The Elite League pre season is now over. There have been controversial incidents, tournament play and foreign visitors but now the time for talking is over. Come Saturday everything that has happened in the EIHL in the last two weeks will mean nothing but what have we learnt anything?
The most talked about team this preseason was probably the Coventry Blaze. Paul Thompson had said that his team would be a renewed force this coming season. However their preseason has perhaps told us that it wont be plain sailing at the Skydome. With new signing Mike Danton still awaiting his the outcome of his visa appeal the Blaze were then dealt three more blows. Defenseman Jerramie Domish was first of all on the receiving end of a controversial hit in Cardiff that left the Canadian out of the line up. Next up Brad Leeb was handed a 3 game ban for his sucker punch on Sheffield’s Jason Hewitt before Domish left the second game against Cardiff with a suspected torn tricep that will leave him
missing for around 3 months.
With the new conference structure in place a lot of eyes have been on the Braehead Clan who many believe benefit the most out of the changes. The Glasgow side came out of their first game with an impressive victory over Dutch side Tilburg then made the final of the 4 Scottish team Autumn Cup event at Fife. The Clan did lose that final to the hosts but started back up netminder Mike Will and where in the game till the third period perhaps showing that they are just shaking of the summer cobwebs.
Many fans have also been keeping a check on the Hull Stingrays. With new owners and the signing of young British netminder Ben Bowns the East Yorkshire side have had an eventful summer. Hull opted to play the Bowns former side the EPL Sheffield Steeldogs as part of their preparations for the new season. It was the EPL side that took the first game in Hull before the compliment was returned at Ice Sheffield. Hull though are perhaps still a bit rusty and with a lot of new faces are still gelling. The most telling thing from these games is that the Steeldogs good season last time out was not a fluke.
The defending champion Belfast Giants have had a quiet preseason. The Northern Ireland side have hosted just one preseason match up against the Tilburg Trappers. The Giants suffered from scrappy and disjointed play that almost cost them game as they came from behind to win in overtime. Results in preseason will not worry the coaches but the performances will and whilst the Giants look as strong as ever teams may be relishing the opportunity to play them early as they are still finding their feet.
There were more foreign visitors to the EIHL as well this preseason as Italian side HC Asiago played back-to-back games with the Nottingham Panthers. The Panthers will be pleased with their performances, which split the games. Those performances included a comeback from 3 goals down in the first game to win 6-3, the final goal in that game coming courtesy of netminder Craig Kowalski’s length of the ice clearance into the empty net.
But all that this preseason has told us is that teams are still finding their feet and that the 11th import rule has caused many changes to rosters that teams are still getting used to. It also told us that the Coventry Blaze will be short on numbers to start the season and that sides may have watch Kowalski’s clearances when playing with the extra man.