EIHL: Ups and downs of a hockey weekend

Edinburgh Capitals v Dundee Stars, November 2017 (Pic: Ian Coyle)
Edinburgh Capitals v Dundee Stars, November 2017 (Pic: Ian Coyle)

With every passing weekend, the Elite League throws up more results which catch the eye.

The expansion to 12 teams has co-incided with a levelling of the playing field – and it’s going to be a fascinating rush for play-off posts come next Spring.

Zak Fitzgerald (Sheffield Steelers) in action against MK Lightning (Pic: Tony Sargeant)

Zak Fitzgerald (Sheffield Steelers) in action against MK Lightning (Pic: Tony Sargeant)

The weekend saw just two teams – Belfast Giants and Guildford Flames – take four points, while the majority secured single wins.

Fife Flyers’ started the weekend in sixth position, dropped to tenth on the back of a home loss to Cardiff, and finished in eighth after another remarkable comeback win at Nottingham on Sunday.

Only two of those places would have secured a play-off berth for the club.

With four teams missing out on the post-season competition, the second half of the season should be full of twists and turns.

Teams such as Sheffield are not meant to lose heavily to first-year entrants, but that’s exactly what the play-off champions did at the weekend.

A 7-2 loss on the road to MK Lightning isn’t the sort of result tolerated down in Sheffield.

They were 4-0 down before finding the net, but ended the night well beaten.

The backlash was swift, Steelers releasing Andre Devaux barely half a dozen games into his tenure with the club.

The tough former NHLer who arrived with a big reputation, iced in just 11 games and managed barely as many points.

He also departed before DOPS could fully assess his conduct in that MK game – he was facing supplementary discipline for abusing an official and checking a player to the head.

Steelers, whose coach Paul Thomson also went to war on social media trolls this week, did steady the ship with a solid 3-1 win over Coventry Blaze; all three goals coming in a three-minute spell early in the game.

Blaze claimed one point from a 5-4 OT defeat at home to Belfast Giants.

Two goals from Brett Robinson included the marker which took the game into overtime where Giants’ Seb Sylvestre netted the golden goal to secure the win at the start of a ten-game road schedule for the Irish club.

That quickly became two victories after a 4-3 penalty shots win in Cardiff.

Sylvestre netted twice, with his second taking the game into OT.

When that failed to deliver a winner, it was on to penalty shots, and Giants’ recent signing – the returning David Rutherford – was the only skater to hit the net.

Guildford Flames got the better in the battle of the newcomers, shooting down MK Lightning 7-3, and enjoyed more success in Scotland as they breezed to a 5-0 win over Dundee Stars. The Taysiders then made the short journey to face bottom of the league, Edinburgh Capitals, and endured more pain, losing 5-3.

Stars were blitzed 4-0 in the opening period as Caps bagged their second win in three games - and only their third victory in 18 starts.

The result cut the gap between the teams at the bottom of the table to seven points.

It also gave Caps’ fans something to smile about after a tough week off the ice.

Caps face a double header with Fife this weekend while Stars have long road trips to Cardiff and Guildford. Braehead Clan are in Coventry on Saturday, returning to Renfrew to host Nottingham Panthers on Sunday.