It’s the second full weekend of action in the new 2018-19 season, and once more it’s a full programme on the Saturday. Well for the pedantic ones out there, it’s as full a programme as we can have with one team without a game. Four matches in the Challenge Cup, spread across all three groups, and a classic encounter in the Elite League itself. It promises to be a cracker. Let’s look ahead to those games.
We start our preview in Group A, and the second game in that three team group. It’s a War of the Roses as well as the Steelers face the Manchester Storm who are coached by their former player and coach Ryan Finnerty.
Steelers go into the game with a streak of two wins in consecutive EIHL matches and hope to continue to build on that with the taking of the bragging rights. Despite winning those games, Steelers have been far from fluent but are somehow getting the job done. They will face a tough task with the Storm who have been re-shaped from last season’s team that did so well. However, the visitors have had a number of early season injuries and that could either act as a catalyst for those who ice or be the Storm’s undoing. It will be a very tense and physical game for sure.
Into Group B now, and it’s two home games in as many nights for Adam Keefe’s Belfast Giants as they continue their defence of the Challenge Cup. The visitors to Belfast are Pete Russell’s Glasgow Clan who are more than capable of upsetting the proverbial applecart if the Giants are off form. Clan will be looking to the Matt Beca-Scott Pitt partnership as their main offensive threat to Keefe’s men who if they win both games will go four from four and virtually in the quarter finals already.
The second of the Group B games takes place in Kirkcaldy and it’s an East Coast derby as the Flyers look to bounce back from their tough overtime loss in Sheffield with Dundee in opposition. It could be a very close encounter as both sides seem to know what the other is about to do, and both teams have quality netminding in place. Whichever side takes their chances will probably take this one, it has the makings of a good old fashioned battle with no quarter given.
There’s another derby to finish with in Group C as the Milton Keynes Lightning take on the Coventry Blaze in Buckinghamshire. These two sides had an interesting pre-season game, which the Lightning recorded a 9-3 success in, and if that kind of game is replicated on Saturday then the fans will be in for a treat for sure. Eric Neiley has made a great start to his Milton Keynes career with goals in both games; whilst the Blaze are sure to give a début to new recruit Tim Crowder: brother of Fife’s Paul. With three of last season’s Lightning roster in the Blaze ranks, there’s even more added spice.
Only one solitary game in the league, and what a game in prospect at Ice Arena Wales. Fresh from their CHL efforts, Cardiff entertain the new look Nottingham Panthers in a game that has everything: stellar goaltending, solid defensive corps and offensive talents that a lot of teams would wish for. It could be a game which could go either way, and even beyond regulation time. Panthers, if they are successful, will go two points clear at the top of the EIHL table whilst Devils will be looking to make the perfect start in their bid for an historic three-peat against a team whom they have mixed success with.