Elite League preview: Panthers chase European glory

Nottingham Panthers are set for one of the biggest weekends in the club’s history as they bid to claim victory at the Continental Cup Super Final in Italy.

The Panthers face Odense Bulldogs of Denmark on Friday, Kazakhstan’s Beibarys Atyrau on Saturday and hosts Ritten Sport on Sunday.

Seventeen teams from across Europe entered this season’s competition, with the winning side securing a place in next season’s Champions Hockey League.

Head Coach Corey Neilson (above) told the BBC: “We’re excited that we have put ourselves in this position. This is a nice break to play against unique opposition and test ourselves.

“We’ve done our due diligence checking out their rosters. We have had this league focus all season long. Now it’s a matter of going out and doing our thing.”

Belfast Giants head to Cardiff Devils on Saturday aiming to close the five point gap on the current Elite League leaders.

The Giants have won 11 of their last 13 games as they continue to chase the Devils, and Player/Coach Derrick Walser is pleased with his team’s progress.

“We’re still right in the hunt and I like where we are,” Walser told ITV.

“This week is strictly two days off, focus in on Cardiff, and make sure we go there with a great game plan and try to execute it.

“They went on a real quick run and everyone’s gonna go up and down. Sheffield lost a couple and then they’re back on track.

“We’re happy with where our team’s going – we’re going in the right direction.”

Fife Flyers host Dundee Stars on Saturday aiming to continue their recent run of form.

Ryan Dingle has been a pivotal player over the past few weeks as the Flyers have picked up 10 points from the last 12 on offer.

After bagging three goals and an assist in last weekend’s two victories over Manchester Storm Dingle was chosen as the EIHL’s Player of the Week, but the 32-year-old was quick to pay tribute to his teammates’ contribution.

“Whether it’s hard work and dedication or just finding myself in the right place at the right time, guys are putting the puck in on the net,” he told Fife Today.

“Hockey’s a funny game – sometimes you can play really well, but the puck just bounce for you or it doesn’t make its way into the net.

“But it comes down to those wins and collecting two points after every game and we’ve been playing well and are finally starting to get full strength.

“The extra responsibility of being the captain is something I pride myself in and I think leading the team doesn’t come down to one person.

“I have assistants and great coaches to work with. I consider myself just a small cog – I work hard and I help the team try and win every night.

“Up until this last little stretch, I don’t think we’ve performed to our capability within Conference and it feels good to have put a run together, winning five of our last six now.

“Things are looking up in Fife right now and we hope to continue this win streak.”

WEEKEND FIXTURES

Friday

Nottingham Panthers v Odense Bulldogs (Continental Cup)

Saturday

Braehead Clan v Edinburgh Capitals
Cardiff Devils v Belfast Giants
Fife Flyers v Dundee Stars
Sheffield Steelers v Coventry Blaze
Nottingham Panthers v Beibarys Atyrau (Continental Cup)

Sunday

Coventry Blaze v Sheffield Steelers
Dundee Stars v Belfast Giants
Edinburgh Capitals v Fife Flyers
Manchester Storm v Braehead Clan
Nottingham Panthers v Ritten Sport (Continental Cup)

(Image permission: Karl Denham)

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