Welcome once more to “The Elite League Years”, your look back at previous seasons in the EIHL. We’re up to edition and season number five in the series, so it’s time to get into the time machine and look back to the 2007-08 season. Who ended up on top? Well, time to find out then.
It had been another successful season for the Coventry Blaze in 2006-07, picking up their second Elite League title and adding the Challenge Cup for good measure. Could they win back-to-back titles? Well they started their defence without captain Ashley Tait who had decided to up sticks after five seasons in Blaze colours and head to Sheffield. They did bring in Jonathan Weaver from Newcastle to add more offensive punch to their blue line and particularly on the powerplay. Ultimately the firepower of Calder and Carlson proved to be the telling factor as Blaze won the title for the third time; finishing seven points clear of nearest challengers Sheffield. Nottingham and Belfast were equally adrift in third and fourth, whilst Cardiff had a low finish of sixth: 30 points adrift of the Blaze.
The Challenge Cup didn’t stay in Coventry though as the holders failed to make it out of the group stages, finishing third in a section that was topped by the Panthers and Devils. In Group B, the Steelers and the Vipers proved successful to make their way into the semi-finals whilst Hull failed to win a game at all. Semi-Final action saw Nottingham take on the Vipers and the Steelers, they took on the Devils. Newcastle gave the Panthers a scare in the opening leg in their semi-final as the home side edged it by the odd goal in nine whilst Cardiff and Sheffield shared eight goals at the Big Blue Tent.
The return legs saw the Panthers run away with a 5-1 win up on Tyneside whilst goals from Tait and Joey Talbot saw the Steelers shutout the Devils in Ice Sheffield to set up the two legged final. A 6-3 win in Sheffield for the Panthers gave them a massive advantage and despite the Steelers winning in the NIC return, Nottingham prevailed for a 9-7 aggregate win to deliver the second trophy under Mike Ellis’ tutelage.
So two different winners from the league and the Challenge Cup, would either complete a double? Well the Panthers went out in the quarter-final stage, beaten 7-6 over two legs by Cardiff. Steelers brushed aside Manchester by the odd goal in seventeen to face them in one semi-final whilst Newcastle saw off Belfast and the Blaze, they saw off a much improved Edinburgh side to make the final four. A 4-2 win for the Blaze put them in the Final where they would face the Steelers after the South Yorkshire side saw off Cardiff 2-1 thanks to a brace from Doug Sheppard. Inspired by former Blaze goalie Jody Lehman, Steelers took the trophy with a 2-0 shutout win: Jonathan Phillips and Dan Tessier with the goals.
Blaze were also the league’s representatives in the Continental Cup. Whilst they finished bottom of their group in the second round based in Aalborg, they did manage to get a win under their belts. Losing to EC Red Bull Salzburg looked a probability but Paul Thompson’s men recovered to force overtime and then score the game winner in it. A fantastic achievement for them, and a real confidence boost for the league itself.
Join us next time, as we go back to season number six in the Elite League archives. Will Coventry’s dominance continue in 2008-09. Only one way to find out…