EIHL Play-off race set to go to the wire for Scottish teams

This is the time of year when coaches pour over schedules and study form books right down to the fine print.
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The business end of the season - “jaggy nettles time” to borrow a phrase from Raith Rovers’ legend Peter Hetherston many years ago - is where everything is on the line, and the margin for error is extremely thin.

The goal is the find the momentum to carry you into the play-offs and beyond. Peak too soon and it’s all over before the finals weekend. Peak too late, and you are left on the outside looking in, and contemplating a tee time at your local golf course.

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This year’s race for a top eight spot is arguably the most intense yet. Just four points separate Coventry Blaze in sixth place and Fife Flyers in ninth. Factor in Nottingham Panthers in tenth, and the gap widens to seven, but they do have a bunch of games in hand which could turn the whole picture upside down.

Tom Coolen is looking to keep taking points to keep the pressure on (Pic: Derek Young)Tom Coolen is looking to keep taking points to keep the pressure on (Pic: Derek Young)
Tom Coolen is looking to keep taking points to keep the pressure on (Pic: Derek Young)

Flyers may be a ninth placed team, but the form guide for the last 10, 15 and 20 games shows a different picture. Based on those results they would be top five, ahead of Guildford, Coventry and Dundee.

Going into the final ten or so games, it’s impossible to formally eliminate a single team, and, so far only Sheffield Steelers and Cardiff Devils have secured their play-off spots. The other six are all up for grabs, and the paths of the challengers will criss-cross over the next few weeks, making it a tough one to call.

Guildford Flames have hit a sticky patch of late, while Coventry Blaze remain doggedly mid-table, but vulnerable after a zero-point weekend. Flyers’ Scottish rivals, Clan and Stars, are booth capable of big wins as much as they are of big losses.

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Flyers’ crippling schedule has certainly eased of late, but they have some added games slotted in to fill the gaps.

They have midweek hockey against Nottingham and Sheffield to contend with, and their double header with Dundee at the start of April could be a huge weekend of hockey.

Flyers’ run in is: Coventry (H); Nottingham (A), Cardiff (A), Belfast (H), Nottingham (H), Guildford (IH), Dundee (A), Dundee (H), and Sheffield (H).

Clan have two huge games against Manchester Storm on their books along with road trips to Belfast and Cardiff, while Stars’ schedule is littered with midweek hockey nights. Marc Lefebvre’s team host Guildford on a Wednesday, are in Nottingham and Glasgow on Friday nights, with a Wednesday jaunt to Cardiff to contend with. The final outcome may well go to the wire …