EIHL round up

EIHL round up

Robert Newbolt15 Apr 2019Robert Newbolt»

The season finished with Belfast Giants winning there fourth title in this era to add to their challenge cup success.



The eventual champions, the giants were always in the running for the title throughout the season. There challenge really began back in December when a strong unbeaten run saw them take the top spot away from Nottingham Panthers by a clear four points. They were to continue in this vein during the rest of the season as they went head to head with close rivals Cardiff Devils. They rounded off the campaign with five wins but had to wait until the final day to gain the title of EIHL league champions. MORE IN DEPTH HERE


Because of the anomaly of Challenge Cup games during early season the Devils didn’t really come to the fore until after Christmas. Their challenge gained momentum soon after when they began to sweep all before them. What seemed to prove decisive at that point was their double header in Belfast during February when they were defeated twice. Although they beat rivals Glasgow twice in the run in they were to find it difficult against teams fighting for a play off spot and were ultimately beaten by eighth placed Coventry Blaze on the final day of the season, thus handing the title to Belfast.



Coventry repeated their form of last season, being around the bottom of the table for large amounts of time and just scraping into the play offs when they beat off the attentions of Manchester Storm. The season will best be remembered for the strong finish which saw them clinch a play off spot in Manchester and deny the Cardiff Devils the championship by winning on the final day of the season.



With an extremely low budget and injuries to key players throughout the season, Francois Bouchard being the main one, the Dundee Stars struggled and were extremely unfortunate not to get into the play offs but they ran out of steam in the final month and just missed out. As a club they achieved their main objective that of raising awareness and attendances, indeed the fan base has grown by 20% over the last two seasons.



Although short benched for a large part of the season Fife put in a strong performance, indeed they were challenging for the title around Christmas time but a grueling schedule and injuries to their top imports meant they struggled to maintain the good form during the final stretch and they finished sixth in the table.



Glasgow under new coach Pete Russell mounted a determined challenge this season and were amongst the leaders for most of the campaign. In late February they were seriously competing with Nottingham for third spot but a streak of only two wins from twelve games after this time put paid to that and they finished fourth overall.



This enigmatic, exciting free flowing side in its third year in the top flight put on a great show whenever they played. In March they made the Challenge Cup Final only to go down at the hands of the Belfast Giants. Their attacking flair was evident from the start, they amassed 53 powerplay goals throughout the term (6 in one game). They ended the season with a creditable fourth place.



Manchester struggled all season long to maintain any consistency, especially away from home as their team as their team was built for the run and gun hockey style of play in their home ice rink. Be that as it may they ran Coventry close for the final play off place only failing on the final day of the season when, ironically, they were beaten at home.



In what turned out to be their final season in the top flight because of financial problems, the very short benched Lightning struggled throughout. They lost their head coach early on, again due to monetary problems and although they rallied under playing coaches Lannon and Wallace they could not present a sustainable product and were at the foot of the table for a large part of the season: in fact they finished 24 points adrift of the tenth placed side.



Although Nottingham got off to a flying start: challenging for the lead at Christmas, as in the previous seasons their form dropped away and only a sudden loss of form by Glasgow meant they retained third place, albeit 22 points behind Cardiff in second place.



This Arena team provided the surprise of the season, not least to their fans. Sheffield contrived to have their worst season ever (in all the leagues) when they finished in seventh place. They changed their coach in mid October when early results showed something needed to be done. Under new coach Tom Barrasso they at least put some effort into their play but it was apparent that the skill level was not there to match the likes of Belfast and Cardiff. Even so they finished inside the play offs and, perhaps most remarkably, ended the season with the highest overall attendance in the league due in a large part to their owners foresight in reducing match prices for certain games.


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