Guildford Flames, Peterborough Phantoms, Basingstoke Bison and MK Lightning head to Coventry this weekend as the EPL play-offs reach their climax.
The semi-finals sees the Flames meeting the Phantoms hoping to add the play-off title to their EPL Cup triumph back in March, while league champions Bison face-off against Lightning also in search of double success.
Flames reached the last four courtesy of a 3-2 aggregate victory over Swindon Wildcats, with netminder Richard Ullberg (above) posting an impressive shut-out in the second leg to guide them through.
Head Coach Paul Dixon said: “In Game One we didn’t play poorly at all. We had some good chances to make a little more of the game for ourselves, but Swindon played well also.
“With a little over two minutes left we just couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get it clear of the zone and Swindon turned it in to a goal.
“Thankfully we were able to play well again Sunday and collected exactly the goal differential we needed to turn the series in our favour and secure a semi-final spot.
“We were eliminated at this stage last season so we are excited to get back to the big weekend, and we are looking forward to doing what we can to bring home a play-off title.”
Phantoms head into the weekend boosted by the news that forward Darius Pliskauskas is available to play.
Pliskauskas had returned to Lithuania for family reasons last week and missed both legs of Phantoms’ 9-6 aggregate quarter-final victory against Sheffield Steeldogs.
Phantoms’ boss Slava Koulikov told Peterborough Today: “It is essential we have a full set of imports for the play-off finals and we are all delighted that Darius has been able to return.
“He is one of our main guys and it is great he will be here for the weekend, even though he has a very serious situation back at home.”
Bison sealed their place in the semi-final with a 7-3 overall success over Manchester Phoenix.
Doug Sheppard’s team won four out six games against Lightning and he’s confident they can keep their double dream alive.
“When we won in MK this season it was a real play-off game and I want us to play the same way again on Saturday,” he said.
“They are a good team, but we are playing well at the moment and are now just two games away from winning our second trophy of the season.
“We were the best team over 54 games that is why we won the league, but now we are down to just two games and anyone of the four teams is in with a chance.”
Lightning eased into the final four with a 7-2 aggregate win against Telford Tigers, but they have had a hectic build up to the play-off weekend following the news they will join the Elite League for the 2017/18.
Despite the distraction, Head Coach Pete Russell says it’s buisness as usual.
“I have no plans to rip this group apart,” he said. “In fact, we’re working hard to keep this group together.
“Our only plan is to try and add to it to make it even stronger.
“We have a great bunch of people in the locker room and I feel privileged to work with them all. Our only aim is to give our supporters a team to be proud of.”
Saturday – play-off semi-final
Basingstoke Bison v MK Lightning
Peterborough Phantoms v Guildford Flames
Sunday – play-off final
Winners of the above matches
(Image permission: Olly Birth)