SWINDON, UK – First on the agenda is a look at the week 16 EPL top tens charts which have produced no changes in the leaders.
The top scoring player in the EPL is still the Flames’ David Longstaff with the Swindon pair of Jonas Höög and Aaron Nell right behind him while the Lightning’s Leigh Jamieson, while creeping higher for some time, has finally entered the top ten. When it comes to scoring goals, though, it is the Flames’ Curtis Huppe at the top, where he was last week, with again Nell the leading Brit. Tony Hand of the Phoenix, after sharing the assist-scoring top position, now makes it his own.
This is probably the final week of the reign of former Bees Marcel Petran as the highest scoring D-man with the Jets Mindy Kieras now breathing heavily down his neck while the leading Brit, the Steeldogs’ Ben Morgan, is also having to fend off the Flames’ David Savage.
No change at the top of the EPL and Brit penalty charts with the Phantoms’ Jozef Sladok and the Jets’ Adam Greener both number one respectively, and, in fact, no change right down to the seventh place although Sladok has upped his average by one-and-a-half minutes per game, a fairly substantial jump.
Into the first week of the new year and in Telford Coach Watkins said, ‘In 2013 we will give it our all, and I still believe we’re not out of the play-offs.’ To support that belief he signed Barry Hollyhead, who retired from the Lightning at the end of last season, as a temporary netminder while regular goalie Declan Ryan recovers from ill health. Then came yet another blow for the Telford side as it was announced Estonian D-man Dmitri Rodin who having signed barely three weeks previously jumped ship. Apparently Rodin, having arrived in Telford from the Steeldogs in their recent squad adjustment, had been training with the Elite League’s Hull Stingrays for the whole of that time which, if known and accepted by the Tigers is fair enough, but if not then a pretty rum deal. It means if he worked his 2-week notice period he must have handed it in before the ink was dry from signing his contract. Whatever the case, it is not good for the Tigers who have had a staggering fourteen players ice in addition to their regular – if that is the right word? – squad.
On a brighter note the Phoenix finally announced the return of Liam Chong who having missed the season so far through injury was expected to return about now, and has. To compensate, if you can interchange right- and left-shooting players, Ciaran Long has been released and is probably on his bike heading south.
Also on the move, although I am not suggesting a connection, is Nicky Watt from the Wildcats who citing personal reasons departs in a week’s time. Rumours abound, as you would expect, a few of them quite imaginative, but even though coming from Scotland where younger brother Ryan has played some games for the EIHL Braehead Clan this season after leaving the Jets, Nicky Watt has played solely in the south for the ten years of his senior career and has coaching commitments there too.
Talking of the Jets, D-man Greg Pick, who arrived from the US recently for a trial and signed on, signed off. Pick was looking for more ice time which Jet’s coach Slava Koulikov couldn’t promise, so has moved on to the Phantoms for the rest of the season where there are, shall we say, ‘issues’ with British D-men at the moment.
On to the games and there were four mid-week matches during this first week of 2013 starting on Tuesday with one, and Wednesday with two and which saw the Wildcats play both days.
Flames 3 – Wildcats 1
It took half an hour for the Flames to make the breakthrough, but it only lasted a couple of minutes. The Flames’ go-ahead-goal came seconds before the second break, but the Wildcats kept battling away for almost double the shots on goal although in the end it was the Flames that made the shots count.
Wildcats 5 – Bison 3
For two periods it looked like the Bison were simply going to pick up the points, but then the Wildcats, having done all the chasing to that point, turned on the magic and totally dominated the final stint meaning the Bison, instead of recovering from their 2-game losing run added another to suffer their worst run of the season with three.
Tigers 6 – Phantoms 7
With six goals in the first period it was like chasing and shooting ducks across a marsh with the Tigers looking seriously like they were in the points at last. Then with three minutes to go the Phantoms loosed both barrels in barely half a minute, in the way the Phantoms seem to be able to do, and ended the Tigers’ hopes. Any other time six goals would have done it for most teams, and you also have to wonder why it took the Phantoms seven goals after the slapping they dished out in their two previous encounters. But they all count, I suppose.
Which brings us on to Saturday and a full schedule.
Flames 3 – Phantoms 0
With Greg Pick on board having signed for the Phantoms just hours earlier the Phantoms were shut-out in Guildford against the Flames. Curtis Huppe put the boot in twice in four minutes in the first period and with a third coming from Ben Campbell in the middle stint, that was more than enough to satisfy the league leaders. Even backups James Hadfield for the Flames and Dan Lane for the Phantoms had spells in their respective nets, but that now makes it five from five for the Flames in this pairing.
Jets 6 – Bees 4
Three goals up in half an hour before the Bees started their comeback and Scott Spearing put in his application for the Japanese air force (Kamikazi Division) with a check from behind. Puns aside, the Bees made a fight of it in the second half and ended with fifty shots on goal to under forty on Tom Annetts. But it wasn’t enough although Spearing did get his application approved following a later twenty-six-minute interview with Michael Wales.
Bison 5 – Tigers 1
Well, despite the result the Tigers were far from humiliated by the Bison who knew they had a fight on their hands especially as the game wore on. The 21 shots on Stevie Lyle, two thirds the shots on Barry Hollyhead the temporary goalie replacement, just about sums up the difference between the two sides – less fire power up front for the Tigers, tougher protection at the back and if you get through that Lyle will upset your party anyway.
Lightning 3 – Phoenix 2
The Lightning were up for it to start with and it looked like it was going to be a close game, but in the second the Lightning wheels started to wobble. The period opened with a goal from Manchester’s Joachim Flatten and closed with a goal from Derek Campbell with the look about it of more to come. But, not so, as the home side dug in and with just five minutes to go Blaz Emersic and Leigh Jamieson stuck in a pair about quick as the X-Factor can send you to sleep and took a surprising win.
Steeldogs 3 – Wildcats 5
The Steeldogs must have fancied their chances with things recently looking much improved and against a side they have beaten twice previously at home including a 5-goal shut-out. Opening the scoring after two minutes must have been a bit of a boost too. But within seconds the soon-to-leave Nicky Watt replied unassisted, and by the end of the period the Wildcats were 2-up. It didn’t last though and by the end of the second leg the Wildcats didn’t look averse to giving it all up as the Steeldogs pounded away. A change of heart in the third saw the visitors back in front early with Jan Melichar sealing things when the Steeldogs pulled James Flavell at the end.
And finally, on to Sunday and another five games.
Phoenix 5 – Lightning 2
The Manchester side were simply too strong as they took the lead after a minute through James Archer and just kept going until Joachim Flaten wrapped it up with the net empty with seconds to spare. But it wasn’t as though the Lightning didn’t have their chances with a similar number of shots on goal and with two previous wins, one 8-2, and a penalty loss, but not tonight as the win wraps up the schedule for these two.
Steeldogs 4 – Bison 3
Even though the Steeldogs started the scoring, by the end of the period the Bison had the lead and the chase was on. But not only did we have a high-speed pursuit but mystery and suspense also as Andre Payette was slapped with a mystifying game arrest for what must have been an undercover headbutt on Carl Graham because the shove that occurred was about as serious as Miss Marple saying boo to the vicar. Regardless, with their Christmas victory over the Bison still fresh in their memory with three minutes to go Lee Haywood found the equalizer and with overtime proving nothing, netminder James Flavell made two pretty impressive saves in the penalty shootout for the points. But at least the Bison went home with one, and had it not been for Stevie Lyle in their net, who faced nearly fifty shots to under thirty on Flavell, the Steeldogs might have caused more pain.
Bees 4 – Flames 6
After half an hour and two goals apiece it was looking anything other than a one-sided affair. The Flames went into the second break with an edge thanks to Paul Dixon and then dominated the final period. But the Bees must be disappointed having previously beaten the Flames in Bracknell as well as grabbing a point on the road, and now have four losses from their last five games, the only win coming against the Tigers.
Phantoms 3 – Jets 4
So we started off with the pattern being the Jets score, the Phantoms equalize, the Jets score, the Phantoms equalize. In the third period the Phantoms, while coming good later in a game which is almost becoming the norm, changed the routine and took the lead through Maris Ziedins. The Jets, however, equalized less than four minutes from time and went on to win it in the penalty phase having thrown more at Damien King than was faced by Greg Rockman in a match which could have gone either way.
Tigers 4 – Wildcats 8
Was this a game as one-sided as the result suggests? Well, after the first period which ended a respectable draw with one goal each, then yes. There had been something of a communal discussion after Nicky Watt and Barry Hollyhead decided to catch up on old times which after being unravelled by the ref meant both collected six minutes for the distraction, then less than a minute into the middle spell Jonas Höög started the rout short-handed. By half way it was all over as Höög went on for a hat-trick and with team mate Aaron Nell totted up thirteen points between them. Let’s nor forget, though, the Tigers managed four goals. That’s eleven from their last three games and around double what they have previously scored in the same number of games so far.
At the end of the 2013 first week, then, the league table is looking, well, like a league table but with less congestion as the Flames now sit a point clear at the top and four points clear of the third placed Phoenix. In the middle order the Wildcats are making their presence known while below them the Phantoms are now certainly a threat to the Bees and the Steeldogs are still sneaking upward.
With no mid-week games and plenty of crucial matches next weekend including two double headers involving the Steeldogs against the Phantoms and Wildcats against the Bees, a feast to look forward to.
Can’t wait! For more EPL facts and stats, news and a headline mailing list take a look at www.iceman-epl.com