Here we are again on a Monday evening, and it’s time, once again, for Five Things We Learned In The EIHL This Weekend)
1. It Ain’t How Much You Got, It’s How You Use It
The bare statistics show that the short-benched Coventry Blaze suffered this weekend, taking one point from four possible against Sheffield thanks to an OT loss on Sunday. The bare statistics show that the team suffered from a short bench. The bare statistics show that this was not a successful weekend.
However, in winning that one point on Sunday, the 2012/13 Blaze did something special. In my eleven years of watching EIHL hockey I’ve rarely seen a more gutsy, backs-to-the-wall, sheer bloody-minded performance. Missing three imports and their top British forward and facing a Sheffield side with the top Brit Pack in the league and two more imports, the Blaze dug in and traded blow-for-blow, hit-for-hit and goal-for-goal for 62 minutes of all-out war with a team that was supposedly far stronger than them, before finally losing in OT. In doing so, they proved once and for all that the brief era where Blaze teams would roll over and die has gone, and signalled a return to the type of Blaze hockey the Skydome knows and loves.
This is definitely a group of players that is revelling in the role of the underdog. And that will breed the kind of siege mentality that will win games they have no right to win over the next few months.
2. Fife Are The Real Thing
Sure, Braehead fans will point to still missing two import players, including Jade Galbraith, as the reason for their 5-1 tanking by the Fife Flyers on Saturday night. But everyone else in the league (if they’ve got any sense) will start taking this Flyers team very seriously indeed. After a narrow loss to the Blaze last Sunday, two wins in the Northern Conference show that, in my mind at least, the Flyers should seriously be considered as a threat for the Gardiner title. They aren’t a team of stars just yet but they’re built strongly and Casey Haines looks like a rough diamond already. Look out, EIHL…after a torrid first season back in the top flight, the Flyers are a team to be reckoned with.
3. Hype Is Over-Rated
Four games into the league season, and Nottingham fans have gone from their excitement at David Ling and Bruce Graham to already questioning their commitment to the squad. Ling in particular has come in for some serious stick on The Cage after appearing to look “uninterested” on both Saturday and Sunday. Martin Tuma and Jason Beckett are already on the fan hot-seat also, while Ling, far from “ripping up the league” as Dave Simms and other experts predicted is currently lagging behind the likes of Jade Portwood in Edinburgh and Sam Smith in Coventry-players who you’d expect wouldn’t be in the same scoring timezone. It may be early in the season but if the reports are true and he’s showing all the get-up-and-go of a eunuch’s genitalia, then how long will Ling last?
4. Mac Faulkner Is A Bona-Fide Beast.
Five points last weekend, another five this week for the big centre from King City. He has seven goals already, three ahead of his nearest rival Matt Francis (Nottingham), and is currently scoring at a rate of nearly 3 points a game in Cardiff.
While it’s ridiculous to assume that this rate of scoring will continue, the flying start made by Faulkner clearly shows that he is most likely going to be the linchpin of the Devils’ offence this season.
In fact, if you were in a punning frame of mind you could say he was Faulking awesome.
(tell you what, that’s one hell of a hashtag, Devils fans…)
5. Not Everyone Improves At The Same Rate
While the EIHL has undoubtedly got bigger and faster this season, on early season evidence the refs haven’t moved with them.
I’m all for letting the players play, but the game has got bigger and faster over here this season and so far, the officials appear to be struggling to deal with it at times-some of the decisions that have been made in the early part of the season are curious, to say the least.
Hopefully this is just a case of refs getting back into the swing of things and we’ll see an improvement. The product on the ice is becoming more exciting on early evidence this season all around the EIHL, and the officials are a big part of making sure that while it’s fun to watch, it’s also safe for all concerned, too.