As we start to draw a line under the weekend of action in the Elite League and Challenge Cup, let’s take a look at what we picked up from all the games.
1. SHEFFIELD STEELERS LOOK LIKE THEY’RE FINALLY TURNING THE CORNER
To say the start of the season has been a disaster for the Steelers doesn’t quite cover it, but since Paul Thompson’s departure and Tom Barrasso’s arrival, he’s finally getting his teeth into the squad.
Brendan Brooks, Jiri Gula and Chris Lawrence are early casualties of the new coach – although Brooks’ departure was as a result of the end of his contract – but the return of Ben O’Connor got the fans excited.
Recent wins over Dundee, Coventry, Nottingham and Manchester as well as reaction to Barrasso’s comments after one or two of those games heartened the Steelers support. It looks like they’re awaking from their slumber.
2. BELFAST GIANTS ARE THE REAL DEAL
A six-point weekend in Scotland sees Belfast four points clear of nearest challengers Fife Flyers and Nottingham Panthers, strengthening their credentials.
Their captain, Blair Riley, was on top form, scoring five goals and one assist, including a hat-trick in Glasgow and it’s no coincidence his form has been a major factor in their form, which now sits at five straight wins and one loss in 14.
It’s also clear Adam Keefe has taken a lot from his maiden season behind the bench this year and they look like being real credible contenders for success this season.
3. CALLE ACKERED IS A BIT GOOD
As if ending last season with a scoring record of 71 points from 65 games wasn’t enough to show how effective an offensiveman defenceman Calle Ackered was for Guildford Flames, he’s at it again this season.
Two game winning goals in both victories over Milton Keynes Lightning this weekend is the sort of heroics that makes fans sit up and take notice elsewhere as he sits as the best scoring defenceman again this season.
Paul Dixon unearthed a gem in Ackered and Flames won’t thank us for saying this, but could be the focus of interest from a few teams across the continent in the months to come.
4. CARDIFF DEVILS ARE STILL GOOD
Sure, they lost their two games this weekend and have lost ground on Belfast Giants at the top of the table, but there’s absolutely no reason to panic.
Most of the fans won’t be, of course, but you just need to look back 12 months to see Andrew Lord’s men weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders before surging their way back to the top, taking the league title and the play-offs with them.
This weekend’s disappointments will soon be remedied and they’ll look to bounce back on Wednesday when Fife Flyers visit, but it won’t be easy for them.
5. HURRAH! WE FINALLY KNOW THE CHALLENGE CUP QUARTER FINALISTS
It’s been a more convoluted way of getting there, but at least we finally who the eight teams are that will contest the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup.
Glasgow Clan were the last team to be confirmed after MK Lightning’s loss to Guildford Flames, which came as a relief because if Doug McKay’s team had qualified, it would have been through the fact that their name has three words, or something.
While it was a system that even Countdown’s Rachel Riley would have needed some strong coffee and a calculator to work from, getting 11 teams down to eight was not an easy one for the Elite League to devise. But now we can look ahead to Tuesday’s draw and that the process of elimination is far more easier from here on in.