Play-offs: A night of drama. nerves and sheer emotion

Nottingham Panthers win the 2015-16 championship finals (Pic: Dean Woolley)
Nottingham Panthers win the 2015-16 championship finals (Pic: Dean Woolley)

Eight teams and four games ... and all distilled into one incredible night of ice hockey.

The magic of the play-offs may only focus around one qualifying weekend in the EIHL, but this year it has thrown up the most dramatic of conclusions as the race for the finals weekend reaches its climax.

If Sky Sports covered ice hockey, they’d be giving tonight the full ‘Super Sunday’ hype.

For once, it’d be justified.

All four ties hold out the prospect of dramatic eliminations, thrilling comebacks, and all four may very well go to the wire.

Not one of the eight teams is guaranteed of a place at the finals weekend in Nottingham. Some are edging close to it, but nothing is set in stone.

That means eight sets of fans packed into four rinks tonight enduring emotions more akin to strapping themselves into a seat on a roller-coaster.

This is winner takes all hockey. There is no safety net.,

For four teams, the season ends tonight.

For four, there is the chance to skate out at the showcase finals, and end the campaign lifting silverware high above their heads.

The differing face-off times mean fans will be constantly checking social media to see what is happening around the circuit.

The drama starts at 5.00 p.m. when the puck drops in Sheffield where Steelers have the biggest task of all to overturn a 5-2 deficit against their bitter rivals, Nottingham Panthers.

A finals weekend without Steelers would be unthinkable - for Steelers’ fans, at least.

They were left reeling after a 4-0 opening period blow out at the hands of a Nottingham side that has, at times, performed wretchedly this season, but which may now have the play-off finals back in their sights.

Steelers did get back to 4-2 before a late goal gave Panthers that three-goal cushion which, if they find their true form, should surely be enough to see them through to the showcase event staged on their home ice,

At 5.30 p.m. Manchester Storm and Cardiff Devils enter the scene.

Their opening leg produced a one-goal hockey game – Cardiff winning 3-2 on home ice – and it will be fascinating to see what unfolds on Storm’s tight ice pad in Altrincham where Omar Pacha’s team revel in playing,

This is their first ever EIHL play-off run, and they’re up against the league champions.

A finals weekend without Cardiff AND Sheffield? Add it to the list of possible outcomes.

At 6.,00 p.m. the third game faces-off.

All we know of the Braehead Clan-Dundee Stars showdown is that it will send one Scottish team to Nottingham. Question is, which one?

Stars recorded a fine 3-1 first leg win on home ice, which, by all accounts, could have been even more emphatic.

They’re closer than ever to a first ever finals weekend appearance, but need to complete the task in Braehead.

For Clan to miss out would be a huge disappointment to its fan base which celebrated a comfortable conference title, but didn’t see the anticipated league challenge materialise as points were coughed on home ice. The opening goal may well set the tone for the rest of the evening ...

Fife Flyers and Belfast then face-off at 6.30 p.m.

Giants hold the upper hand with a 4-2 first leg result, but they have not won in Kirkcaldy all season.

The mood among Fife fans is one of optimism that this game is well within their grasp.

By the time they face-off, the hopes and dreams of other clubs may well have crumbled to dust.

It promises to be a noisy, emotional, nerve-shredding night around the circuit.

As they sang in La La Land, here’s to the ones who dream ...