Elite League preview: ‘Conference system obscene’ says Neilson

Nottingham Panthers’ boss Corey Neilson says this years’ Elite League title race is a thrilling one, but he believes the Conference system is an ‘obscene set-up’.

A pair of victories against Manchester Storm last weekend moved Panthers to fourth in the table, eight points behind leaders Cardiff Devils with three games in hand.

The two teams meet at the National Ice Centre on Saturday, before Panthers travel to meet Belfast Giants the following day.

Neilson hasn’t ruled out catching the Devils, but with title rivals Braehead Clan playing in the ‘easier’ Gardiner Conference the Panthers’ boss is focused on winning the Erhardt Conference.

Clan currently trail the Devils by five points, but with four games in hand and the majority of their remaining fixtures against Gardiner teams, Neilson says they are big favourites to claim the league title.

“There’s a big pocket of teams that can still win the league,” he told the Nottingham Post. “It’s a fun league and that’s how it should be.

“I’m still not a huge fan of the Conference system. It’s an obscene set-up, but it’s what we’re facing. Our main focus is to win our Conference. Braehead will sort themselves out.

“We’ll try to beat them when we play them. They’ve got a pretty nice run-in. We have to do our job and try to win our Conference.”

“I see the reasoning behind the Conferences. It’s a ten team business. If the business is strong we have a strong league. If they are going to do Conferences then the play-offs have to be the main trophy.”

Cardiff head to Nottingham on the back of reaching the Challenge Cup semi-final on Wednesday after completing a 10-6 aggregate victory over Dundee Stars.

Guillaume Doucet’s four-goal haul helped Devils secure a 7-6 win on the night, and he says the team are relishing being in the hunt for trophies.

“We are satisfied with the result, but not the last half of the match,” said Doucet. “We were a little sloppy in the third and that’s not good enough.

“But we are through and our job now is to review the performance, look at where we went wrong and build on that.

“We are through to the semi-finals and it’s going to be difficult against Belfast team who have a lot of good players and lots of depth.

“We are coming to the end of January and still competing in everything. That makes it fun for all of us.

“Lots of players are contributing to the team effort and that’s why we are having success.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Friday

Braehead Clan v Fife Flyers

Saturday

Fife Flyers v Belfast Giants
Manchester Storm v Edinburgh Capitals
Nottingham Panthers v Cardiff Devils
Sheffield Steelers v Coventry Blaze

Sunday

Belfast Giants v Nottingham Panthers
Cardiff Devils v Edinburgh Capitals
Coventry Blaze v Sheffield Steelers
Dundee Stars v Manchester Storm
Fife Flyers v Braehead Clan

(Image permission: Karl Denham)

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