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Elite League team of the week: Quin Preston, Josh Burnside shine on opening weekend

Coventry Blaze defenceman Josh Burnside is an under-the-radar defenceman who could make the difference in this season’s playoff race, writes Luke James.

Josh Burnside Coventry Blaze, British Ice Hockey

The Elite League is back and there were some fantastic individual performances across the first weekend of play.

The Sheffield Steelers went unbeaten in gameweek one, putting the Coventry Blaze and Guildford Flames to the sword to establish an early lead at the top of the table.

Adam Keefe’s Belfast Giants also started off on the front foot, beating the Dundee Stars twice in as many nights to start their Challenge Cup defence with a perfect four-point record.

Elsewhere, the Manchester Storm stunned the Nottingham Panthers at the Motorpoint Arena, while the Glasgow Clan clinched a shutout win over the Fife Flyers.

With a handful of starring performances across the opening weekend, here is our British Ice Hockey team of the week.


Elite League Gameweek One Team of the Week: Quinn Preston (Belfast Giants)

Quinn Preston made an almost perfect start to the domestic season, posting three goals in two appearances versus the Dundee Stars.

The American led the Giants in expected goals in both of their opening weekend games and was a constant threat on Adam Keefe’s first line.

Preston is above water in the face-off circle, plus-five in on-ice goal difference, and hit the frame with ten out of his first 19 shots of the season.

Elite League Gameweek One Team of the Week: Marc-Olivier Vallerand (Sheffield Steelers)

Marc-Olivier Vallerand made an undeniable impact on the opening weekend, showcasing his playmaking abilities for the Sheffield Steelers.

In a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Coventry Blaze, the Quebecois forward was the catalyst for Sheffield’s success, recording a hattrick of assists. His keen eye for the game and ability to set up scoring opportunities were on full display.

Vallerand didn’t stop there. In another impressive performance, he added yet another assist in a 3-1 victory over the Guildford Flames.

As one of the league’s top playmakers, Vallerand continues to be a vital asset for the Steelers, who are off to the perfect start under Aaron Fox.

Elite League Gameweek One Team of the Week: Ara Nazarian (Belfast Giants)

Ara Nazarian plays on the same line as Quin Preston, and you can tell based on his stat line.

The American produced a tour de force performance in Game Two versus the Dundee Stars, scoring and providing two assists as the Belfast Giants scored six unanswered goals to win 6-2 in Scotland.

elite league team - Ara Nazarian, Belfast Giants (Image: William Cherry)

Elite League Team of the Week: Ara Nazarian, Belfast Giants (Image: William Cherry)

Nazarian is trusted in all situations by Adam Keefe, clocking 41:30 time on ice across the opening weekend.

He already looks like a potential All-Star.


Elite League Gameweek One Team of the Week: Carl Neill (Nottingham Panthers)

Carl Neill showcased his defensive prowess and all-around impact for the Nottingham Panthers in their 4-2 victory over the Manchester Storm, logging an impressive 27 minutes of ice time and a game-changing assist.

The Canadian continued to make his presence felt in the following game, adding another assist to his tally, though the Panthers still came out on the losing side.

What sets Neill apart is his versatility. He is a defenseman who can be relied on in all situations, whether it’s the power play, penalty kill, or even-strength play. His ability to strong skating ability and comfort when defending with his stick make him a key asset for Nottingham.

Elite League Gameweek One Team of the Week: Josh Burnside (Coventry Blaze)

Josh Burnside is the kind of under-the-radar addition that will help the Coventry Blaze achieve playoff success this season.

The 28-year-old arrived at the Skydome Arena from the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones this summer and has already made a positive impression on his new fans.

Josh Burnside, Coventry Blaze (Image: Scott Wiggins)

Elite League Team of the Week: Josh Burnside, Coventry Blaze (Image: Scott Wiggins)

The Blaze are yet to concede with Burnside on the ice, a feat made more impressive by the fact that he is plus-three through almost half an hour of play.

The Canadian, deployed on Danny Stewart’s third pair alongside club icon David Clements, registered an assist in Coventry’s 4-2 Challenge Cup win over the Cardiff Devils, making key contributions at both ends of the ice.


Elite League Gameweek One Team of the Week: Jake Kielly (Glasgow Clan)

When it comes to goaltending, Jake Kielly of the Glasgow Clan set a remarkable standard in the past week.

In a commanding debut performance, the American turned away all 28 shots he faced, securing a shutout victory with a final score of 4-0 over the Fife Flyers.

Jake Kielly, Glasgow Clan (Image: Al Goold)

Elite League Team of the Week: Jake Kielly, Glasgow Clan (Image: Al Goold)

What truly set Kielly apart in gameweek one was his ability to make key stops at crucial moments. During the game, he denied Max Humitz and Teemu Pulkkinen from the low slot, showcasing his composure and reflexes. These saves not only preserved his shutout, but also prevented the opposition from gaining any traction.

Kielly’s excellence goes beyond the eye test. He saved an impressive 1.55 goals above expected, a testament to his exceptional positioning in the crease.

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