Jordan Hedley backstopped the Coventry Blaze to a four-point weekend, filling in for C.J. Motte, the team’s usual starting netminder.
Thanks to their back-to-back wins, Coventry vaulted two places up the Elite Ice Hockey League standings into sixth position. The Fife Flyers and Sheffield Steelers, the league’s top and bottom clubs, also enjoyed perfect weeks.
In the third edition of Elite League Takeaways, Luke James analyses three key storylines following the opening weekend of February:
1. Sheffield Steelers (25-4-1)
With their title rivals dropping points, Sheffield extended their lead at the top of the Elite League to five points following wins in Dundee (5-4) and Glasgow (6-3). At this point in the season, it’s hard to look beyond the Steelers as the league’s top offensive team. They have 117 goals in 30 games (an average of 3.9 per fixture) on the season and have outscored their opponents 45-27 since New Year’s Day.
— Premier Sports Elite League | #EIHL (@officialEIHL) February 6, 2022
Defensively, though, cracks are starting to show at the Sheffield Arena. The Steelers have conceeded more goals per game (2.37) than Cardiff (2.30) and Belfast (1.87). If Sheffield can tighten up their defence, they’ll be unstoppable. Until then, they remain fallible.
2. Cardiff Devils (23-9-1)
- L: 5-3 @ Belfast Giants (4/2)
- SOW: 1-2 @ Belfast Giants (5/2)
3. Belfast Giants (22-7-1)
- W: 5-3 v Cardiff Devils (4/2)
- SOL: 1-2 v Cardiff Devils (5/2)
4. Nottingham Panthers (14-13-3)
- SOL: 1-2 v Glasgow Clan (5/2)
- OTL: 1-2 v Fife Flyers (6/2)
5. Guildford Flames (12-15-4)
- L: 4-2 @ Fife Flyers (5/2)
- SOW: 3-4 Dundee Stars (6/2)
6. Coventry Blaze (12-12-2)
With Motte, Dean Gibson, and Janne Kivilahti in COVID Protocol, the Coventry Blaze faced an uphill battle this weekend. That’s why Danny Stewart, now in his sixth year behind the bench at the Skydome Arena, was so impressed by his side’s four-point haul versus the Manchester Storm (4-1 and 3-2 SO).
The Blaze, already short-benched due to COVID-19, also lost Justin Hamonic and Janne Laakkonen to injury midway through their second game of the weekend.
“It was one of those games that was back and forth, a great one for our fans,” Stewart said after his side’s shootout win on Sunday. “Full credit to the guys, they dug deep and found a way through this.”
Jordan Hedley Shines for Coventry:
Although it was a fantastic weekend for the Blaze as a whole, Hedley deserves additional praise. The 24-year-old made 49 saves on 52 shots against Manchester, was crowned player of the match twice, and improved his seasonal save percentage to .940.
After an impressive – albeit up and down – Elite Series, Hedley has taken another step this year.
Hedley has also excelled between the pipes for the Milton Keynes Lightning, saving 73 of the 77 shots he’s faced in the second tier in 2021-22. When given starts, he delivers. With the World Championship coming up, he’ll be on Team GB’s radar once again.
7. Glasgow Clan (11-12-4)
- SOW: 1-2 @ Nottingham Panthers (5/2)
- L: 3-6 v Sheffield Steelers (6/2)
8. Manchester Storm (11-17-3)
- L: 1-4 v Coventry Blaze (5/2)
- SOL: 3-2 @ Coventry Blaze (6/2)
9. Dundee Stars (10-15-3)
- L: 5-4 @ Sheffield Steelers (5/2)
- SOL: 3-4 v Guildford Flames (6/2)
10. Fife Flyers (8-21-1)
Since joining BIH, I haven’t had many positive things to say about the Fife Flyers. Their January form was poor, with Shane Owen often facing 50 shots a night. This weekend, however, could be a turning point for Todd Dutiaume’s team. Back-to-back wins in Nottingham (2-1 OT) and Guildford (4-2) allow the Scottish club to think about a playoff push once more.
“Everybody knows we had an extremely tough January,” Dutiaume said on Sunday. “We talked about a bunch of the little things that will help us be successful and I thought, over the course of the weekend, we displayed a lot of that in two different wins.”
— Premier Sports Elite League | #EIHL (@officialEIHL) February 5, 2022
Forward Jacob Benson and — as always — netminder Owen deserve their flowers. Benson put up three points (two goals, one assist) on Saturday, while Owen stopped 62 of the 63 shots he faced on Sunday.
Following their four-point weekend, the Flyers’ cut the gap to the playoff line to eight points.
What was your main takeaway from last week’s Elite League action? Join the conversation by tweeting @BritIceHockey.