It’s August and how us hockey fans have longed for this time. It’s just over 4 months since the puck finally dropped on the ice, Cardiff walking away from our den carrying the Playoff trophy aloft.
Summer holidays have been and gone, the majority of players have flown in. We now get down to the nitty gritty, training hard getting ready for the campaign ahead. Nobody knows what will happen. The rosters of others are beginning to complete, the EIHL stronger than it’s ever been in its 15 year history.
First up Cardiff in the Aladdin Cup. All players ready apart from Jaynen Rissling and Kevin Henderson, both still waiting visa clearance.
Our first line hits the ice this consisting of Captain Steve Lee, returning Gui Lepine, Great Britain left winger Robert Farmer, fellow GB centre Brett Perlini and new right winger, New Yorker, Tyler Biggs starting his first match on UK soil. Returning Netminder Michael Garnett between the sticks.
The game started as a slow pace, nothing less than expected however from the beginning the side were passing the puck well, keeping possession, at times to the frustration of Cardiff, this something that would continue throughout the game.
We didn’t give the devil’s a look in at times and certainly didn’t look like a team that had never played a competitive game together. Our forcheck was superb we didn’t give Cardiff time or space, we controlled the game for two periods and played with energy. The team showed glimpses of the speed they posess and also their high skating ability something that Chernomaz had spoken about.
The team didn’t shy away from physicality however they were physical without giving away needless penalties (Pither conceeding the only one with 8 seconds remaining)
One criticism of the side last season was the tactic of dump and chase. This appeared not existent in the Chernomaz’s approach much to the delight of the Panthers faithfully.
There is no doubt in my mind that Pither will be a key player this term possibly our main goal source. He looked calm and composed and was Pither that we grew to love. He wanted the puck, he had energy and showed us the skill and poise in his locker, deserving of his 2 goals.
Alex Guptill levelling the score. Credit: panthers.co.uk
Two further players stood out for me along with Pither. Alex Guptill look impressive, getting on the scoreboard in the process. He is quick and composed like Pither, hopefully the two can link up. Both will be thorns in the sides of other teans this season if they can be consistent and play to their ability.
The other stand out player in my humble opinion being Jon Rheault. Certainly a team player helping out defensively when required and also offensively in his natural position, showing why he has played at higher levels.
Luke Pither in action. Credit: http://www.panthers.co.uk
It’s was difficult for me to pick single out players as the team performance was outstanding especially for a first match against cup winning opposition. We were playing the EIHL champions boasting players that have recently been in the KHL and DEL and at times were comfortable. We have a solid foundation to kick on with.
First game in and if I had to describe it in one word it would be promising.
Next up German opposition.
“Let’s Go Panthers”