“These girls fall like dominos, dominos”
The Big Pink: “Dominos”
Now we’re really getting into the business end of the season. Three weekends to go until the EIHL league title is awarded once and for all and the playoff quarter-finals are set, less than a week until the Challenge Cup Final, and a game on Wednesday night between Sheffield and Braehead that could, potentially, be the night the Clan put one hand firmly on the Monteith Bowl. We should also start to see things narrow down as games become do-or-die both in the title and playoff races…indeed this weekend we saw the first team officially eliminated from the EIHL playoffs as the sword of Damocles finally fell upon the Dundee Stars to put them out of their PO chase misery. So-let’s have a look at the league table right now:
1. BRAEHEAD. Games Played 46, Pts 67. Games Remaining 6. Max Pts Total, 79
2. SHEFFIELD: GP 45, Pts 62. GR 7, Max Pts 76
3. CARDIFF: GP 45 Pts 62, GR 7, Max Pts 76
4, NOTTINGHAM: GP 46, Pts 56, GR 6, Max Pts 68
5. BELFAST: GP 47, Pts 55, GR 5, Max Pts 65
6. FIFE: GP 47, Pts 44, GR 5, Max Pts 54
7. COVENTRY GP 46, Pts 44, GR 6, Max Pts 58
8. HULL GP 43, Pts 41, GR 9, Max Pts 59
9. EDINBURGH: GP 45 Pts 39, GR 7, Max Pts 53
10. DUNDEE: GP 46, Pts 28, GR 6, Max Pts 40
WINNERS AND LOSERS
COVENTRY: Another win against Sheffield makes it 7 in their last ten..the Blaze are hitting form at just the right time as the race for the playoffs hots up. With three games against Hull and 1 against Edinburgh in their remaining 6, the Blaze are now in an excellent position to lock up PO qualification relatively easily-they can still finish as high as 5th, too, although that would require a collapse of epic proportions from Belfast.
BRAEHEAD: The Clan not only ended Nottingham’s title hopes this weekend, they also put something of a dent in Sheffield’s, although Wednesday’s tilt against the Steelers is more important still…win that and they will be 7 points clear of the Steelers with only 12 possibly available. They’ll also do Cardiff a MASSIVE service in their own title race as it’ll give the Devils an opening to overtake the South Yorkshire side. Speaking of which:
CARDIFF: The Devils benefited massively from Sheffield’s loss this weekend-they’re now neck and neck with the Steelers with only one regulation win less meaning they sit 3rd and not 2nd…a stat that could change this weekend.
HULL: The Stingrays destiny is still very much in their own hands, but those games in hand are beginning to disappear without being taken advantage of-at the moment the game on March 10th v Edinburgh, plus three games against Coventry, looms massively in their future…all of these are must-wins if they’re to hope for a PO spot-a 9-2 thumping against Sheffield won’t help things, either.
SHEFFIELD: That loss to Coventry is a stinger-it allows Cardiff to gain on them and also drops another two points on Braehead above them. The Steelers are still in the title race…but winning it just got a little harder. Lose to Braehead on Wednesday, and it’ll become a Herculean feat to overhaul the 7 point gap.
DUNDEE: The Stars have fallen. This weekend saw them officially confirmed as out of the PO race, as they’d need to win all their remaining games-even then, the highest they can finish is 9th with Hull now on 41 points in 8th. There are three weeks left but the Stars already know they won’t be playing in the postseason this year.
So, that done. What are ‘tthe positions in the race both for POs and the title? Let’s look…but first, a reminder of the definitions:
GP – Total games played
P – Current points total
GR – Games Remaining.
PtsB – Points Behind Leader
PtsA – Points ahead of 9th place (PO race)
GTE – Games To Elimination – the number of games a team has left before it is mathematically unable to overtake either the leader (title race) or team in 8th (playoff race)
GTQ – GTQ To Qualification – number of games required (assuming that they have the same result as the nearest challengers below them in all) to guarantee either a team cannot be overtaken, either at the top of the table (title race) or finish lower than 8th place (PO race).
Here we go:
THE TITLE RACE
1. Braehead: GP 46, P 67, GR 6, GTE 6, GTQ 3 (will become 2 if beat Sheffield on Weds.)
2. Sheffield: GP 45, P 62, GR 7, PtsB 5, GTE 4, WTQ 6
3. Cardiff: GP 46, P 62, GR 6, PtsB 5, GTE 4, WTQ 6
4, Nottingham: GP 46, Pts 56, GR 6, PtsB 11, GTE 1, WTQ 6. Any point for Braehead on Weds night will mean they can no longer win the title.
5. BELFAST: GP 47, Pts 55, GR 5, PtsB 12, GTE -1. BELFAST ARE ELIMINATED FROM TITLE CONTENTION
All of the teams above have now officially qualified for the EIHL POs
Braehead are still very much in the driving seat here-there’s a huge night live on Premier Sports on Wednesday as they face the Steelers at home in a big night at Ice Sheffield…with the Steelers playing four of their remaining 7 games against their title rivals (three of them v Cardiff) this game could be make or break for their title ambitions. The Devils, meanwhile, will be watching and waiting to seize on any weakness shown by the two teams above them.
THE PLAYOFF RACE
6. Fife: GP 47, Pts 44, PtsA 5, GR 5, GTE 5, GTQ 5
7. Coventry: GP 46, Pts 44, PtsA 5, GR 6, GTE 6, GTQ 6
8. HULL GP 43, Pts 41, PtsA 2, GR 9, GTE 9, WTQ 6
9. EDINBURGH: GP 45 Pts 39, GR 7, PtsB 2, GTE 6, WTQ 7
10. DUNDEE: GP 46, Pts 28, GR 6, Max Pts 40 – DUNDEE ARE ELIMINATED FROM POs
Right now, any one of four teams can still miss out on the playoffs, but it’s these last three weeks where we’ll see the picture change radically…we won’t start to see teams qualify for the POs until at least the penultimate weekend of the season in this group. Fife’s position is looking a little more precarious now, as all the teams below them have games in hand-they’ll need to finish strongly to avoid any last-day nerves. Hull, too, will be a little nervous. Coventry, on the other hand, have four of their last 6 games against their three PO rivals-three of them are against the Stingrays. However…lose to the Capitals at the Skydome this weekend, and the jitters just may start to come back a little.
Hull make up two of their three games in hand on their PO rivals this week, facing Nottingham on Wednesday night and Fife on Sunday (in the only league game that day thanks to the Challenge Cup Final) – Saturday sees a very big night in this race as the four teams meet each other, so we could see big changes in this picture next week.
It’s getting serious now. The amply-fed lady isn’t singing, but she has arrived at the concert hall. Potentially, next week could see not just one, but two titles awarded by the end of it.