Challenge Cup semi-finals pit Elite League top four against each other

Mac Carruth makes a save against Sheffield Steelers Photo Credit: Hayley Roberts

The Challenge Cup semi-finals are just over the horizon with the top four sides of the Elite League all facing each other.

Both games are being played Wednesday 23rd of February with face-off at 19:30pm.

Steelers vs Devils

First up is the current holders, the Sheffield Steelers who will face Cardiff Devils in Sheffield to try retain their cup.

The Steelers have been in a mixed run of form having lost two of their last five games in the league.

This tightens up the Elite League title race which Luke James covers in his latest Elite League Takeaways.

Their last game was actually against the Devils and saw them lose 3-2 in a shootout.

Cardiff have also been on the same run of form losing two of their last five.

Back-to-back losses to Dundee Stars and Nottingham Panthers kept the Devils at bay in the league as they dropped to third.

This game will also be pitching some of the best players in the league head-to-head.

Netminders Mac Carruth and Rok Stojanovic are two of the leaders stats wise in the Elite League.

Stojanovic’s 92.82 save percentage is one of the best in the league and Carruth boasts an impressive 93.47%.

The two goalies have similar stats with Stojanovic having a 2.45 GAA (Goals Against Average) compared to Carruth’s 2.27

Both sides have shown they can score goals as well with Steelers scoring 137 times and Devils scoring 134.

There is very little separating the two sides, a difference maker could be Steelers’ Tanner Eberle.

The Canadian has 14 goals and 10 assists in the league currently.

He also has six goals and four assists in the cup already.

Cardiff’s answer to this man is the top scorer in the league, Brodie Reid.

Reid has 24 league goals to his name so far, only three cup goals though.

This game could go either way as both sides have great D-lines and are electric in attack.

Giants vs Panthers

The Belfast Giants look to be in the ascension going into this tie, sitting 18 points above the Panthers in the league.

The two sides had faced each other over the weekend with the Giants winning 3-2 on a shootout.

The Giants also have Scott Conway in their roster, the top points scorer in the league and the cup.

Conway has amassed an impressive 53 points for Belfast, add onto that his 12 in the cup and you get why he’s a threat.

Nottingham on the other hand have less firepower up front with their top league scorer Robbie Baillargeon only having 16.

Their top assister Jeremy Walsh has 20, with Panthers scoring being spread across a few different players.

Baillargeon and Christophe Boivin are probably the ones to watch for the Panthers with both being in double figures for goals and assists.

Boivin is also his sides top points scorer in the cup with nine to his name currently.

Nottingham arguably are the weakest of the four sides going into the semi-finals but should not be counted out.

They recently managed a shock 4-1 win over the Cardiff Devils and took Belfast all the way to penalties in their last league outing.

They are a team that cannot be discounted from reaching the final as they will fight all the way.

Writers’ Prediction

Luke:

Sheffield 2-3 Cardiff (OT)-Carruth to make 30+ saves in regulation

Belfast Giants 3-1 Nottingham Panthers-Scott Conway to register two points

Max:

Sheffield Steelers 4-3 Cardiff Devils-Eberle to register a point

Belfast Giants 4-2 Nottingham Panthers-Conway to register two or more points.

Tweet us your predictions @BritIceHockey to let us know who you think will progress on.

 

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