The Elite League season is now five weeks old and a familiar selection of teams have emerged as frontrunners for the title. With that in mind, Luke James selects his team of the week, with heavy praise for Belfast Giants forward Ciaran Long, Cardiff Devils newbie Brandon Alderson, and Sheffield Steelers blueliner Colton Saucerman.
Ciaran Long headlines Elite League team of the week
Netminder: Ben Bowns, Cardiff Devils
Ben Bowns has been a class act for the Devils all season, with his latest set of appearances winning him a second team of the week selection in a row.
Cardiff were a force to be reckoned with throughout a four-point weekend, earning consecutive wins over the Manchester Storm (3-1, 4-1), and their starting netminder more than played his part.
Bowns further improved his save percentage on the season (.951), allowing only two goals on the 60 shots he faced versus Manchester.
Defenceman: Colton Saucerman, Sheffield Steelers
Colton Saucerman continued his fine form through a six-point week for the Steelers, playing a crucial role as Aaron Fox’s squad defeated the Fife Flyers (5-0), Nottingham Panthers (4-1), and Glasgow Clan (3-2 OT).
While the American ‘only’ posted one point through three appearances, he was near faultless in his own zone and while defending the transition.
Saucerman looks comfortable in all situations with his new team and has already built a formidable relationship with Brien Diffley on the second pair.
With nine points (two goals, seven assists) and a bucketload of clutch defensive plays in his first 11 appearances of the season, Saucerman is on course for cult hero status in Sheffield.
Defenceman: Victor Bjorkung, Nottingham Panthers
Victor Bjorkung snapped his uninspiring start to life with the Nottingham Panthers with a breakout performance in their 7-2 win over the Dundee Stars on Sunday [22 October].
The Swede provided a pair of assists as Jonathan Paredes’ side made it five wins in a row in the Elite League.
Bjorkung will be asked to shoulder a heavier load in the months ahead, with the 30-year-old set to replace the injured Josh Tetlow on the Panthers’ top pair.
Forward: Ciaran Long, Belfast Giants
Ciaran Long continued his electric start to the season by recording four points (three goals, one assist) versus the Clan and Blaze.
Typically a third-line option for the Giants, Long is known for his solid, two-way impact but shone offensively this past weekend.
The 32-year-old produced a dominant performance in a 5-3 win over Coventry, tilting the ice in favour of his side by scoring twice from five shot attempts.
He was equally as effective as the Giants hosted Manchester, winning nine of the eleven faceoffs he contested and writing his name onto the scoresheet with a goal and an assist.
With 200 points (87 goals, 113 assists) in 334 career appearances, Long remains one of the most effective homegrown players in the Elite League.
Forward: Brandon Alderson, Cardiff Devils
Brandon Alderson has been a constant thorn in the side of his rivals (and the department of player safety) since joining the Devils.
The Canadian continued his fine form into his second week in Cardiff, posting three points (two goals, one assist) versus the Storm.
Alderson’s offensive production is particularly noteworthy because he only received a combined 25 minutes of ice time.
Devils head coach Pete Russell will be very pleased with his midseason addition’s impact thus far.
Forward: Mikko Juusola, Sheffield Steelers
Mikko Juusola was a clutch performer for the Steelers as they swept Fife, Nottingham, and Glasgow aside to secure a memorable six-point week.
The Finn started the week with a game-winning goal, added an assist to his tally on his next appearance, and signed off with three points (two goals, one assist) on Sunday.
Juusola’s ice time has increased steadily over the past fortnight, rising from 11:25 to 17:07 as he continues to gain the trust of his new head coach.
Did Ciaran Long make it into your team of the week? Join the conversation in the comments.