seen him miss the whole of the season.
Mid-week games started on the Wednesday with two.
Wildcats 7 – Phantoms 3
No Christmas cheer in a late revival for the Phantoms in this one with the Swindon trio of Aaron Nell, with his second hat-trick of the season, Jonas Hoog and Matias Perkkiö in devastating form. Phantoms’ coach Jon Kynaston afterwards said it was his side’s worst performance of the season. But it wasn’t quite all doom and gloom because young forward Lewis Hook actually scored twice which was a remarkable achievement considering what his side was doing and what they were up against. There was also plenty of pantomime too. Wildcats’ Ryan Watt took an early walk after falling foul to an accidental high stick call for drawing blood, but the by then expected grand finale came much later. Jozef Sladok made a check from behind and Swindon’s Coach Aldridge tried tactfully to point out the error of his ways accompanied by teammate Sam Bullas. Diplomacy failing, the ref stood there like a bus conductor reeling out penalty tickets and the only consolation for the Phantoms was it didn’t happen earlier in the game when it might have made a difference. However, the Slovakian now has enough penalty points to paper a wall and will miss two games while Coach Kynaston added, ‘ We got what we deserved.’
Bison 2 – Steeldogs 3
This was probably one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. Just think about it: in the green corner the Bison are riding high at the top of the league table and on home ice where for ten games they have been unassailable, and also have the most impregnable goalie in the league. And in the blue corner were the Steeldogs. The Bison even started the scoring with a first for 18-year-old James Smith, so things did not bode well for the visitors. But they made good use of the power-play and went into the final period a goal up, only three minutes from time Joe Miller equalised. As fingers were crossed the Steeldogs might hang on for a point, the team were having none of such nonsense and stuck in the winner two minutes later for a well-deserved win that was probably also helped by keeping the seat in their penalty box cool. Bison’s coach Doug Sheppard complained his side were ‘outworked’ and ‘outplayed’, so does this mean a Steeldogs’ revival at last? On to Thursday and another two games
Lightning 6 – Bees 2
For half an hour the Bees ran around trying to find the script as the Lightning romped along shooting and scoring almost at will. An opener by Adam Carr was followed by two power-play goals, an unusual achievement for the home side, with another by Carr and a first for Kamil Tvrdek. By the half-way point the Lightning had a 5-goal lead and Carl Ambler was in goal for Tom Annetts for the Bees. The final period saw the Bees finally start playing to the script, but it didn’t stop Tvrdek claiming his second hat-trick of the season and goals from Bees’ Ollie Bronnimann and Lukas Smital sadly being little more than a consolation prize.
Phoenix 10 – Tigers 2
The Phoenix needed these points to keep pressure on the Bison and Flames at the top of the league and they made more than sure this was the case as they scampered along to their biggest win of the season. The first goal of a second hat-trick for Michal Psurny came after five minutes, and although the Tigers equalized quickly it was the last serious resistance they could find. Even with five imports on the books at the moment the Tigers could only find two to call on and with Declan Ryan on sick leave goals by Jaroslav Kruzik and Ryan Selwood was as much as they could throw at the Phoenix by the way of a challenge.
And onwards to Friday and just one game.
Wildcats 5 – Flames 7
After a first period in which the Wildcats took the lead and then lost it to a power-play goal there was still the possibility of an evenly matched game. But early in the middle period someone opened the cargo doors and the Wildcats all jumped out without their parachutes as they fell to another power-play goal early and ended the stint to a short-handed fifth goal after some questionable defending. There was plenty of spirit again in the third, but a serious catch-up wasn’t really on the cards despite Matias Perkkiö claiming a hat-trick. Besides a stronger power-play the Flames shipped five different forwards to score their total, which just goes to show the depth of the side and the difference.
So almost back to normal being Saturday, but only three games.
Bees 7 – Tigers 2
Sadly for the Tigers it was more of the same as the Bees put them to the sword using almost the same script borrowed from the Phoenix the night before. Players missing for the Tigers doesn’t help their cause, especially in goal, and even with new boys Scott McKenzie and Juraj Senko in the points Coach Tom Watkins must be wondering how many more games it will be before taking the positives out of a defeat and moving on, as many keep advising, is actually going to pay off with a point or two.
Steeldogs 8 – Phoenix 4
This is a scoreline you have to sit and look at quietly in a darkened room to let it sink in. And yes, it is for real. Having already been beaten by the Phoenix three times, once in their biggest win of the season at 9-1, the result must even have surprised the Steeldogs. But it was a fairly comprehensive dismantling like locating a hairline split in a head gasket that started after four minutes and just kept on dribbling away. New men Danny Wood and Lubomir Korhon are looking like the tonic Coach Payette was after with nine points between them. Also, with their harassing, unsettling game plan working without the drogue affect of a high-penalty count on top of the recent defeat of the Bison, a Steeldogs revival took another step forward.
Lightning 4 – Bison 3 after PSO
What a cracker this turned out to be, and with the Lightning missing a handful of players too, but what a handy piece of work Kamil Tvrdek is turning out to be with a goal and assist average both over fifty percent higher than the player he is standing in for.
Three times the home side took the lead, and three times the Bison reeled them in within minutes. It could even have been worse for the visitors because a goal in the third for the Lightning was ruled out after some debate which oddly included netminder Stevie Lyle but not the goal judge, and the decision the puck had gone through a hole in the side netting was picked, a circumstance that should not have arisen because there are rules supposed to prevent that sort of thing. But either way with two consecutive losses, a rare event for the league leaders, while I don’t suppose they are in post traumatic withdrawal just yet, they have to be wondering what has gone wrong recently.
And finally on to Sunday and the end of a long week as far as games went with three more matches.
Phantoms 7 – Lightning 4
What was the Lightning up to? After last night’s showing which at least set heads nodding with approval tonight they looked, well, poorly, and as the game progressed almost terminal. Maybe it was the three games in four days that did it when compared to the Phantoms who had the benefit of breaks between their last three games. But whatever the reason the first period went well enough with a goal apiece, but in the second, breaks or no, the Phantoms took control. Steve Wall in the Lightning goal, an odd choice for the game seeing as he’d played for the home team previously and they probably knew how to work him, was punished particularly with the shots on goal being almost the same.
Phoenix 6 – Bees 3
Back in clinical form, the Phoenix wreaked revenge on the Bees for the previous nights battering they’d received from the Steeldogs. By the end of the first period the Phoenix were in command with a three-goal advantage and it was beginning to look like the Campbell/Hand Show with one or the other having something to say in five of the six goals. It wasn’t until the final period the Bees looked like a serious threat and for a time even raised the possibility of making another of their famous come-backs. But the Phoenix just stepped up a gear and with Jorge El-Hage in goal again and bringing off several saves he will want to tell his mum about, the Phoenix wrapped things up.
Tigers 1 – Flames 4
The Tigers were another team with three games in four days, but compared to the Lightning and against the Flames they were surprisingly spritely and started the final period with a goal from Thomas Soar which kept them definitely still in the game and only one goal adrift. But an unassisted goal by Ben Campbell short-handed six minutes from time followed after two minutes by one from Nathan Rempel, and at least it was more of a case of being pipped at the post rather than the massacres of the previous two games. Now all Coach Watkins has to do from that positive is convert it to points. May the force go with him!
Finally, the week comes to an end and picking through the bits we find the lead at the top of the table over the Phoenix and Flames is now down to two points and the possibility of a run-away mid-season spurt by the Bison hasn’t occurred. At the bottom of the table with the Tigers unfortunately looking a bit like a lost cause, they can of course still do damage especially to the teams who could be fighting to get out of the play-off drop zone. And one of those teams, the Wildcats, is on the books to face both Flames and Bison in the coming week while the Tigers meet the Phantoms. Interesting.
Can’t wait! F or more EPL facts and stats, news and a headline mailing list take a look at www.iceman-epl.com