Who Needs Forwards Anyway? (and Other EIHL Things We Learned This Weekend)

It’s another manic Monday here in the EIHL, and so once again we look back on the weekend action just gone, and consider what it tells us about the EIHL as a whole.

Even The Craziest Ideas Sometimes Work:

I’ll freely admit I was one of the (many) critics of the EIHL’s new conference system upon its introduction this season. But on the evidence so far it appears to have given a much-needed shot in the arm to the league. Of the games played so far in the regular season, most have been decided by one or two goals with none of the blowout-level losses we got used to last season, and both conferences are immensely competitive with supposed powerhouse teams like Braehead and Sheffield struggling early on. Sure, the way the points are allocated (points count both in league and conference standings and then positions are allocated on the basis of games won except on alternate Sundays when there’s a R in the month and a blue moon expected or something equally complicated) needs refining so that we don’t have the ridiculous situation where a team can lead the league but be 4th in its conference-but the EIHL stated that they hoped the conference system would lead to more exciting games and parity, and that appears to be working so far.

Amicitia Omnia Vincit

As the Romans might have said, “team sprit beats any hardship”-and this was proven again this weekend by the Coventry Blaze. After seemingly cruising through the first period against Hull on Saturday night the Blaze suffered a nightmarish collapse in the second, conceding five unanswered goals including a shorthander before pulling one back at the end of the period to start the third two goals down with a dissatisfied home crowd.

Three minutes later it was five each, and then two teams battled away in an absolute barnburner until the Blaze managed to win the game in the second round of penalty shots, before pulling out an impressive win in Sheffield on Sunday too.

Over the past few seasons we’ve seen Blaze teams roll over and die more than once after such a horror of a second period as they had on Saturday night-so this was further proof of the new-found team spirit in Coventry which I referred to on Friday.

Who Needs Forwards, Anyway?

Mike Schutte of Coventry has gone off at an absolutely blistering pace early on, scoring 5+8 (13 points) in the first eight games of the season. These are pretty impressive stats for a forward and are good for fourth in league scoring, but when you bear in mind Schutte is a dman they become positively mercurial. He was one of the major difference-makers up in Sheffield last night, scoring both the equaliser and the game-winner in a 4-3 victory.

It remains to be seen whether Schutte can continue this pace or whether normal service will be resumed with forwards overtaking him, but the measure of Schutte’s achievement can be shown by the fact that he’s outscored every player on all teams except Cardiff, Fife and Dundee. The sharp among you would have noted that includes such “offensive powerhouses” as Sheffield and Nottingham.

“He’s Schutte, he scores”. And as far as Blaze fans are concerned, long may that trend continue.

Let Him Who Is Without Sin…” (quote may not apply in Sheffield)

Much has been made this season by Sheffield of transgressions made against their team, particularly by those of a Coventry persuasion (remember the Brad Leeb sucker punch? Steelers fans like to remind us of it at every opportunity still).

Anyway-recently, Sheffield coach Ryan Finnerty has publicly come out in support of ex-team-mate Max Birbraer-the Cardiff Devil was assessed a ban for a dirty hit against Belfast, criticising the league for clamping down on dirty hits after earlier presenting his team as angels sinned against with…you’ve guessed it, dirty play, by the Blaze in particular.

Cue Sunday night, which saw a total of 76 PiM’s handed to the Steelers (including an ejection for buttending on Cory Pecker) for the angelic Steelers while the dirty, vicious Blaze received…nine, five of which were for Olson fighting Drew Fata-who, by the way, was also thrown out for abuse of an official.

Steelers fans have claimed that ref Mike Hicks ruined the game, but sorry, Sheffield. When you out-sin the opposition by 76 PiMs to nine…that ain’t poor refereeing. That’s good old fashioned discipline problems.

Better make sure you get those broken  halos fixed for next weekend, lads.

Beware Of False Prophets (especially the loud ones)

As commentators and pundits, making predicitions is a tricky business. Often you have to quietly admit you’re wrong (for example, a bare few weeks ago I picked Braehead to be the power in the Gardiner Conference, a prediction which ever since then has been proved gleefully wrong by the impressive form of Casey Haines and the Fife Flyers). However, Commentator Rule 101 is this:

However confident you are in your predicition, always leave some room for error”.

It appears some missed that memo, however.

Sheffield’s favourite Brummie estate agent Dave Simms gleefully Tweeted two months ago:

2 new signings today Ling in Nottingham and Michael Schutte in Coventry love the fact that we could have signed them both, but chose not to”

He also was very vocal around the same time about Steelers’ signing Cory Pecker, confidently predicting him to be “the best in the league”.

Fast forward to Sunday night, where Schutte made him eat his words, scoring twice including the game winner, and as mentioned earlier scored his 13th point in eight games. From defence.

And Pecker….well, he’s under fire from the Sheffield fans for laziness, is three points behind Schutte despite being a forward, and is facing possible supplementary discipline after being thrown out of the game for a needless butt-end.

It seems that overconfidence in a Pecker’s ability is an ideal recipe for embarrassment.

This season so far has proved that that’s as true in the EIHL as anywhere else.

But as for Ling…well, maybe Simmsey was right on that one…

We’ll be back later in the week with more EIHL news and views…

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