The New Year means the re-commencement of British Elite Ice League Hockey, with Saturday 7th January shaping up to be a defining day in the race for the championship.
Here’s all of the latest news ahead of the weekend’s fixtures:
Battle at the bottom
Edinburgh Capitals face-off against Dundee Stars on Saturday evening in a bid to launch themselves off the bottom of the Elite League table.
The Capitals will be looking to recover points after a 4-2 away defeat to Nottingham Panthers on Monday night and kick-start their 2017 climb.
Dundee will be eager to bounce back from their defeat to Cardiff Devils on New Year’s Day with a victory over their Scottish rivals.
The bookies have given plenty for the home fans to be hopeful for, with Betsafe offering 13/10 odds for an Edinburgh win.
Victory for the Stars would see them climb to eighth in the table with a game in hand on Coventry Blaze, while a defeat would see Edinburgh on equal points with two games in hand, making this a must-win match for both teams.
Stars in his eyes
Dundee forward Kevin Bruijsten will be looking to add to his personal points tally against Edinburgh.
The 29-year-old Dutchman produced a stunning Player of the Week winning performance last time the Scottish teams met, scoring four goals and registering two assists to fire the Stars to victory.
With 23 points from 18 games since his move to Dundee in October, Bruijsten will be hoping to carry on this hot streak into the New Year and help to pull his team up the EIHL table.
Dobron checking charge
Edinburgh will be without Player/Coach Michal Dobron in their crucial game against Dundee.
The Czech player was handed a one match ban by the Department of Player Safety (DOPS) for an illegal check to the head during the Capitals’ 5-3 defeat against Fife Flyers on Saturday 31st December.
Rule 124 states that a ban must be handed out if a player directs a hit of any sort, with any part of his body or equipment, to the head or neck of an opposing player.
The DOPS has decided not to extend the compulsory ban and Dobron will be available for selection for Edinburgh’s away leg against Dundee on Sunday 8th January.
Similarly, the DOPS reviewed two further incidents involving Coventry’s Josh Godfrey and Manchester’s Mark Heatley.
With the combination of video evidence and the referee’s report, neither player suffered any further action and are available for selection for this weekend’s games.
Shields keeps on striking
Belfast Giants’ in-form forward Colin Shields is preparing to increase his goal tally this weekend and fire himself to the top of the British player points standings.
Currently in second place, the Scot scored six goals and produced 11 assists throughout December, putting him two points behind first place Ben O’Connor.
The pair will face-off on Saturday night when the Giants play Sheffield Steelers, looking to increase the gap between second and third place.
These two aren’t the only players in the hunt for glory however. Cardiff Devils’ Mark Richardson (3rd) will hope to make ground on the top spot, while the Steelers’ Robert Dowd (4th) will be battling Shields and team-mate O’Connor to increase his impressive points tally of 21 for the season.
Steelers injury boost
Sheffield Steelers’ boss Paul Thompson received a late Christmas present this week as Andreas Valdix made a return to training.
The forward has been out of action since 20th November following an injury sustained in the 5-1 victory over Belfast.
This is a huge boost to the Steelers ahead of their double-header against the Giants this weekend and Thompson has indicated that Valdix could make an appearance for his team.
“His return means that we might at last be back to full strength for the two weekend games against Belfast,” said Thompson.
A fully-fit squad would certainly help the Steelers’ rise up the EIHL table as they current hold third position with 35 points, with Nottingham close behind on 34 points.
Steelers’ fans will be hoping that Valdix’s return to action will keep the competition below them.