Quest for LORD STANLEY Cup begins once again!!

It`s that time of year where the NHL season REALLY STARTS now!
It`s where the fans get more vocal and rowdier than they do during the whole season, players start to grow the famous playoff beards. The hits are harder  andthe players have to show more grit or up it having steely determination for the whole tourney. Teams have have to battle through 4 grueling bests of seven series in order to hold a loft Lord Stanley`s Cup come June time and to be able to call themselves NHL Stanley Cup champions.
The Playoffs start midweek as the Matchups have now been decided in both the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference respectively So here is a run down of match ups:


In the Western Conference side of the draw we have the runaway leaders in the West the Chicago Blackhawks who finished on 77pts and who won the Stanley Cup back in 2010, host the 8th seed Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Cup. Minnesota with the players they signed pre season they would have expected to have been a bit higher up in the standings than where they finished off as they had a mixed season and were in danger of not qualifying for the playoffs going into the final couple of games as it was 2 out of 3 teams that was battling for the last 2 slots available with saw Columbus being the unlucky ones to miss out.

Chicago on the other hand with still a young team as don`t forget they were a very young side when they won the Cup in a hard fought series against the Philadelphia Flyers in 6 Games back in 2010. So they already have the experience of what it takes to win the Cup and that it may help them mentally in the long run should they progress?
As there may be a possible “Original 6″ Semi Final meeting with the Detroit Red Wings if both get through their respective series.
Prediction: Blackhawks in 5

ANAHEIM DUCKS 2# V DETROIT RED WINGS 7#                               

Speaking of Detroit, the Red Wings who have been the surprise team of the year but sadly for them, all for the wrong reasons as they sneaked just into the playoff picture in the last week of the regular season. As they had looked to be out of the playoff picture last weekend but for a run of form in the last couple of games saw them maintain the longest active playoff streak in North American sports, With the Red Wings making it 22 straight years in a row making the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Detroit suffered a lot with players starting out cold as during the lockout not many of the Wings players played elsewhere compared to other teams, Where players ventured to Europe and their farm teams. That seem to hamper their season as only the 2 Stalwarts for the Motor City side made any impression on the season,  as it was up to Henrik Zetterberg & Pavel Datsyuk once again to bail them out and they now hope to put the post season out of their minds and move on the playoffs.

Detroits opponents the Anaheim Ducks didn`t have any problems reaching the playoffs as they managed to secure second place thanks mainly to Ryan Getzlaf getting 49 points and Corey Perry putting up 36 points respectively being the standout performers for the Ducks, However with the support from their team mates spreading the points around that was one reason they had a good season.

Only problem for the Ducks in these playoffs may come down to goaltending as their netminding isn`t as strong as the other sides in their conference with only the St Louis Blues behind them in the goalies stats.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7


The other half of the Western conference draw sees the 6th Seed San Jose Sharks up against the 3rd seed Vancouver Canucks. San Jose had the 2nd best goaltender between the pipes in the regular season in Antti Niemi who recorded 4 Shutouts for the Sharks in the shortened season.
Joe Thornton led the way in points for the men from the “Shark Tank” with 40 points as he was the assist machine with 33 in 48 games.
Logan Couture was the Shark main attack threat with 21 goals, with Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scoring 17 & 16 goals themselves in the line up. San Jose also during before the trade deadline wanted that extra Bite for the Sharks line up and they drafted in Raffi Torres who is a player that shall we say, doesn`t mind getting physical at all and loves the gritty hard and that signing could be a good move by them for the playoffs.

Vancouver had a mixed season tinged with bizarreness as nearly all season Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo had been touted to be traded by the Vancouver franchise and was a real stop start story. Yet here we are at the start of the playoffs & remarkably he is still in the blue and green jersey of Vancouver.

However he is no longer first choice now with the newly installed Corey Schneider now donning the no 1 position for the Canucks, As fans of the Canucks will hope he is fit and healthy and can perform like he has this season for Vancouver then they will have a chance of reaching of the Conference finals in my view.

Forwards wise you can`t look pass the Sedin brothers of Henrik & Daniel, they will hope they can repeat their heroics of last 2011 as they helped the Canucks reach the finals. But unfortunately fell at the last hurdle to the Boston Bruins in game 7 where the Canucks had ran out of gas and was destroyed 4-0 on home ice.
Prediction: Vancouver in 6

ST LOUIS BLUES 4#   V  LOS ANGELES KINGS  5#               

The remaining series in the West pits the Defending Stanley Cup Champions the Los Angeles Kings v the St Louis Blues, LA Kings will be looked upon as the favourites in this series as in the regular season they sweeped the series with the Blues 3-0.
LA will look to their to start performers who helped bring them their first Stanley cup in their teams history last season, with Anze Kopitar registering 42 points on the season and with Jeff Carter who led the scoring with 26 for the Kings, The Kings star men in the playoffs last season which included Justin Williams, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown they will still have last season in their minds as to how to win games by grinding out results.
Not forgetting Drew Doughty & Dustin Penner were also big reasons as to why they lifted the cup as well as they had a great series against the New Jersey Devils in the final too and will hope they turn it on again come playoffs.

Los Angeles biggest factor for their cup exploits was that of Jonathon Quick keeping the puck out with scintillating performances by the shot stopper as he was in all honesty the BIGGEST reason they reached the promised lan.
People will point the Kings v Coyotes series when he played out of his skin to get his team their as no netminder in the entire playoff series last year was more dominant than Jonathon Quick between the pipes.

Their opponents the St Louis Blues are the only team in the Western conference to have lost more games than any other team thats reached the playoffs, but would have finished 3rd with the points they gained. However, due to the leaders of the Divisions taking up the top 3 places automatically in the conference, it meant best Blues could finish was in 4th.

St.Louis will hope they can perform better than last year`s playoff series with the Kings as they faced each other in the Semi finals last year the Blues were swept 4-0 by LA. So the Blues will want revenge on their opponents you can bet this year and make sure the same thing doesn`t happen.

Only concern for the Blues is the Netminding situation as they have to decide which goaltender they go with Brian Elliott or Jaroslav Halak to lead the Blues in to the playoffs it`s more likely it will be Elliott but he isthe lowest ranked netminder on save percentage..
Prediction: Kings in 7




Top seeds in the Eastern Conference the Pittsburgh Penguins, will face in the first round the re-emerging New York Islanders. Matches between the 2 teams in recent seasons have been extremely physical and some very physical play has resulted in each team having a player being kicked out for Checking from behind in the games this season.
It wasn`t so long ago that the two franchises were involved in 2 games that blew up into bench brawls, So there is still some Bad blood lingering between the two sides, which gives this series a bit of extra bite to it.

However it should make for a great series if the Long Island outfit can keep to their game plan and frustrate the Pens. Pittsburgh are the odds on favourites in the Eastern Conference ,due to their firepower at their disposal with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and recent editions to the Penguins team before trade line like Brenden Morrow and of course Jarome Iginla from the Calgary Flames.
They possess most lethal attack in the East and arguably whole of the NHL and any team that can stop them, i think will go on to win the Stanley Cup.  

The Long Island based outfit are enjoying their post season for 6 seasons as they been outside the playoffs since 2007.
John Tavares will be the key man for the Isles if they want to progress in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as they will need their players to step up and support Tavares too, as the likes of Matt Moulson, Brad Boyes Josh Bailey and their other major attacking threat in Michael Grabner will all need to get amongst the points if they are going to stand any chance of knocking the Penguins off.

If they can do that and shock the Penguins, then they will have the confidence to beat anyone else put in front of them and would put them in good stead.
However they`ll need to avoid going 2 or 3 games down or it will be a very short series indeed.
Prediction: Penguins in 5


The only ALL-Canadian clash in the playoffs features the Montreal Canadiens against the Ottawa Senators in the first round. Both side in the four meetings between the two in this Lockout affected season resulted in 2 wins a piece.

Montreal have a side that when they click they are a very dangerous team to deal with as the standings show with the Canadiens in second place. Montreal have Max Pacioretty,Brendan Gallagher and Brian Gionta in attack and will hope the D can chip in too as most certainly P.K Subban & Andrei Markov will get on the board as on the powerplay unit they are very accomplished on that part.

 The Canadiens will try to add a 3rdfellow Canadian scalp in a row after they beat the Winnipeg Jets and beat their arch rivals Toronto Maple Leafs in the final game of the post season. Both games were won on the road and they can use them victories as momentum towards the playoffs, as they`ll try to add Ottawa to their list of Canadian adversaries.
 Games between fellow sides up in the North tend to be more competitive as fans are more vocal ,as they want to claim their team is the best in Canada. So with both sides close geographically the series will be contested even more so.  

Ottawa on the other hand are not as potent as their opponents as they have only scored 112 goals comapred to 146 for Montreal, The Sens will need to draw on support for Kyle Turris and Daniel Alfredsson who will hope Cory Conacher can get his scoring touch back as they will need their forwards on form if they harbour any hopes of beating the Canadiens, as the only hopes they have is that their defense can be very mean at the back and play out low scoring games as Ottawa are very goal shy compared to the teams in the whole playoffs.

If things were to get a bit rough the Sens have the perfect canidates in Chris Neil who has clocked up 144 Penalty minutes along with Zack Smith 56 penalty minutes and also Matt Kassian who spent a bit of time down at the Houston Aeros who was the farm team of the Minnesota Wild , before being traded to the Senators.

Predictions: Montreal in 7


This series is a case of We meet once again! As the Caps & Rangers meet each other for the 3rd straight season in yet another 7 game series. Last season’s outcome saw the men from Broadway take the series as they beat the Caps in a thrilling series and with each side having knocked the other out of the playoffs over the past two seasons, this one feels like it will be a decider and will make for another great battle between the two high profile franchises and one I’m looking forward to personally.

For the Washington Capitals they have the top goal scorer in the league with the Russian magician Alexander Ovechkin who notched up 32 goals along with the added fire power from Troy Brouwer, Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green. Nicklas Backstrom leads assists for the Caps with 40 and if he and his team mates hit form like the season before then they could be hard to beat and have a good run in the play offs.

For the Blue shirts their form towards the back end of the post season was perfect timing for the playoffs as they all started to click and find form across the lines. Derek Stepan was the surprise top points scorer for the Rangers with 44 and with forwards Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan and their pre-season season capture of Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets coming in they all managed to pick up points and spread them across the board for the Rangers too. Head Coach John Tortorella picked up Derick Brassard & John Moore from Columbus as well in a 2 player trade with the Slovakian forward Marian Gaborik going in the opposite direction to Ohio.

New York are one of those of teams where they are a bit like a Jekyll and Hyde side, in the way that when their good there very good & when their bad their bad and the Madison Square Garden crowd aren`t a bit shy to voice their disapproval either.

Prediction: Rangers in 7


The remaining playoff series in the Eastern Confernce is a Northeast divisional match up as the Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the only

The Boston Bruins go into these hoping to regain the Stanley Cup they picked up two seasons ago, as the Bruins for the first time in a while aren`t being touted as the favourites in the East or much said abThe remaining playoff series in the Eastern Conference is a Northeast divisional match up as the Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the only

The Boston Bruins go into these hoping to regain the Stanley Cup they picked up two seasons ago, as the Bruins for the first time in a while aren`t being touted as the favourites in the East or much said about them as in past seasons. The signing of Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars was seen as a good signing with tons of NHL experience and with a Stanley Cup to his name they hope his talents are re found as he has yet to pull up and trees in the famous “B” jersey.

Boston will hope the nucleus of the 2011 Stanley cup winning team which includes Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and top points scorer for the Bruins in regular season Brad Marchand, all rediscover the form they had when they won the cup. Only thing that has been the difference between that side and this season is the netminding. One of the big reasons they won it that season was through fantastic goaltending in the shape of Tim Thomas who was key for Boston back in 2011, Tuukka Rask who was the backup netminder for Thomas during their cup run and is one of 5 goaltenders that have 5 shutouts.

For their Northeast rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs, it`s a Welcome back to the Playoffs after a 9 year hiatus from the post season, They will hope to bring some much long awaited success back to the city of Toronto. As their fans have been starved of success for 46 years when they last won the Stanley Cup back in 1967.

Toronto are currently a side in transition building towards the future, as changes of coaches and people at the top haven`t helped the cause and with the Leafs looking to have found some stability now, The team now looks to be heading in the right direction as reaching the playoffs is one massive success for the them to build on in future seasons. Fans of the Leafs nation in the blue & white side of Ontario, will be glad to seem back where they belong in the playoffs.

Toronto have had a lot of players underperform over many seasons but it looks now like they have got their game together and brought pride back to the Leafs jersey. Phil Kessel has been one who struggled coming into the team but this season he has posted numbers of 20 goals and 32 assists and is the top points leader for Toronto, which shows he found his feet and is happy to share the load instead of taking on all the responsibilities on the ice.

This current crop of Leafs is a team mixed with youth and experience, With the likes of Nazem Kadri making the step up from the AHL side the Toronto Marlies and into the Maple Leafs which he has been a massive plus for the side and kept his performances high. Old heads kind of in the locker room are Dion Phaneuf, Colton Orr, Clarke MacArthur and John-Michael Liles these players have been playoff games and cup finals so they know the situation and can call on experience to help the younger guys too.
Toronto for me are the dark horses in the playoffs for me as not much has been said about them by pundits.

Prediction:  Maple leafs in 6


Toure “Hammer” gives City win over West Ham


Yaya Toure fantastic strike in the last ten minutes of the game sealed the points for the out-going champions as Manchester City looked to strengthen their grip on 2nd spot in the league table, as they overcame a difficult West Ham United defensive display at the Etihad Stadium in the early kick off game, with a convincing 2-1 win as they bounced back from losing their premier league crown last week.


Early stages of the contest were dominated by the home side as City looked to shrug off the 3-1 lost to Tottenham last weekend. The Blues were having all the possession but weren`t able to find any way through the West Ham defence as they pressed and pressed them, West Ham stifled any good play that home side were producing as they looked to mark returning David Silva out the game as they singled him out for the early part of the game. Ex-West Ham forward Carlos Tevez had the game first effort on target as the Argentinean striker shot was saved by Jussi Jaakelainen in the Hammers goals.

City then controlled the game as they managed to find gaps in the visitors back line as the home side found luck down the left wing as they were pulling them out of position, and if not for James Collins at the heart of the West Ham defence then they might have found themselves struggling as City were creating more and more chances. The Visitors hard defending was a bit too tough for the official and when Andy Carroll`s challenge on the Sergio Aguero was like a strikers tackle, Referee Howard Webb shown the England striker a yellow card for his foul on the small Argentine forward.
Another attack by the home side almost saw Aguero nearly break the deadlock and give the home side lead, as he tried to divert the ball goal wards with his flick past Jaaskelainen but his attempt hit the post and ran out of play. That seemed to raise the confidence levels a bit more amongst the City ranks and fans alike as the chances were coming abit more now. 
At 23 minutes into the game the whole crowd stood up for a minutes applause to pay tribute to the Late-Marc Vivien Foe, as this June marks the 10th Anniversary of his sad death when he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch while playing for Cameroon in the Confederations cup in France. 
So as City & West Ham were former teams of his it was decided by fans and club officials to have minute’s applause in the players memory as a mark of respect. And both teams sets of fans did indeed clap to a standing ovation.

West Ham nearly scored during the applause as Mohamed Diame had a snatch shot that connected and bounced off Joe Hart chest luckily not to any of the forwards nearby.
Eventually the breakthrough came for the home side, as a great team passing build up by the Midfield trio of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri led them to the opening goal of the game.
Toure played the ball to the Nasri who played a one two with Silva in the box and the Frenchman’s low cross towards the 5 yard box was met by Sergio Aguero whose shot towards the near post beat the keeper to give the home side the 1-0 lead.
Players celebrate 1st goal

It was nearly 2-0 minutes later as a Nasri shot at Jussi Jaakelainen was spilled by the Finnish shot stopper and Pablo Zabeleta came running in on the rebound and his effort was instinctively saved by the keeper who stopped the Argentine defender from scoring knocking it out for a corner kick. 

City were growing in confidence after the goal and more good passing play by them gave Gareth Barry a chance as the ball was laid off by Toure outside the area, but the midfielder effort was blazed high over the goals and the move came to nothing.

West Ham rarely did much attacking in the City half in the first 45 minutes as the back 4 for the home side snuffed everything out that they tried to create . Andy Carroll had a header deflected over the bar for a corner but that was as good as it got for the away side as they were getting nearly all the men behind the ball except for the tall England striker trying to stop City. 
Second half West Ham United came out strongly as Zabeleta had to play the ball out for a corner as a good cross came in by O Neil for the away side but no one was there in a claret and blue shirt on the end of it.
Vincent Kompany had an audacious effort from outside the area from a cleared corner but the Belgian defender shot was high over the bar and shown why he better suited as a defender than a forward with that shot.

The Hammers seemed more of an attacking threat in the second half and the game was becoming open a bit more as City seemed to have a few counter attacks as West Ham pressured the home team more with their play now.
Carlos Tevez had a half chance as brilliant play by Samir Nasri set him up as some great ball control drew defenders near and then flicked it over the defence for Tevez,but his shot was blocked by Winston Reid and went out for a corner kick.

The Visitors appealed for a penalty when a cross was blocked by Pablo Zabeleta arm which was against his chest and would have been very harsh to give it for that. West Ham had another chance as Ricardo Vaz Te crossed in and Kompany clearing header came off Carroll who was coming in and it skimmed off his head going out for a throw in.

Samir Nasri then had a shot from an angle driven straight at Jaaskelainen and the ball was cleared away from his defenders as West Ham breathed sigh of relief as they managed to bring it away for their own attack but they made no ground on goal. 

City then had possession solidly for about 3 minutes and must have made at least 50 plus passes around the Hammers penalty area as the away side stood off them and allowed them to keep the ball trying to force them to shoot from long range. City tried to create another chance as Aguero ran onto a ball passed expertly through by Silva on the break, Aguero then waited before feeding his fellow countryman in Tevez and his shot was blocked by O Brien for a corner kick.
The home side broke on the counter-attack again after they cleared the ball from a United attack with Aguero leading the attack playing the ball wide out to Tevez, Tevez then whipped a great low cross beating the defender and Nasri made the wrong choice of trying to score poking with his right foot when his left foot was the better option by far. 
Frustration got to Joey O Brien as he just seemed to go for the man and not the ball when he got Zabeleta, The Argentine was not best pleased and tried to tell him that before players came in to stop anything happening, Howard Webb decided to book both players over the incident and resume the match.

Yaya Toure wheels away after his stunner

Then came the killer goal as play down the West Ham left with Milner in possession of the ball, he passed to Nasri who then gave it Yaya Toure just outside the box, the midfielder controlled with his right foot knocked it onto his left foot and he struck a thunder bolt in the top corner beating the keeper all ends up with a fantastic effort by the Ivorian midfielder for 2-0 in the 82nd minute.

Mancini decided then to make a second substitute as Carlos Tevez came off for Javi Garcia for the remainder of the game. The game looked over by then till Carroll again had a shot on target with was saved by Joe Hart and from that resulting play Hart seemed to have pulled something in making the save and looked in agony as he grimaced in pain as the physio looked at him.

Hart lets Carroll effort slip by

In the 4 minutes added on both sides could have scored as firstly Sergio Aguero had a great chance for 3-0 as Zabeleta weak shot wasn`t held and fumbled by Jaaskelainen, the forward came in to which the Finn made a intelligent save as he pushed the ball against the Argentine shin and went out of play missing the net just, Right at the death of the game Carroll persistence paid off as Diame cross was chested by Carroll and then his shot squirmed in under Joe Hart for 2-1 score line to give them a glimmer of hope but there wasn`t enough time to score again. 

City took the spoils and with a hard fought win guaranteed European football for next season and also interesting meant that Wigan who they meet in the FA Cup Final in a few weeks time will be handed a European place due to City not able now to finish outside the top 5, and Wigan for reaching the final will be given the extra place.

Eisbaren Berlin maul Sharks for 3rd straight DEL title

Sunday saw the Eisbaren Berlin (Berlin Polar Bears) win the DEL Playoffs and crowned kings of Germany for the 3rd straight season giving them a hat trick of championships as they beat the Kolner Haie (Cologne Sharks) 4-1 and overall giving them a 3-1 series win in the best of of 5. Berlin and Cologne played out a very physical and at times unmissable hockey over the series as it was a fantastic advert for the game, with two teams going at it for the whole 4 games and arguably deserved the series as they won both games on the road in the intimidating LANXESS Arena as they showed their Championship class grinding out wins. 

Plus they finally ended the home team curse between them and Cologne as the one it seemed to fall in place that the first victory for the home side in the series would be the one that lifted the title and so it proved to be as Eisbaren Berlin are the 2012-2013 DEL Champions and Congratulations to them and the whole club.

GAME 1: Saw the two sides in Cologne meet for the first battle over the Deustche Meister (German championship) TROPHY. Eisbaren Berlin were the brightest side of the two sides as the nerves were getting to the Koln Haie as this was a new experience to them compared to their counterparts, Berlin are going for a three peat as they have won the DEL title 2 seasons running so they were used to the big occasions. Koln showed they were a bit over rawed while Eisbaren played a patience game.
Berlin were waiting for Koln to make a mistake and when they did they capitalized on it as an error by Moritz Muller who tried to pass the puck up ice but fanned on it, was took by TJ Mulock who threw it in the slot for Jullian Talbot who back handed high past Danny aus den Birken for a 1-0 lead.
Berlin should have been 2-0 up straight away as Mulock had a open net to shoot at but contrived to miss it and Berlin hope that chance wouldn`t come back to haunt them.

2nd period and Koln Haie got back into the game as a Wrist shot by Andreas Falk made it 1-1 early on and at the back end of the period Eisbaren retook the lead after another sloppy defence play by the home side gifted the puck to Talbot who passed to Mulock and he put it five hole through the legs of Aus den Birken for a 2-1 lead and that goal frustrated the Kolner players and silenced the home support.

Eisbaren Berlin made it 3-1 after Darin Olver played it off Marco Sturm as he skated near goals and deflected in for a 2 goal cushion. Kolner came close as they struck the post pressing for a second goal but found Rob Zepp in good form and the metalwork coming to his rescue as well. Uwe Krupp pulled the net minder with 2 minutes left and when good play down low by John Tripp he passed to Charles Stephens and he found Andreas Falk stood in front of goals and he pounced to make it 3-2 with 52 seconds left in the game.

Koln had their tails up now and were upping their game trying to get this 3rd goal, Koln tried to fire one in from a faceoff but was blocked by Andre Rankel who skated up ice with the puck and despite the diving attempt to dispossess the Berlin forward, Just as Rankel went to score he got slashed hitting the post with an empty net beckoning at his call. So despite not scoring the referee gave a goal due to him denied a clear goal scoring chance and as no net minder was in he couldn`t call the penalty shot so it was an automatic goal.

This led to bottles thrown upon the ice by the home side’s fans as they were angry and outraged with the call, leading to delay in the game as glass was sweeped up and bottles picked up by ice staff as coins were launched too towards the officials. The remainder of the game was played out with Berlin picking up the crucial road win in the series. 





GAME 2: Both sides travelled to the 02 World Arena in Berlin as the teams recommenced battle as Kolner Haie tried to wrestle back control of the series, as with Eisbaren getting the win in Cologne it swung the advantage to the defending champions.
Things got to a terrible start for Berlin as Mulock was serving a 2 minute penalty for TRIPPING, Marco Sturm opened the scoring for the visitors as he scored on the power play banking it off Rob Zepp in the Eisbaren nets for a 1-0 lead.

Berlin responded as Constantin Brown and Andre Rankel set up Ryan Caldwell who struck from near the point as his onetime shot was smashed low by the Canadian and tied it up at 1-1.
Koln Haie then scored for a 2-1 lead as Phillip Gogulla skated round the back of the Eisbaren nets passed toward traffic in front of goals and it was Andreas Falk who was first to react and fired passed Zepp for the lead.
Rob Zepp was a one man side as Koln Haie showed how devastating they could be as they torn Berlin to shreds but the Berlin net minder came up strong and was keeping the home side in the game with save upon save and was denying the visitors any chance they had of pulling away in this game.

However he could do nothing about the 3rd goal as Koln stretched the defences of Berlin and when Nathan Robinson shot round the boards, puck came to John Tripp who spotted the movement of Charles Stephens and with accuracy slotted home from between the face off circles to make it 3-1 and Berlin were practically done as they lacked any real energy or fight to get back in the contest and so Koln Haie regained the swing in the series and also carried on the continued streak between the sides this season with the away side coming out on top on every occasion .




GAME 3: Saw an aggressive game as the series switched back to the LANXESS arena in Cologne as the Kolner Haie looked to reassert their dominance as they had previous in game 2 in Berlin, as they looked to have Berlin floundering after they took them apart. So for Berlin it was a chance to avenge their home lost and once again regain control of the series and knowing if they could win in Cologne then they was one step again from winning their 3rd title in a row.
Early exchanges saw the physical play up a bit more in this series and after Christopher Minard was penalised for   leading to an early opportunity for Eisbaren on the power play & that is just what they did. Good puck movement by power play unit with fast passing with Florian Busch and Frank Hordler setting up Jullian Talbot whose shot found a way to beat Danny aus den Birken for a 1-0 lead for the visitors. Koln then replied back minutes later as an attempted clearance off the boards by a Berlin defenseman was deflected into the path of Andreas Holmqvist, whose shot was diverted by Marcel Ohmann but saved by Rob Zepp and Rok Ticar put the rebound home to make it 1-1.
Eisbaren regained the lead as James Sharrow scored after a Barry Tallackson pass sent a charging Florian Busch down the right wing and his pass across to Sharrow towards the slot was put home after the 2nd minute of play in the 2nd period.
Berlin extended the lead mid way through the second when James Arniel and Corey Locke gave the puck to Mark Katic and he beat Aus den Birken over the shoulder for a 3-1 score line they looked to have semi knocked the stuffing out of the Kolner. Mads Christensen then made it 4-1 when Ryan Caldwell chased down a puck in the Koln zone which was dealt with quick enough, his pass came to Matthew Foy who on the second attempt got a shot away and was diverted home by Christensen for a 3 goal cushion and looked game over at that point.

The third saw a more physical game as Koln attempted to rough up their visitors including charging the net minder on a couple of occasions leading to a lot of fisticuffs after the whistle as players got into scrums and some punches were thrown as officials tried to stop the players. Koln were looking very frustrated and Rob Zepp was having another exceptional game between the posts as his displays in the second and third periods especially were the reason Berlin were in the position there were.
Koln Haie were throwing everything at Eisbaren as they tried to find any way back into the contest, but the defence and net minding was fantastic. 
As we got to the last five minutes of play Koln pulled a goal back
as it was all down in the Berlin zone and after a mad scramble net the side of the nets the puck came to Ales Kranjc and he backhanded the puck high for a 4-2 score line and then less than a minute later with the net minder pulled Marco Sturm scored for 4-3, As Charles Stephens passed by the boards to John Tripp his pass towards the front of the Eisbaren nets found Sturm and his quickly dispatched it home to set up a nervy finale.
Koln still had the extra skater out as they looked to get an unlikely comeback after looking down and out in the contest. Andre Rankel then made up for his earlier missed empty netter in Cologne back in game 1 as he swept it home for an empty net goal at 58:45 before Mads Christensen scored another empty net goal with a slapshot with 2 seconds remaining after skating out of his zone and launching it. That win now puts them within touching distance of retaining their crown and also continues the home team hoodoo as neither side has beaten the visitors all season.



(Eisbaren Berlin leads series 2-1)


GAME 4:  Eisbaren Berlin returned home to the 02 World Arena in Berlin standing on the verge of glory as they knew one win would give them a historic Third championship in a row, But they knew Kolner Haie weren`t going to just turn up and lay down for them to capture that title easily. Also the fact the “Home hoodoo” was still ongoing between the sides, As yet neither had won on home ice in the regular season and in the playoffs too. So that thought could have played on the minds of the Berlin players before the game started.

Both sides had early chances as they tested the other teams net minder just to get them warmed up, Berlin got given the opportunity to take the lead as Corey Locke was adjudged to have been Hooked back by Nathan Robinson when Locke was clean through on goal and the official awarded a penalty shot to Berlin.

Corey Locke stepped up to take the penalty shot and he buried past Danny aus den Birken to give them the lead at 8:46 and gave them the perfect start in the game. 
Berlin out shot their visitors 14-9 in the first period as they couldn`t make more of the chances they created in the period.

Koln tied the game up in the second period as Rok Ticar as skated in towards the far side unmarked and put home a great pass as Andreas Holmqvist vision spotted the movement and Ticar score with Gregory Claassen getting an assist on the goal too at 24:50.
Eisbaren Berlin doubled their lead as Jullian Talbot shot from the blue line to give them a 2-1 lead, as Darin Olver pass towards the forward was smashed home beating Aus den Birken on his near post as he was screened by traffic in front of him while the power play just expired as he scored.
Few minutes later Berlin scored again as Constantin Brown skated in the Koln zone his shot was off target but bounced nicely for TJ Mulock to score past Koln Netminder and make it a 3-1 hockey game, the fans were already slowly starting to celebrate as the goal knocked the stuffing out of Koln as a few of the heads dropped as Berlin confidence grew in abundance they looked to have to put the game out of reach of the visitors grasp.
Berlin controlled the game from then on and sewn the game up with a power play goal from Jullian Talbot, Play by Corey Locke and Barry Tallackson on the power play led to a pass towards back post by Locke where Talbot had the simple task of just directing it into the net and made the score 4-1 and the party really could begin as the fans counted down the last ten seconds of the game and the traditional throw of gloves, sticks and helmets over the ice came as they celebrated with Rob Zepp who was one of the most important players on the Berlin side throughout this series.




Moscow are DYNAMO Champions!

Last Wednesday saw the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) championship won by Dynamo Moscow who defended their crown as they held aloft the Gagarin Cup for the second season in a row beating off Traktor Chelyabinsk in 6 games to win the series 4-2. Here is a recap on the series:
 GAME 1 
The Eastern Conference Champions Traktor Chelyabinsk travelled west across Russia to the Luzhniki Minor Arena in Moscow for the opening game of the 2013 Gagarin cup final. Both were 3rd seeds in their respective Conferences and in the previous encounters between the sides it was split one a piece as early in the season Traktor had beat Dynamo 4-1 and in the reverse fixture Dynamo Moscow beat them 2-0 on home ice so made the series interesting.
Dynamo Moscow buoyed by the noisy home town crowd and support saw them take the lead in the game short-handed after 6 minutes while Sergei Soin was in the penalty box for roughing, Dynamo Moscow forward Denis Kokarev skated over the visitors blue line and cut across around the back of the Traktor defence with some speed to his effort was stopped initially by their net minder Michael Garnett, but as the puck stuck near the line Alexei Tsvetkov was on hand to poke home the rebound and get the arena jumping as they struck early.
Dynamo were on top in the first as they were had a few efforts on target and were carving the away side up and should really have done better with main chances going to Dmitry Vishnevsky and Denis Mosalyov but they couldn`t build on the goal.
Second period saw Traktor come into the game more as they finally got their game going, however Moscow were still in the ascendancy and after some good defensive work to keep the score still 1-0 they double their lead as Sergei Konkov stole possession for the blue and white, passing it right in front to Yury Babenko which produced a point blank save by Garnett and Sergei Soin managed to find a gap and make it 2-0.
The next goal in this game would be crucial as if Dynamo scored it was over but if Traktor scored then it would be game on, So with Sergei Soin in the box for Cross Checking they had a power-play that was called at the end of the second period so 29 seconds into the 3rd stanza Evgeny Kuznetsov smashed home a  power-play goal from the left faceoff circle with assists going to Stanislav Chistov and Dmitry Ryabykin to give the away side some hope and plenty of time to get a tying goal.
Dynamo were under the cosh for most of the period as Traktor looked in search of the goal to tie the game and the Dynamo side really needed to be on their metal if they were to with stand the onslaught from their opponents.
Alexander Yeryomenko was certainly the busiest net minder as he faced a lot of rubber in the final period even denying a Valery Nichushkin one on one and some sloppy defending by the home side to keep them in front. Kokarev had a chance to put the game to bed, but his shot came a whisker away from going in and give them a two goal cushion.
Eventually time ran out on the visitors and Dynamo Moscow breathed a huge sigh of relief as they knew they had just managed to crawl over the finishing line this game.

Dynamo Moscow     2  –  1     Traktor Chelyabinsk  


Both teams returned the next night for game 2 as Dynamo looked to take a 2-0 series lead heading east to Traktor for the next 2 games to be played there. Opening stages of the game belonged to the away side as they forced Dynamo into a lot of errors with passes going astray and losing possession, yet they couldn`t make the domination of play count on the scoreboard. Traktor really were making Dynamo look anything but dynamo at all.
But it was Dynamo Moscow who took the lead against the run of play as Denis Kokarev back hand pass found Alexei Tsvetkov he laid it off for Jakub Petruzalek and he wristed one high past Garnett for a 1-0 lead to give the home side the advantage.
Traktor pressure told as they scored on the power-play with Jan Bulis tipping in from in front of the net a Ryabykin shot from the blue line with Kuznetsov grabbing an assist too.
In the second Traktor took full advantage of a 2 man advantage as Dynamo was serving a team minor for too many men and a Slashing call against Andrei Mironov. With the 5 on 3 power play they made it work as Deron Quint pass along the blue line came to Ryabykin his blast was stopped but only as far as Andrei Kostitsyn who was waiting for any type of rebound near the crease and the ex-Montreal Canadiens player
Put home for a 2-1 lead and first in the series.
Dynamo tied the game up at 43:34 as Marek Kvapil scored from by the boards as a puck thrown goal wards seemed to missed by everyone including Garnett as he was unsighted and it went in, the phrase “throw it on net and good things will happen” definitely applied to that goal as the game got tense with neither side wanting to make a mistake as it felt like an overtime period for the remainder of the game.
Then with 2:41 in the game to go Denis Mosalyov skated round the back of the net and played a pass back towards mid ice where Finnish forward Janne Jalasvaara smashed home the game winner and give Dynamo a come from behind victory and more importantly a 2-0 series lead heading over the other side to play games 3 & 4 in Traktor.

Dynamo Moscow  3   –  2     Traktor Chelyabinsk 

(DYNAMO LEADS 2-0 in series)

Traktor returned back in their barn for the next 2 games of this series as they hoped to keep the series alive seeing as they were 2 down in the series. The score line was tied till the second period when Maxim Karpov got the opener for the home side after Anton Glinki skated from his own zone up ice his pass was partially cut out but Karpov managed to get control of it passed it across to Deron Quint whose shot cross goal was fumbled by Yeryomenko in Dynamo Moscow nets and Karpov was on hand to tap home the rebound and get the home crowd celebrating.
Deron Quint doubled the lead for the home side as skated round the boards and behind the back of the Dynamo net to unleash a forceful backhanded shot that surprised the Netminder and made it 2-0 for Traktor as they went into the second break two goals up. The third period got underway and Traktor net minder put a check on Denis Kokarev as Garnett tried to play the puck and his defenseman took the puck he took the man out, Putting his team on a penalty kill.
Dynamo couldn`t make any use of the power play at all and as soon as the penalty was killed off, the home side made it 3-0 as Yegor Dugin fired past Yeryomenko which looked to have put the game out of reach for the away side as they were the much stronger side.
Soon after Dynamo pulled one back Denis Kokarev as Valery Nichushkin pass across net was up high up in the nets by Kokarev for a 3-1 score line.
Horn went to give the home side the victory and get them back into this series cutting the deficit in half so they looked to build on this win in the next game at home to square the series.

   Traktor Chelyabinsk    3-1   Dynamo Moscow 

We moved to game 4 where it was Cosmonaut`s Day in Russia and where it was the anniversary of Yury Gagarin first flight to space so was fitting in a way that the Gagarin Cup should be played on that day. Traktor had the majority of the better chances in the first period of play with one chance going just wide of Yeryomenko nets.
Second period saw Traktor come closer and closer to going ahead as Evgeny Kuznetsov skated on goal with a Dynamo defenseman on his hooking him but he had the strength to hold him off but his “Forsberg” effort struck the post and slid into the path of the net minder.
Jukub Petruzalek then had a great chance for 1-0 for Moscow when a great pass found him open but his shot was off target.
The Blue and Whites took the lead as Dynamo Moscow struck with 1:29 left in the second period, As Marek Kvapil passed back to Dominik Granak on the blue line and his throw on net was tipped in at the front of nets by Petruzalek which went high giving Garnett no chance and made up for his earlier miss in the game.
Garnett kept Traktor in the game while on the penalty kill with some saves and they came close when they struck the post and just seemed like this wasn`t going to be their night. Dynamo defending was good as they held back the attack of the home side as they looked for the goal for tie, But the defending and stifling of their play by Dynamo was fantastic seconds ticked down and they were holding on for victory and as soon as it sounded out the relief on the bench and on the ice was there for to see as they were closer to retaining the title as they shut out the home side to win 1-0.

                               Traktor Chelyabinsk  0  –  1  Dynamo Moscow 

                                         (DYNAMO LEADS 3-1)

Game 5 saw the series switch back to the Luzhniki Minor Arena in Moscow as Dynamo hoped to win the Gagarin Cup in front of their home fans and make it 2 titles in a row, Though Traktor didn`t read the script as they took the lead in the 3rd minute of play as Stanislav Chistov  broke away up ice and despite the attempts of trying to knock the puck away or take a penalty he escaped them and slid it under through the legs for a 1-0 lead with Jan Bulis assisting on the goal.
Things got worse for Dynamo as they found themselves 2-0 down after Anton Glinkin scored from a wrist shot as he beat Yeryomenko from a Nikita Nesterov pass back towards the blue line and his effort doubled the lead.
Traktor really crushed their hopes as they scored a 3rd goal as Yegor Dugin scored from a faceoff won by Vladmir Antipov as his shot went in far corner and gave the Eastern Conference champions a great start, While looking to extend this series to a 6th game.
Second period the home side mounted a comeback as Granak and Gorovikov set up Marek Kvapil to shoot high over the shoulder of Garnett far post to get them back in it.
Jakub Petruzalek then made it 3-2 after a Marek Kvapil slap shot came in and was stopped the rebound fell lose and Petruzalek put home sliding it in past Garnett and making it a one goal game. Then Sergei Soin completed the comeback as his shot somehow found a way beating Garnett to make the score tied at 3-3 and set up an exciting 3rd period.
In a tense and fast paced third period both sides played the game like an overtime period as both sides were a conservative but had to take the chances when they came and make them count. Time was counting down as both sides looked to break the deadlock and try to get the goal that looked likely to give them victory.
Then at 4:58 left in the period Traktor struck as Andrei Kostitsyn wristed one glove side past the net minder to give the visitors the lead and a huge advantage heading into towards the end of the game.
Traktor then had to soak up pressure to avoid conceding and the pipe work came to their rescue as it pinged of it in the closing stages of the game and the away side held out leading to thrilling end to end game coming to a close. This gave us at least one more game in this series with the series 3-2 in favour Dynamo Moscow.

Dynamo Moscow  3  –  4 Traktor Chelyabinsk


Game 6 turned out to be another great game of hockey as it saw Dynamo Moscow crowned Kings of the KHL as they beat Traktor Chelyabinsk 3-2 in Overtime to retain their title. The home side looked had to looked to build on their last game victory in Moscow and were going the right way about it as they had the best chance first to get off the mark. Moscow also had a opportunity to score as Denis Mosalyov had the puck passed towards him but it got caught between his skates and couldn`t get a shot away on target.
Popov Andrei had great chance for Traktor as pass in the slot came to him and his shot was turned away by Yeryomenko in nets. Eventually the home side took the lead as the home side pressed hard for a goal as Deron Quint passed to Maxim Yakutsenya who turned and while falling down he got a shot off and made it 1-0. 
Dynamo tied the game up as Sergei Soin scored 31:36 in the game as his shot towards goals eventually trickled in over the line as Garnett couldn`t stop the puck going in. Then minutes later the away side took the lead as a llya Gorokov passed to Dominik Granak and his onetime shot got blocked taking the pace off the puck and bounced the back leg of Garnett and landed near the line to which Dmitry Pestunov tapped home ahead of the defenseman making it 2-1.
 Kuznetsov Evgeny broke away on a one on one but couldn`t control the bobbling puck and his effort was save and turned away and Dynamo then had a good chance as a pass to back post with the sprawling net minder down was poked away from the Blue and whites shirt as the final 2 minutes of play in the 2nd was frenetic to say the least.
Third period saw Traktor attack more and at 49:58 Petri Kontiola was sent through one on one after a great pass by Andrei Kostitsyn from his own zone, Kontiola took it superbly and this time the home side player tucked it home as he made a move on the goalie committing him and tied this game at 2-2.
We went to overtime and after a end to end period with Moscow going close on the power play ,the puck was knocked clear to Evgeny who pick up the loose puck and tried to out skate and stick handle his way through, However he was blocked off by the d man and play came back down the other way with Denis Mosalyov leading the attack for Dynamo, His pass to Denis Kokarev was taken over the blue line into the Traktor zone and his pass across ice hit a defenseman and the bounce fell kindly to Alexei Tsvetkov and he put home to score the game winner 5:57 into the overtime period, and more importantly the goal that sealed the playoff series win and give Dynamo Moscow their second straight KHL Championship in a row.

                   Traktor Chelyabinsk   2   –  3  Dynamo Moscow

                                        (After OVERTIME)  

                         (DYNAMO MOSCOW WINS SERIES 4-2)

Rampant Aces maul the Panthers


Last night (Monday) saw a resurgent and rampant Belle Vue Aces carry on their recent fantastic form as they destroyed the Peterborough Panthers at Kirkmanshulme Lane with a 54-39 victory in front of the Sky TV camera ,thanks especially with a paid maximum by Slovenian Grand Prix star Matej Zagar. Zagar was top scorer for the Aces scoring an impressive 11+1 and wasn`t beaten by a single Peterborough rider all meeting. 
Belle Vue was still riding on a crest of a wave after the last week as they got their win of the season over Coventry Bees last Monday and on Wednesday was give the green light to move ahead to the next step of the new National Speedway stadium which is adjacent to the stadium they use now. 
Team manager for the Aces Jason Attwood had called on his riders in the press release prior to the Panthers meeting to “Carry on as you are doing”, so with that said they heeded his advice and dismantled the Panthers.
Peterborough have had travel sickness in the early stages of this season as riders haven`t showed up or not been riding to their capabilities as they should be doing. On Paper this match looked to be a very tight encounter which a couple of riders in the Panthers ranks having experience on the Kirky lane circuit, That however didn`t count for anything as yet again the Panthers looked toothless.
You got the sense from the first race things weren`t going to go the way for the Panthers when Ryan Fisher touched the tapes and the referee put the red lights on to stop the race, even though the Belle Vue riders had made a great start and had got out the gates on a 5-1 maximum and looked to be cruising. Fisher subsequently was swapped with the reserve rider Dakota North much to the displeasure of the American rider.
Heat 1 was re run but was still the same result as Zagar and German Kevin Wolbert shot out the gate and never looked back as the opponent’s big name rider and ex Ace Kenneth Berra was left trailing in the Aces wake as they took full points and made a good start to the meeting.

Dakota North in the next heat made use of racing in the opening heat as he made the gate and pulled away from the Aces reserve pair of Ales Dryml and Kauko Nieminen as he took the win with his team mate another ex Ace from last season Patrick Hougaard trailing far at the back with nowhere of being in contention.
In Heat 3 the pairing of Magnus “Zorro” Zetterstrom and Craig Cook showed their team riding skills again as they extended the lead for Belle Vue to 8 points but was a bit of a heart fluttering moment for the home side as the two home riders got out of the gate and Cook lifted which took him right across the track and Zetterstrom had to quickly adjust to avoid crashing into his partner and took the inside holding off a fast Linus Sundstrom coming hard too. On the next lap Cook made up for his mistake as he got some extra grip on the same corner and came up the inside of Sundstrom to put them on a 5-1 and despite a late challenge by Sundstrom on the final lap Cook held on and made it 13-5 after 3 races.
Heat 4 and another 5-1 for the Aces as Nieminen and Artur Mroczka both made the start getting out in front and the Peterborough looked like amateurs as the Aces just went for it especially Mroczka whose style of hunched over the handlebars approach was working for him as he looked like he meant business in the match. 
Peterborough decided to use one of their tactical substitutes to go for double points in the next race to and cut in this Aces dominated match. So Panthers team manager Jan Staechmann put the Black & White helmet cover on his fellow Dane Kenneth Bjerre to hope and gain some extra points along with Ryan Fisher to get an 8-1. 
Bjerre made a jet propelled start from the gate and had the two Home rider chase him down for a lap and a half before deciding to team ride and secure 2nd and 3rd spots and avoid the visitors getting a bigger lead than the 6-3 heat advantage they got. Bjerre took the chequered flag and doubled his points for beating an opposing rider making it 6 points and so after 5 races it was 21-12 to the home side and were looking very good value for that lead too.

Matej Zagar made it 2 from 2 in heat 6 though he didn`t have things go his own way as Kenni Larsen from the Panthers made the gate and made a little mistake on the second but got away with it as Wolbert and Zagar gave chase. Zagar passed Wolbert and entering the 3rd lap cut up the inside and managed to hold position and cut Larsen off which gave him that extra bit off breathing space and so crossed the line for his second win of the night and became the 1st winner not to come from gate 4 all night.

Heat 7 saw Artur Mroczka make a great start off gate 1 and went to the fence where the dirt line was romped home to take the win as the riders were spread out a bit with Dryml having an up and down night.
Peterborough Panthers thought their luck had changed as they made the gate and got out together until the 2nd bend when Dakota North hit a rut and lifted leaving Wolbert room to come under him taking 2nd place, He then gave chase on Ryan Fisher who on the 4th bend lifted and allowed the German to come through to take the lead and he made no mistake by seeing out the rest of the heat.
Peterborough found themselves in a hole as they were 11 points down and not looking likely to do anything as their riders weren`t firing and so in Heat 9 FINALLY the Panthers got a heat advantage with the rider who looked unlikely to win or do something all evening in Patrick Hougaard! 
The first attempt Kenni Larsen just jumped too early and the red lights came on for unsatisfactory start, Second attempt was the same as this time it was Craig Cook as he somehow managed to avoid hitting the tapes as he had a problem with his clutch leading to a third re run.

After some running repairs for Cook in the pits riders came to tapes and so we tried again, this time they got again and Hougaard shot to the front and the Danish pair of Larsen and Hougaard tried to get away but was dealing with a determined and fast Cook on their tails, But thankfully for the Panther duo they got the 5-1 and close the gap to 6 points on the home side.

Belle Vue then re-established their lead again in Heat 10 and was the race of the night, Kevin Wolbert made the gate and his team mate Matej Zagar was on the graveyard gate 3 as nothing good came from it all night so wasn`t a surprised that he was last entering the first bend. The Panthers pair of Linus Sundstrom and Norbert Kosciuch was closing down Wolbert and as they entered lap 2 Zagar rode the inside line passing Kosciuch and so his sights now switched to Sundstrom.
Zagar was flying all over the track with the Slovenian passing Sundstrom on lap 3 before getting retook on bends 3 and 4 and then tried hard to pass down the back straight but was blocked then he gave it one last blast coming to the last bend and roared passed the Swede for a hard earned 5-1 and give the Aces back their 11 point lead.

Zagar racing was equal to the exploits of an former Belle Vue Legend 3x World Champion Jason Crump as he has the same never say die attitude that the Australian used to have round the tight Kirky Lane track. The fans were delirious with delight at his fantastic race for the 2nd place.
Belle Vue then notched up a second 5-1 as the Aces pair got out the gate and Dryml joined Mroczka at the front before Ryan Fisher passed the Aces captain before Dryml re-passed him starting the next lap as he cut him up the inside and they held on to the front two places and made it 42-27 in favour of the home side.
Last throw of the dice for the Panthers came when they put their final Tactical substitution on Patrick Hougaard for double points after his heroics in the previous race.
Race was re run as the tapes on the inside didn`t go up properly, so in the re run the Belle Vue riders Nieminen and Zetterstrom got out and looked good for the home side however Hougaard had to switch bikes for the re run as he had a problem and from the gate it seem to stop then get going. 
Towards the end of the race Nieminen didn`t seem that quick as Zetterstrom was using his experience to help block the advances of North trying to challenge.

In the battle of the big guns Heat 13 Matej Zagar made it a fantastic 4 from 4 as he warmed up for this weekend’s European Grand Prix in Bydgoszcz Poland as he led from start to finish flying away from Larsen and Bjerre who didn`t give chase and just made sure they stemmed the run of 5-1`s being conceded by the visitors. 
Heat 14 was another great race with Sundstrom as Cook made the gate but the Swede cut back and blocks Cook by the fence leading to Cook cutting back himself on 4th bend and passed him on the line holding off Linus as he tried to make any kind of move on the young Cumbrian rider. Dryml had an engine failure as he locked up when North got out of shape. 

Final race of the night saw the Peterborough side get a consolation heat win as Kenni Larsen and Linus Sundstrom gated ahead of the nominated pair of Mroczka & Wolbert and just finished the meeting off with a 5-1 for the away side and so Belle Vue take the 3 points on offer and climb to the heady heights of 4th place   where the Aces haven`t venture for a long time. Belle Vue face a tough difficult task in 2 weeks time when they face the Poole Pirates with World champion Chris Holder and Darcy Ward hoping to plunder the points from Manchester.


 Belle Vue Aces  54

1. Matej Zagar 3 3 2* 3 =11+1 paid max
2. Kevin Wolbert 2* 1 3 3 0 =9+1
3. Magnus Zetterstrom 3 1* 0 2* =6+2
4. Craig Cook 2* 2 1 3 =8+1
5. Artur Mroczka 3 3 3 0 1 =10
6. Ales Dryml 2 0 2* 0 =4+1
7. Kauko Nieminen 1* 2* 0 3 =6+2

Peterborough Panthers  39

 1. Kenneth Bjerre 1 6^ 0 1* =8+1
2. Ryan Fisher exct 0 2 1 =3
3. Norbert Kosciuch f 1* 0 =1+1
4. Linus Sundstrom 1 2 1 2 2* =8+1
5. Kenni Larsen 1 2 2* 2 3 =10+1
6. Patrick Hougaard 0 0 3 0^ =3
7. Dakota North 0 3 0 1* 1 1* =6+2

DEL Playoffs Final preview : KOLNER HAIE v EISBAREN BERLIN

Well after a gruelling season in the DEL this season and the excitement of the Playoffs series we have 2 teams battling it out to be named the Deutsche Meister (German Champion) of the DEL for the 2012-13 season. Teams have been whittled down from 8 to 2 leaving just the Kolner Haie (Cologne Sharks) and the reigning champions of Germany double league winners the Eisbaren Berlin (Berlin Polar Bears) to fight it out for the D.E.L title in the Best of the 5 Series starting Sunday in Cologne as the Sharks hosts 3 of the 5 games in the series.

The series record between the two was tied at 2-2 with Kolner beating Berlin 6-5 in the 02 World Arena in Berlin in October as a tight battle in the first two periods was then cancelled out both teams found twine in a goal fest in the 3rd with the Sharks edging the game scoring 4 goals in the 3rd compared to Berlin 3 and gave them a 6-5 victory.
Eisbaren would gain revenge in the next meeting between the sides in Mid November as the Polar Bears shutout the Sharks on home ice after they scored 3 goals in the 2nd period giving them a 3-0 road win.

Both teams then met again 4 days before Christmas and Eisbaren gave their travelling fans a festive present as they beat the Kolner Haie 4-1 in Cologne again on their home ice despite being outshot by their hosts the Polar Bears took the win and were in a top 3 position at that point in time.
This season series was strange for the fact that the away side was to win every time in the 4 games played between them as in late January the side met for the final time and played out a 3-1 game in Berlin as Kolner took the victory with 2 goals in the final period with one being an empty netter to have the Sharks draw the series in the regular season.

However the Playoffs are a different beast altogether and the best team in the league can fall to the 8th place team or the top 4 could all lose to the bottom 4 sides in the playoff bracket, It really is a whole new ball game so to speak.
Kolner Haie got through the Quarter final stage fair easily as apart from losing Game 2 on the road they thrashed the Straubing Tigers 4-1 in the series with scoring big win margins over 6-1, 5-0 6-3 and in the last game of the series won in Overtime as they repelled the resistance of Straubing to win it 2-1.
They Sharks then faced off against the Grizzly Adams Wolfsburg in a 5 game series which they won fairly comfortably taking sweeping the series 3-0, winning the opening game 7-2 with a commanding performance and winning a tight game 1-0 at Wolfsburg and finishing it all off back in Cologne 4-2 and their performances in the whole playoffs has been dominating but will they be able to continue their dominance against the reigning Champions 2 years on the trot.

Speaking of their opponents for Eisbaren Berlin it`s Welcome back to them for the 3rd straight year, and their road to the Finals has seen them travel on rocky ground at the start but eventually had a smooth passage to the final.
The Polar Bears started their quest of a 3-Peat with Hamburg Freezers in the Quarter-finals stage, and having struggled early on in the series especially in the opening game when they went 4-0 down in the opening period, Berlin scored 5 unanswered goals to go ahead in the game only for then Hamburg to tie and take it overtime which Eisbaren won winning 6-5 in OT.
Hamburg took the next 2 games with scores of 5-3 and an 8-4 victory in Berlin in game 3. But it was game 4 that was the key game as Berlin won the game in overtime again after they had to come back twice and eventually score the winner in OT to see them tie the series and they never looked back. Winning 3-2 in games 5 and 6.

Semi finals stage saw Eisbaren Berlin sail through as just like their finals opponents they too sweeped their semi final series beating the Krefeld Penguine 3-0, As they won the opening game in Krefeld 3-2  took a 2-0 series lead back home at the O2World arena in Berlin before returning back to Krefeld to complete the sweep winning 4-3 and so set up an exciting DEL Playoff series Finale with the Kolner Haie over a 5 game series and should be a evenly contested one, especially if the regular season series is any indication of what to expect.

The form side in the Playoffs is Kolner Haie as they have the most potent Offense in these playoffs and also statistically have the best net minder in the playoffs to with Danny Aus den Birken registering 2 shutouts in the playoffs and save percentage of 95.0% compared to Robb Zepp who is 7th in the goalie standings and is registering a 90.4% in these playoffs, So Berlin will need to be tighter at the back and defensively solid if they hope to win these playoffs.

Though Kolner themselves will need to keep tabs on the Eisbaren forward as well as Berlin have players who can cause them problems in TJ Mulock, Andre Rankel, Mads Christensen, Barry Tallackson and Therin Olver gives these players half a chance and the Sharks could well be seeing the red light a lot.

Pack of Aces out trump Coventry


Belle Vue Aces shown Coventry how to close out a meeting as they beat their Midlands rival at Kirkmanshulme lane Monday night 3 days after the sides drawn 45 all down in Coventry Brandon Stadium Friday evening. The Aces were buoyed by the comeback they made against their opponents in the last meeting as they were 30-18 down and took a last heat decider to draw the match and the Aces were all smiles and full of beans coming into this meeting. Belle Vue welcomed back Craig Cook to the line up as the rising star in British speedway from Cumbria was away with his parent club Edinburgh Monarchs which was called off prior to the Elite league clash. 

Coventry also had a guest for Adam Roynon in the shape of Anders Mellgren who rides for Rye House Rockets in the Premier League and so not much was expected from the Swedish Rider to be fair as it was his first time on the Kirky lane circuit as was Mateusz Szczepaniak. Belle Vue were hoping for better luck as their last home match resulted in disappointment losing to Wolverhampton 47-43 on Good Friday in front of a bumper crowd that day. This match however was raced in front of a very small crowd due to ongoing Manchester Derby being played at Old Trafford at the same time so Speedway was always going to play second fiddle to the football on this night.
But Belle Vue were determined to put on a good show for the fans that did turn up to watch speedway and they instantly delighted the fans as the Aces got out on a 5-1 and the pair of Matej Zagar and Kevin Wolbert carried on from where they left off in Coventry as started how they meant to go on. 
Coventry hit right back in the reserves race as Michal Szczepaniak and Anders Mellgren scored a 5-1 to level at 6-6 as the Belle Vue pair looked poor in their opening ride and weren`t filling fans with confidence for the night ahead. The home side were on another 5-1 in heat 3 when Grzegorz Zengota took his team mate wide and both hit the dirt with Zengota getting the exclusion for the cause of the stoppage.
In the re-rerun the Belle Vue pair of Magnus Zorro Zetterstrom & Craig Cook team rode round for the easy maximum points, The home side stretched their lead bit more as Artur Mroczka won by a distance as he made sure they got the points and left Kauko Nieminen to fend off Scott Nicholls till the Great British international got passed him and ended up being a 4-2 for the Aces and made it 15-9 after 4 races.
In the next heat Coventry hit some luck as Zetterstrom and Kasprzak battled passing each other a few times on way to the start of lap 2, Zorro managed to get the upper hand and Belle Vue were on a 4-2 and looking good for the win, That was till Zorro had to retire as he picked up a bike problem and so Krzysztof Kasprzak couldn`t believe his luck when he had fresh air ahead of him and won the race ahead of Cook for a 4-2 advantage for the Bees.
Matej Zagar and Kevin Wolbert banged in another 5-1 as Zagar out gated Nicholls and Wolbert left it wound on to fly round the Bees Captain and join Zagar for a 5-1 heat win, Mroczka kept up his impressive start to the meeting with another win as he rocketed from the start to the first bend and had the Bees pair follow behind but Dryml was riding poorly as he slow all meeting and never looked like scoring a point all evening. Coventry felt more pain as Michal Szczepaniak gated but was chased down by Kevin Wolbert as he stalked the Pole before the German passed him on second lap and was overtook by the Finn on 3rd lap and make matters worse Summers had an Engine failure on the start gate and so they got yet another 5-1 score line. Making a déjà vu moment as we reached heat 9 and the score was 30-18 which was spookily exactly the same as it Friday night.
Gary Havelock the Coventry team manager made a baffling decision when he nominated Anders Mellgren for Tactical double points when Scott Nicholls was the clear choice. Mellgren was off gate 4 which was by far the best gate of the meeting but the Swede missed the gate and the Aces of Cook and Zetterstrom let Nicholls plough on and just team ride holding onto 2nd and 3rd place and stop them getting double points. So Coventry missed a trick not putting the black and white coloured helmet on the captain.
Zagar and Wolbert got their 4th straight 5-1 in a row if you count the final race at Brandon as well, as it was all too easy for the men wearing the big Ace of clubs logo on their chest. Coventry then nominated in their last throw of the dice Kasprzak as double points  in heat 11 and the race was re run as the riders bunched on the bend with Dryml hitting the deck and the referee harshly calling for the Czech rider to be excluded leaving Artur Mroczka on his own. The Bees scored a 7-2 as they couldn`t managed the full 8-1 as Arthur managed to keep the pair split.
Nieminen and Zorro scored a 5-1 in response as Zorro came from the back to join his team mate and they rode to the chequered flag as the Coventry pairs looked disinterested in the race, Coventry got some joy as their 2 big name riders scored a 5-1 in heat 13 with Kasprzak & Nicholls beating Mroczka and Zagar who was took right to the fence on the 2nd bend and after that his race was over. Heat 14 saw Craig Cook and Kauko Nieminen get a 5-1 over the Szczepaniak brothers for a 51-36 score line as we headed to the last race of the night. Coventry put their top riders out again as Belle Vue put Zorro and Wolbert who had a paid maximum the chance to race in heat 15. Sadly the Aces couldn`t finish off in style as the Coventry Bees pairing got a 5-1 after Nicholls retook Zetterstrom on lap2 after Zorro had passed him on the lap previous.
Belle Vue finally got their first win of the season and monkey off their back as they now look forward to the Sky TV match next Monday as they host the Peterborough Panthers and the return of one Patrick Hougaard who has struggled at the East of England Showground so far in his move away from Kirkmanshulme lane.

Belle Vue Aces 52

1. Matej Zagar 3 3 3 0 =9
2, Kevin Wolbert 2* 2* 3 2* 0 =9+3
3. Magnus Zetterstrom 3 r 2 2* 1 =8+1
4. Craig Cook 2* 2 1* 3 =8+2
5. Artur Mrockza 3 3 2 1 =9
6. Ales Dryml 1 0 exc =1
7. Kauko Nieminen 0 1 2* 3 2* =8+2

Coventry bees 41

1. Krzysztof Kasprzak 1 3 6^ 3 3 =16
2. Araon Summers 0 1 r 1 =2
3. Grzegorz Zengota exc 1 fexc 1 =2
4. Mateusz Szczepaniak 1 2* 1 0 =4+1
5. Scott Nicholls 2 1 3 2* 2* =10+2
6. Anders Mellgren 2* 0 0^ 0 =2+1
7. Michal Szczepaniak 3 0 1 1 =5




Coventry BEES  45 – 45  Belle Vue ACES

Belle Vue snatched a draw in a Last Heat decider Friday night at Brandon Stadium as they denied Coventry victory in a meeting that that should have been sewn up well before. Belle Vue were at a point 12 points behind after heat 8 when Coventry lead 30 -18 and were dominating the match as the hosts gating from the tapes was the difference in the first half of the meeting. As the track wasn`t helping the racers as the track was very slick and freezing cold which didn`t produce a good meeting till nearer the end of the match.
Belle Vue Aces plans had been thrown a bit as Craig Cook was refused to be used by his parent club Edinburgh Monarchs in the Premier league as they were riding the same evening in a challenge match up in Scotland, So the Aces were forced into Rider replacement for the missing Cumbrian star.  Coventry were also missing a rider as Adam Roynon had suffered a horrifying crash the previous week at Brandon against the Birmingham Brummies so Coventry had Ludvig Lindgren the younger brother of Wolverhampton rider Freddie. 
Both sides were looking for their first wins of the season as Coventry lost both opening meetings of the season to Birmingham and Belle Vue were in the same boat having lost their opening meetings too against Wolverhampton home and away, so both had the chance to get some big points and get their respective seasons kicked started. 
Coventry had their gating boots on as in the first Heat Aaron Summers got a good gate and was never in any trouble at all as Matej Zagar chased Summers and Ales Dryml passed Krzysztof Kasprzak on the opening bend as the teams would share a 3-3, However Dryml fell on lap 2 on second bend and so Coventry had a 4-2 advantage and with a 5-1 by Ludvig Lindgren and Michal Szczepaniak in Heat 2 as they started to pull away as the Aces pair were far ,far behind them. 
Heat 3 finally saw something for the away side to cheer about as the Aces new signing Kevin Wolbert made the gate alongside Magnus Zetterstrom as they got out on a 5-1 but Zorro lifted and Grzegorz Zengota came by as the Swedish rider lifted so the pole passed Zetterstrom and so the lead was cut to 4 points now.  Heat 4 saw Coventry open up an 8 points lead as Bees Captain Scott Nicholls and Michal Szczepaniak got the drop on the Belle Vue boys and rode together in formation as the Bees were 16-8 up. 
Brandon Stadium
GP rider Matej Zagar and rider replacement Kevin Wolbert put in a 4-2 heat win for the Manchester side as Zagar came under Zengota on 3rd & 4th bend to puch him wide and take control of the race, That was followed up by Polish heat leader Artur Mroczka getting out and holding off the advancing Coventry pair of Kasprzak and Summers. Coventry stopped the mini Aces Revival as they banged in a 4-2 & big 5-1 in heats 7 and 8 as the lead rose to 12 as we got to the half way stage, The Bees were practically “buzzing” with delight as the score was 30-18 to the hosts and Belle Vue desperately needed to pull their respective fingers out if they wanted to get back into this meeting.
The Aces responded with a 5-1 in the next race as Ales Dryml finally came to the party along with Mroczka as they team rode for maximum points and just before the interval Wolbert flew round Kasprzak as the pole made a little error and the German who was having a great meeting passed him and along with Zorro got a 4-2 race advantage to reduce the lead to 6 now.
After the interval and track grading came Heat 11 with the Aces only 6 behind the Bees and the home fans were panicking that they could see their side lose this meeting as the Aces had found some momentum and they kept the pressure up as Matej Zagar and Ales Dryml got a 5-1 as Zagar and Nicholls had a great battle for 2nd place as Zagar was trying to hold off Nicholls and Sheppard Dryml round which he did magnificently it has to be said and so the lead dwindled away to just a 2 point advantage of the Visitors.
Heat 12 saw the Aces riders of Zetterstrom and Dryml again gate on a 5-1 maximum as Zengota tried to chase them down only for Michal Szczepaniak to fall of his own accord on the first bend all on his own and stayed down as the Aces were starting lap 2.
Experienced referee Tony Steele put the red lights on for the race to stop and surprisingly put all 4 riders back in the Re-Run which was a very poor decision but the referee due the Bees rider nowhere in the mix and was quite a distance away from the 3 riders in front, Anyhow are run it was and typically it Coventry who got gained the advantage as Grzegorz Zengota made no mistake from the tapes this time round and blasted from the gate with the Belle Vue pair unable to gain any ground on the Polish rider.
The big Heat 13 came as the pair of Kasprzak and Nicholls against the Belle Vue pair of Zagar and Mroczka faced off and looked like whoever made the gate would win the race, So as the tapes went up the Coventry pair shot out and gated on a 5-1 for the Bees and looked to have put them in the driving seat of the contest. However Zagar had other ideas as coming into the 2nd bend on lap 2 Zagar blasted round Kasprzak and came under Nicholls on the 3rd & 4th bend to take the lead and make it a 3 all race, But Mroczka was gaining lap by lap on his fellow Countryman and coming to the last bend Mroczka and Kasprzak raced for the line and the Aces Polish star had pinched 3rd placed as the Bees rider locked up a bit on the last bend allowing Mroczka to get the drive and 3rd place which dramatically changed the meeting. Mroczka as he came back to the pits let out a massive shout of joy as headed back as it meant a lot to the young Polish rider.
The scores were now level at 39 apiece and with 2 races to go it was any ones to win, On paper the Aces had the better pairing entering the penultimate race as Wolbert & Dryml were in form and Lindgren & Michal Szczepaniak were off the boil a bit now, but as their waited for the tapes to go up when they did  the Bees gated and got a great start pushing Wolbert wide as they team rode brilliantly to get a 5-1 even though the German tried everything he could do to try and split the Bees he just couldn`t manage it and so heading to the last heat decider the score showed 44-40 to the home side. Belle Vue Aces team manager Jason Attwood knew he need a 5-1 to draw the match and get a point out of the meeting and so he put his strongest pair of Matej Zagar and Man of the Match for the Aces Kevin Wolbert in, While Gary Havelock the ex World Champion and newly installed Coventry Bees team manager put Scott Nicholls and Grzegorz Zengota in to finish the job off.
The home side took gates 1 & 3 and the anticipation was building starting marshal moved away and the Aces duo both got out and took the Bees pairing wide to the outside as Zagar left a cloud of dust for the Bees to eat as him and Wolbert rode a steady 5-1 race advantage and earned the ACES a deserved draw as they dominated the second half of the meeting as Coventry had the first half. The riders came round and high fived the travelling Belle Vue supporters that had made the journey and the shouts of celebration at a stunned Brandon told you everything. As the Bees fans were not very impressed by their own sides second half or inability to close out the meeting.    



Coventry Bees: 45

1. Krzysztof Kasprzak 1 1* 2 0 =4+1 

2. Aaron Summers 3 2 3 0 =8 
3. Grzegorz Zengota 2 2 1 3 =8 
4. Mateusz Szczepaniak 0 0 0 =0 
5. Scott Nicholls 2* 1 1 2 
6. Ludvig Lindgren (G) 2* 3 0 2* =7+2 
7. Michal Szczepaniak 3 3 2* 0 3 =11+1 

Belle Vue Aces: 45

1. Matej Zagar: 2 3 2* 3 3 =13+1 

2. Craig Cook: R/R (AD 0 KW 1 AM 1 AD 3)
3. Magnus Zetterstrom: 1 0 1 2 =4
4. Kevin Wolbert: 3 1 2 3 1 2 =12
5. Artur Mroczka: 0 3 1 2* 1 =7+1
6. Ales Dryml: 0 0 0 3 3 1* 0 =7+1
7. Kauko Niemenen: 1 1 0 =2




Sunday saw the end of the EPL SEASON as the finale of the 2013 season saw the Manchester Phoenix lift the final silverware of the season and in the process stopped Guildford Flames sweeping the board and completing a treble as the Manchester side beat the League and Cup champions 5-2 at the Skydome arena in Coventry.

Both side had face faced tough opposition to make it this far as the Flames beat the MK Lightning  3-2 in the semi final just creeping over the finishing line having been outplayed for the majority of the game, Guildford knew if they harboured any remote chance of taking the Playoff trophy they would need to play a damn sight better than they did the day before as by their standards they were pretty poor but as said in the Semi final blog Champions find ways to pull it out of the bag when it`s needed to and that’s what they did.

Manchester played out a fantastic 5-4 shootout win against Basingstoke Bison in a classic semi final encounter, in which the game was back and forth with both sides having chances and making it the most exciting game to watch from the 2 semi finals played Saturday. Phoenix hoped if they played with the drive and determination they showed then they could beat and upset Guildford in the final as the Flames were the favourites for the grand final.

Record between the two teams over the season was split 3 games pieces in the league though for couple of the games Phoenix were without starting net minder Steve Fone as he was injury with a groin and knee injury and was playing their back up net minders. So with that the anticipation of the grand final was growing as the crowd was whipped into a frenzy by the arena announcer and then we had the battle of the 2 sets of fans with the Guildford flames fans singing and cheering and then Manchester Phoenix fans responding with their own chanting and singing and the arena was rocking from both sets of fans cheering on their own side as both teams made their way on to the ice to a massive ovation by the crowd and the big game feel was kicking in now.

The teams were introduced to the fans one by one as they skated to the blue line in readiness for the national anthem to be played. As the players skated away to their benches the noise was getting louder as the Flames fans sung ” Let`s go Guildford” and the Manchester fans bellowed “PHOE- NIX”, the neutral fans were all in support of Manchester as the fans from the other teams gave another rendition that was sung repeatedly all playoffs by the oppositions fans of “Anyone but Guildford!”. So it was time to drop the puck as referee Thompson dropped and the EPL PLAYOFF Final was off.

1ST Period

Manchester came out on fire as they dominated the final from start to end, Manchester attacked Guildford right from the off as they pressured them in their zone and was almost camped in Flames zone as they took full control of the final. Phoenix carried on from where they left off in the semi final, as they punished the flames with great board play and good passing between them and was tearing them apart. Guildford were playing much in the same vain as they were against Milton Keynes where they started slowly and took them late on to get any type of momentum going, Even though Phoenix were the best side and in complete control they knew they couldn`t just rest on their laurels as Guildford had players given half a chance to change a game in a second.

Phoenix was peppering the Flames net and Mark Lee was trying his best to stop the onslaught of Phoenix attacks as they were smothering the double winners with ease in the first period. Steve Fone when called upon was doing his job well as he stopped the rubber hitting twine. First penalty of the game came against the player coach of Phoenix, as Tony Hand sat for INTERFERENCE at 6-55 and so gave the Flames a chance to get back in the game with a power play. Flames power play was moving the puck well and the Phoenix defences had to do their job and they did with aplomb as they quelled any danger by the Guildford forwards and especially Fone who was making save upon save.

Phoenix then found themselves on the power play after Guildford were deemed to have TOO MANY MEN on the ice at 8-56 so the Power play unit came out and they were moving it fantastically, pulling Flames over and Flaten went close when he struck the outside of the post and Michal Psurny and Tony Hand down by the corner was keeping the puck moving and trying to build offense. Psurny and Flaten was recycling the puck as the penalty kill was struggling to clear or just wrestle control from them, Then Phoenix broke the deadlock as Flaten found Hand who threw it far side and Luke Boothroyd put it home high pass Lee to give Phoenix a well deserved lead at 9-55 for a  power play goal. The goal meant a lot as the player’s energy were looking energized by the goal.

Guildford looked like a side that was drained and at a loss as plays were sloppy and Lee wasn`t playing to his high standards though the net minder did make some great saves to deny Phoenix pulling away and keep it at a one goal game. Rick Skene then headed to the penalty box as he was given 2 minutes for TRIPPING that timed at 11-30. Phoenix pressed on the power play but they reverted to their old ways as they hardly made any in roads on the man advantage.

End of the period came and Phoenix were bullying the Flames and the Guildford contingent would probably have took a slim 1 goal deficit as they headed into the first intermission as they could easily have been out of sight Manchester with the chances and near chances they had. 


Second period carried on from the first as Manchester was still having its own way with the League and cup winners as Guildford definitely weren`t going at all and this was looking a lot like their semi final as they were outplayed and out classed by Phoenix. So when they were caught for an ICING INFRACTION they thought this was just getting better as we had only played 34 seconds of the 2nd period. Guildford then had a chance to turn the game as they went on the power play after Andy McKinney was adjudged to have caught a Flames player with an arm as he checked him in the boards, so he sat for ELBOWING at 23-36.

Guildford started a mini revival as they were getting into their groove as they had Phoenix players in a pickle but they found they had a bigger problem in Fone keeping net, as all their attempts were dealt with easily by Fone and he was called upon many times to come to Manchester`s rescue when players had slipped and they broke away on extra man advantage, the Sheffield born shot stopper was equal to the task and blocked their advances and there was times they looked to each other thinking “what do we have to do?!”.

Phoenix doubled their lead as Bari McKenzie chased down a loose puck as Phoenix found themselves on a 2 on 1 McKenzie found Archer skating in and his one timer shot went high in the net and the Skydome erupted as Phoenix fans celebrated and fans from other sides were joining with the celebrations and were rubbing it in Flames fans faces with the “Anyone but Guildford!” chant again. Archer goal gave Manchester a 2-0 lead at 26-37.

Phoenix always knew that Guildford would come back at them and they did but Fone was seeing the puck like a beach ball as he turned away and stopped every effort made by the Flames to get on the scoreboard. He made a string of top draw saves and some that you only make when luck and confidence is high. Richard Bentham then was called for TRIPPING at 34-36, Guildford really were pushing hard for a goal and when Fone and the defence which have to say did an outstanding job cutting passes out and defending stoutly. So with them getting frustrated with the Phoenix net minder being a brick wall it was made worse when Michal Psurny added a 3rd goal to the Phoenix tally as he scored it short handed and that seemed to break the spirit   of the Surrey based outfit as a 3-0 lead looked insurmountable even to them. Liam Chong grabbed an assist on Psurny goal and it was a matter of how many it seemed then as looked broken the Flames now.

The period ended with Phoenix fans rising to their feet saluting their heroes as they went to the locker room 3-0 up and on course for their first silverware since 2011 when they won the League championship.

3rd Period

Everyone wondered how the 3rd would play out would it be a dull one with both sides going through the motions or would the Flames launch one last rally to try and force a way back into this contest, we got our answer 40 seconds into the 3rd as Josef Kohut set up Nathan Rempel and so pulled one back for a 3-1 score line at 40-40

Tony Hand then shot the puck over the glass in his own zone for a DELAY OF GAME call and Guildford were finally gaining some momentum, However their power play didn`t last long as David Savage then got called for TRIPPING at  43-48. Both teams killed their penalties off before Joachim Flaten was then called for HIGH STICKS when the stick stayed before stomach height yet Pering the referee seemed to see something different to everyone else in the rink. That came at 45-32 and Guildford at this point in time was in the ascendancy now, so while passing the puck around in the Phoenix end by the forwards. Hand managed to knock it away and Phoenix broke with a breakaway Hand skated over the blue line and with space and time he looked up and buried it low far corner for a 4-1 lead at 47-09 and the champagne was on ice now as that was the killer goal by Manchester Phoenix player-coach.  

Phoenix fans were starting to party already as they had both hands on the trophy and so when a few minutes later they were short handed again Pozivil had intercepted a pass by a Flames defenseman and passed it to his fellow Czech native and Michal Psurny buried it same corner as Hand did and the game was all but over bar the shouting as the Phoenix players leapt on Psurny as he had secured the Playoff trophy for them with still 10 minutes to go as he was timed at 49-49. Guildford responded straight away as Branislav Kvetan scored for 5-2 at 50-07 with assists going to Rempel and Longstaff. The celebrations were much muted as they seemed to have been playing just for pride now as they treble had tantalizingly slipped from their grasp at the final hurdle.

Guildford looked to try and score another one to try and put doubt in the Phoenix players minds, but with another TOO MANY MEN call it put paid to any hopes they had and as the clock ticked down Phoenix fans stood and clapped their team to victory and a shower of gloves, sticks and helmets lay strewn across the Phoenix zone, as the men from Manchester celebrated their first ever EPL Playoff victory and playoff win in their 10 year history. As a Manchester teams last playoff success came way back in 1996 when they were Storm and won the Promotion/ relegation playoffs. 

So as the players lined up for the handshakes and celebrated the victory, the man of the match awards were given out to the players as Nathan Rempel got it for the Flames and for Phoenix it could only go to one player and that Steve Fone for one of the most incredible net minding displays in a final for many years. Players came up to receive their medals and after that was done Luke Boothroyd came to pick up the EPL Playoff trophy, Which led Guildford Flames player coach Paul Dixon to lead his men to the blue line and showing their class tapped their sticks in recognition of the Phoenix as champions, and the Phoenix responded by holding off their celebrations to return the favour and both sets of players warmly applauded the other side and led Phoenix fans to chant “GUILDFORD” as they came round to show their respect to the opposition and the Guildford fans clapped the Manchester fans and vice versa for the sportsmanship by both sets of fans.

The celebrations lasted long as the players celebrated their victory and as the Phoenix players skated off the ice to the locker room the owner Neil Morris gestured he thanks the fans from the bottom of his heart.


Guildford flames: 10            Manchester Phoenix:10





MARK LEE (Guildford) 32 shots  84.37% SAA
Steve Fone  (Manchester) 26 shots 92.30%  SAA


Flames:  Nathan Rempel           Phoenix:    Steve Fone



EPL PLAYOFFS Semi finals: Flames late show and Phoenix win Classic! :UPDATED with Archer penalty shot

Last weekend saw the traditional EPL PLAYOFF FINALS played out of the Skydome Arena in Coventry. The final 4 teams that contested these playoffs were the Milton Keynes Lightning, Manchester Phoenix runners up in the table the Basingstoke Bison and the double winners Guildford Flames, Guildford were gunning for a treble having beat Slough Jets in the EPL Cup and winning the League title for the second year running. Saturday semi finals saw the afternoon match involve the League Champions Guildford flames battle the Milton Keynes Lightning and the evening match saw the Basingstoke Bison play the Manchester Phoenix.


Guildford began their search of a Treble with Milton Keynes Lightning in the first semi final of the day; the game was officiated by Thompson and Pering with Hamilton and Beresford working the lines. The atmosphere in the Coventry Skydome was rocking with fans packed into a sell out arena as the 3,000 plus crowd inside with fans covering all sides in the EPL (English Premier League). The neutral fans were supporting obviously the Milton Keynes Lightning as nobody in the Skydome Arena wanted Guildford Flames to sweep the board of trophies this season. And so as the Players came out to a huge cheer from their respective fans both sides went through their final preparations for the Semi final and after the players were introduced to the crowd and the national anthem was over the players got organised and so we awaited the start of the 2013 EPL PLAYOFFS WEEKEND..

1st period 

Milton Keynes were the brighter side going close early on in the game with chances and pressuring the Flames as they controlled the puck and played well to stay in the Guildford zone quite a lot. MK were very aggressive in their play with the Defensemen pinching well for the Lightning as Guildford didn`t have much of an answer early on. Guildford had some breakaways but was easily saved by Stephen Wall in the Lightning nets as he looking solid. Lightning was first to be on the penalty kill as Michael Farn was put in the box for TRIPPING at 5-57, so while he was in the box Guildford had a chance to get into the game by way of a power play.
We then had the first goal of the game during the power play ,however it went to Milton Keynes as at 6:14 a terrible pass by a Flames defencemen was under hit straight to Adam Carr who skated towards goal and backhanded an effort past Mark Lee for a 1-0 lead which was  thoroughly deserved lead for Nick Poole men.

Lightning joy was short lived as 77 seconds later Rick Plant and Josef Kohut set up Nathan Rempel to score at 7:31 as the Flames tied the game on the power play. Less than a minute later there was a line scuffle as Grant McPherson was penalized on the play and as play carried on McPherson hit a Flames and while the Flames player was in the ice Dean Holland skated over with looked close to a forearm smash on the Young Scottish forward till all hell broke loose and it was a full line brawl with MK Finnish forward Janne Jokila dragging Holland from the pile and trying to rain punches in while trying to be separated by the linesmen, which was a very difficult job.

Penalties handed out went for Guildford Dean Holland was given 2 for CHARGING and 2 for ROUGHING while Milton Keynes penalty was McPherson 2 for SLASHING and Jokila getting 2+2 for ROUGHING all timed at 8-27. Farn and Jokila were playing fantastic for the Lightning getting under their skin with Farn chippy and hard working play and Jokila was turning the Flames inside out with great plays down deep in the offensive zone. Lightning dominated the period with fast attacking play and cut out the offensive plays by the Flames, though when they did get past the defense they came up against a tough nut to crack in Stephen Wall still.

And so the first break was 1-1 but MK was firmly in patrol in the game, but the scoreboard was saying different.

2nd period


Milton Keynes carried on where they left off as they were by far the most attacking side and disciplined side in going forward and building momentum and growing in confidence as they kept the pressure on Guildford as the Flames just didn`t look like a team that was league champions as they were outplayed and out muscled for a majority of the game. Janne Jokila and Michael Farn were immense for the Lightning as they were really upping their game in the second period.

Farn was all over the place whether it was in Defence or getting forward he was causing problems as Guildford struggled to get anything going whatsoever in the game as the game play was working magnificently for the Lightning as any attacking threat Guildford was posing was stopped by the defense men and Stephen Wall in the nets. Guildford found themselves back on the power play as Milton Keynes Lightning was called for an ICING INFRINGEMENT at 22-03. So with the man advantage they looked for the go ahead goal but was denied by Stephen Wall who was like a brick wall stopping all shots that came in.

MK retook the lead as Daniel Harris and Grant McPherson was moving the puck around and when the pass came to the point Michael Farn released a slap shot from the blue line that seemed to catch Mark Lee out and beat him as the puck went high over his shoulder for a 2-1 lead at 27.31 in the period. MK then got a power play of their own as Andy Hemmings was sent to the box for 2 minutes for INTERFERENCE at 28-44, The Flames though killed the penalty off and they seemed around about this time to slowly ease their way back into the game.

Josef Kohut was given a 2+10 for CHECKING TO THE HEAD as Blaz Emeric was in control of the puck by the boards and as he was bring the puck away from goal looking for a shooting lane Kohut came in with a high shot to the head which knocked down Emersic and was called by the near official as Emersic gestured it was a head shot as he was pointing to his helmet, So Kohut sat for 10 minutes at 33-43 and ruled him out till the 3rd period.

So with 1 period to go the Lightning was holding a 1 goal lead, but even though the Flames were trying to mount a comeback MK were by far the best side in this opening semi final game.

3rd period


The final period saw the Guildford Flames finally turn up as they now rocking and rolling now as they tested Stephen Wall more and put the Lightning defence now under pressure really for the first time in the game. Milton Keynes seemed to be losing focus at times and not capitalizing on previous chances in they had the previous two periods and was looking like that may hurt them as Flames were turning up the heat now as they looked very threatening when in attack now compared to the first 40 minutes of play.

Flames did tie the game up at 42-06 when Jez Lundin was looking for options found an open David Longstaff and the former Great Britain forward took aim and fired at Wall to which it looked like the goal tender had it covered up but it squeezed through the pads of his and went in for 2-2 and the game then change. Both sides was deciding how to go about their plans as there was passages of play where it was end to end and then it was very tight defences taking over and was a cat & mouse type of period.

Jokila was the main threat for the Lightning as he was getting into good positions and was finding Lee in nets as the only stumbling block when it came to the finishing touch. Time was creeping up towards the end of the game as there was 5 minutes to play and the game was being stretched a bit now as both sides were hunting for this elusive goal to send them in to the final. Time was ticking down and then came huge heartache for the MK Lightning fans as at 57-21 Ben Campbell and Branislav Kvetan tried to evade the defensemen finding a shooting lane his shot on Wall was stopped but the bounce of the MK goaltenders pads hit Nathan Rempel stick as he awaited any rebound that could happen and so when it did he tucked home and the Flames players went ballistic as they celebrated the late effort.

Lightning players and fans were left deflated as they had seen their side completely boss the game for two periods and now found themselves looking down the barrel at defeat. As the clock ticked down they pulled Wall for the extra attacker and tried to forced the game into overtime, sadly for them they just ran out of steam as it was like Guildford had the Muhammad Ali rope a dope tactic as the Milton Keynes seemed to have tired themselves out in the opening two period and Guildford as Champions do found a way to come back and steal victory right at the death. Horn sounded for the end of the game and as the Flames fans rejoiced in victory and always most relief at coming through they knew they had got out of jail and would have to play far better in the final if they were to land the treble.



FLAMES: Mark Lee 34 shots faced 94.12%
LIGHTNING: Stephen Wall 24 shots faced 92.00%


Guildford Flames: Nathan Rempel  

Milton Keynes Lightning: Michael Farn




After the late drama of the first semi final we moved onto the second semi final to be played at the Skydome Arena in Coventry, As the Runners up in the EPL Basingstoke Bison faced off against the Manchester Phoenix. The history between the two sides in the league was a record of 5-1 to the Herd with the solitary win coming for Manchester in the last meeting between the 2 back in March when they thrashed the Bison 6-2 in Altrincham. This was Manchester 4th visit in a row to the Playoffs as they previous reached two Semi finals and hoped to go one step further this year compared to last year’s when they were beat in the Playoff final by the Slough Jets. 

For Bison this was a new experience as they had never qualified for the Playoffs weekend since them and their opponents had both left the Elite League to move to the EPL, But with Doug Sheppard at the helm this season they had ran the Flames close in the league and with the players at their disposal like Alex Symonds, Greg Owen, Greg Chambers, Stevie Lyle and Jaroslav Cesky they have the tools to get to the top and win silverware. But for some reason they had a bit of slump and cost them in the League and Cup respectively so this much like Manchester was a chance to get their hands on a trophy.
Both teams entered the ice with both using the far end of the rink to come onto the ice which was a bit strange as in warm up Phoenix had to moved benches due to the Bison using the official away dressing room, 
So as the players skated round and we had the formalities of the national anthem and last second instructions it was go time and we awaited the referee to drop the puck as we had or this match Cloutman and Szucs with Brooks and Hogarth on the lines.
1st period

We expected a great semi final and it didn`t disappoint, It was the Bison that came out of the blocks quick and hard as they pressured Phoenix very early on and would set the tone for the whole period. Manchester was just not at the races at all and Steve Fone had to be on his metal as he was called upon quite a lot in the opening stages. Czech sniper Jaroslav Cesky had the first good chance as he went through the Phoenix defence and brought out a save from Steve Fone who really was keeping his side on level terms as his team mates had a lot to thank him for. Basingstoke thought they had scored when Fone covered the puck and when a crowd of players came in the puck was shoved in but was ruled instantly out for man in the crease as there were about 5 players in the crease at the time. 

A call on Phoenix captain Luke Boothroyd for SLASHING at 3-53 was given as the Bison stampeding over their opponents to be honest and Boothroyd intervention stopped a chance for the Bison but put his side on the penalty kill. Bison couldn`t make any head way on the power play as Fone as the defence did a good job on the penalty kill, Then at 8-27 a James Neil strike gave Manchester a goal against the run of play as it was Phoenix first chance in the game and has to be was very taken by the young Nottingham native. Joachim Flaten and Michal Psurny were given assists on the first goal and the 500 strong Phoenix fans who had travelled in numbers were hoping this would kick-start their team and drive on from here.

It didn`t… in fact it did the complete opposite as Basingstoke got more in to the game as they peppered Fone and Phoenix were under the cosh. With all the hard working forwards and good plays by the whole Bison side it reaped the rewards as Alex Symonds broke up the ice and Greg Chambers passed to Greg Owen and his quick turn and release beat Fone as it went in the bottom corner at 11-21 and the large contingent of Bison fans celebrated the equalizer.  Phoenix were back on the penalty kill when a terrible decision by Cloutman was given, As Rob Schnabel put a body check on a Bison player on the blue line as the Bison player turned and they collided, Fair and clean but the view from the official down the other end was it was illegal although the referee in the end it happen saw the incident and gave nothing. So the ex NHLer sat in the box for 2 minutes for CHARGING at 13-55.

Phoenix or more so Fone was outstanding as he denied any chance Bison made, However though as the period was coming to the end Joe Greener and Jaroslav Cesky set up player coach Doug Sheppard who out thought Steve Fone and pulled the goalie out of position and he tucked home for a 2-1 lead for Basingstoke at 18:03 as we went into the first period break.
2nd period
Second period Manchester Phoenix came out like a different team as they upped their game and the matched the Bison better than they did in the first by miles. Fone again pulled off a good save to deny
Joe Greener the chance to extend the Bison lead and from that save Phoenix went up the other end of the ice  through Michal Psurny and Tony Hand was there to tie the game with the fast reaction to the puck for a 2-2 game at 24-10 and now this semi final was well and truly on.

Manchester had their first power play of the game as Carl Graham had been tussling with Phoenix dynamo forward Tom Duggan and after he roughed him up by the boards and tripped him up finally a call came for TRIPPING but was really take your pick for the call as there was a few different calls you could have made that was at 25-26. Phoenix power play as is a tradition was poor and wasn`t long before they lost out as Schnabel went for HOOKING at 26-39 and gave the Bison a power play opportunity and their chances were made even greater when James Archer was called for SLASHING at 27-19.

The Penalty Kill for Phoenix was exceptional as they quelled any danger and of course having your goal tender in hot form helps a lot to. both sides had great chances to take the lead as Joe Miller was robbed by Steve Fone with a flying save and then a Pass up ice by Hand to Psurny who was one on one was fantastically saved by Lyle in nets.

Greg Chambers then sat for 2 minutes for INTERFERENCE at 33-38 the Phoenix was working a good power play and tested Stevie Lyle quite a bit, as the Phoenix started to build an attack from behind the own goal Joe Rand went down and Tony Hand was given a 2 minute Penalty for INTERFERENCE which he disputed and gestured he had dived, that was times 34-01. Phoenix came close to taking the lead as a Joachim Flaten effort struck the crossbar and they pressed and pressed for this lead.
The Phoenix fans were treating Lyle all period to chants of “LYYYYLE” and as the period went on the chant became louder and louder and was starting to get to the Welshman as he made a couple of uncharacteristic errors by the normally solid net minder. But as he was being heckled he still managed to pull off one of the best saves of the weekend when he moving one way and looked behind him as the puck was going and flashed his glove while turning and showed that he is still one of the best goaltenders in the UK.
Doug Sheppard then sat for 2 minutes for INTERFERENCE at 38-51 and Finally Phoenix made their attacking threat pay off as Luke Boothroyd got control of the puck and fed it to Joachim Flaten who shot was partially saved by Lyle and the goalie lost sight and trickled in for a 3-2 lead at 39-29 to give them a 1 goal lead to take into the final period as Bison players looked a bit dejected over the goal.

3rd period
Final period saw a very frenetic, fast paced and tense one 3rd stanza, first off we had a bit of controversy as a clearance around the boards hit the corner where the home dressing room is and so shot out to an angle and came to Greg Chambers and as he shot the puck went over the line and the referee was unsighted of the goal and the goal judge hadn`t put the light on. This led to Bison players screaming it was a goal and it wasn`t given leading to Jaroslav Cesky having a complete meltdown as he lost the plot smashing his stick on the glass and shouting aggressively towards the goal judge leading to Greg Owen skating over to grab him and restrain the irate forward as he had to hold him and then grabbed him putting his arms behind his back like he was being arrested.
Cloutman gave the forward a 10 minute MISCONDUCT penalty and his team mates were pleading and trying to calm the forward down a bit. The referee had ruled he`d washout the goal and then he tried to talk to him leading to him coming to the benches and speaking to him so he could hear him and so after consultation gave the goal at 42-51.  The score changed once again 59 seconds later as Michal Psurny shot one from the blue line and flew past Stevie Lyle to regain the lead for Manchester and lead 4-3 at 43-50 with Rob Schnabel and Tony Hand getting credited with assists.
But back came Basingstoke again and tied it up thanks to Joe Greener and Doug Sheppard after a poor clearance by Tom Duggan to start it off from his own zone was collected and kept in by Greener he found Sheppard and Miller provided the finishing touch to tie the game at 4-4 and made it a very tense exciting game for the rest of the period. Phoenix had found themselves in penalty trouble again as they were given a Bench penalty for DELAY OF GAME AT 50-16 and 29 seconds later Luke Boothroyd was given 2 for CROSS CHECKS at 50-45.
Phoenix really was magnificent in the penalty killing all game as the defence defended resolutely and stopped all shots and when they didn`t Fone was seeing the puck and saving it. Basingstoke themselves got caught for DELAY OF GAME at 52-02 as well and Phoenix pressured for the goal to take the lead but Lyle denied Phoenix with some great saves and when Bison themselves broke Fone was making equally as good saves too. It became a bit of one up`s man ship between the duelling goaltender as one made one save and the other made a better save and was exciting to watch as this game was end to end and a fantastic advert for the EPL and ice hockey in general.
The final 5 minutes both sides went at it more as they didn`t want to go into overtime, both sides were stretched all over with chances coming at a break neck speed and neither side finding the twine as the goalies were on top and the tension around the arena was building as it was played like a sudden death period with the next mistake resulting the team capitalising on the error would win it. Neither team could make the breakthrough so we went into overtime and penalties if needed.
Not much really happened in overtime period Bison had more of the puck but didn`t really cut out any clear cut chances as the defences cut out any threats and looked like they would both take they chances in the lottery of the penalty shoot out.


First up was Michal Psurny for the Phoenix his penalty beat Lyle and Phoenix went 1-0, Bison first shooter was Jaroslav Cesky his effort beat Fone as he dragged him out of position and tuck it home for 1-1.
Second round saw Luke Boothroyd take Phoenix 2nd shot and as he made a move Lyle committed early and the puck bobbled on the ice leaving the Phoenix captain unable to take a shot, Bison then had Joe Rand step up and he scored for 2-1 Bison and leaving Phoenix in must score scenario.
Third round was Bari McKenzie the 3rd shooter, the Scottish forward made a little move shooting and there was a few seconds where nothing happened and the Bison fans all rose to their feet thinking the penalty was saved when in fact it had come loose and trickled in over the line to extend the shootout, Joe Miller had the task to end the game knowing if he scored it was over.
The Welshman skated in on goal and was stopped by Fone and Miller looked like he felt he had lost the game for the Bison with his body language. So we headed to Sudden Death… James Archer came out for Phoenix and put Lyle on his back side and lifted the puck over him by inches to make it 3-2 Phoenix, But Lyle came within a whisker away from stopping it. So we had Doug Sheppard take the Bison penalty and if he didn`t score it was game over. 

Sheppard skated on goal and Lifted too much and went over the bar and sent Phoenix into the EPL PLAYOFFS FINAL for the 2nd year running. But unlike last year where they were won on penalties and had a feel of a loss than a win to it, This time around the players were bouncing all over the place and there was a massive change in the attitude of the team than last year.
SO we had a red hot match between the 2 pyro based teams in PHOENIX & the FLAMES in the EPL FINAL!

BONUS: James Archer penalty shot 






Stevie Lyle (Basingstoke bison)  SAVE %  88.24 

Steve Fone (Manchester Phoenix)  SAVE %  88.57 



Basingstoke Bison: 20  Manchester Phoenix: 14 


Basingstoke: Alex Symonds        Manchester: Tom Duggan