Ice Hockey – UK Round-up (from Blackburn Hawks match programme 23/10/10)

Whitley Warriors have opened up a seven point gap at the top of ENL Division One North. The North East outfit romped to victories over Sheffield Spartans (twice), Nottingham Lions, Trafford Metros and Coventry Blaze ENL to cement their status as title favourites. The double header with Sheffield produced the most impressive results with Adam Reynolds hitting five during a 12-3 away victory over the Spartans. The return match in Whitley saw Karl Culley dish out more misery as he bagged four in a 9-4 rout. The Warriors 100% record fell to Blackburn Hawks who grabbed a 3-3 draw on the road with goals from Paul Rigby, Rick Hughes and Ollie Lomax. Hawks’ only other ENL fixture was a tense affair at Trafford which they edged 6-4 with Chris Arnone sealing the points late on.

Coventry are in second place following victories over Northern Stars, Trafford and Nottingham. The Lions exacted a measure of revenge with a 10-5 victory in the SkyDome Arena. Blaze had recovered from 5-1 down to tie the game but indiscipline cost them dearly as the Lions finally got their season back on track. Despite losing at home to Northern Stars, Sheffield hold on to third place after a 7-1 win over Trafford. The Stars also defeated Telford to move just behind the Hawks into fifth while Nottingham lie sixth. Trafford and Telford complete the table as the league begins to take shape.

Solihull Barons lead the way in Division Two and boast a perfect record. Victories over Sheffield Senators (twice), Lancashire Raptors and Sutton Sting saw the Barons draw level on points with Flintshire Freeze before Sunday’s crucial clash on Deeside. Dean Tonks has been in impressive form for the Barons throughout the season and his five goal haul knocked Freeze off top spot as they ran out comfortable 11-4 winners. Flintshire’s successes against Sheffield, Lancashire and Bradford Bulldogs have helped them open up an eight point gap over Kingston Jets although the Hull side have played four games fewer.

Fife Flyers have maintained their 100% record in the Northern League, but only just. They faced the reigning champions Solway Sharks in Kirkaldy and at one stage trailed by 3-1. In front of almost 2000 delighted fans the Flyers recovered to secure the points in dramatic fashion with Steven Gunn’s winner coming with just four seconds remaining. The Flyers went on to put Flintshire Freeze and Sheffield Spartans to the sword as they opened up a four point gap over Whitley. The Sharks sit in third position after comfortable victories over Blackburn and Sheffield.

Manchester Phoenix and Guildford Flames are setting a scorching pace at the top of the EPL. Manchester’s impressive early season form has seen them drop just a single point so far which came in shoot-out loss at Swindon Wildcats. Swedish forward Marcus Kristoffersson has been in fine form hitting a couple during their 6-4 win over Slough Jets and a hat-trick in the 7-4 win against Bracknell Bees. Canadian Curtis Huppe has also been amongst the goals with a hat-trick in a 7-1 rout of a luckless Bracknell and a brace at Milton Keynes.

Guildford are just a point behind after racking up seven wins on the bounce. Two comfortable victories over Swindon set them on their way before a couple of goals from Lukas Smital helped them to a notable 6-2 win at Slough. Smital then grabbed an overtime winner against Basingstoke Bison to keep the run going. David Longstaff hit a couple in the Flames’ 4-2 win over Peterborough Phantoms before victories over Telford Tigers and MK Lightning maintained the Flames unbeaten start to the campaign.
Basingstoke sit in third place having been involved in a number of closely fought games. A 4-3 shoot-out win over Peterborough was followed by a remarkable third period comeback win against Telford where Chris Wiggins’ hat-trick helped Bison to a 6-5 victory. The Phantoms were on the wrong end of another seven goal thriller in Peterborough although Steve Moria’s men did receive a taste of their own medicine with a 3-2 shoot-out loss to Slough.

The Jets and Milton Keynes will be both be hoping for an upturn in their fortunes as last season’s top two currently sit in mid-table. The Jets notched a couple of victories over Telford and defeated Sheffield Steeldogs but they’ve yet to recapture their form from last term. MK Lightning have also been slow out of the blocks but wins over Bracknell twice, Sheffield and Swindon have given them a platform to work from.

Belfast Giants have continued their dominating form in the Elite League. Despite allowing Dundee Stars to grab their first point of the season the Giants have won seven on the spin to open up a healthy gap over Sheffield Steelers. Title rivals Nottingham Panthers and the Steelers have been defeated during the run with the only blip being the 2-1 shoot-out win over the Stars. The Panthers have been in indifferent form losing to at home to the Steelers and Braehead Clan but overcoming Hull Stingrays, Dundee and Braehead to sit in third place. Reigning champions Coventry Blaze have recovered from a slow start to move into fourth with fifth placed Braehead showing they’ve quickly come to terms with the Elite League. Dundee Stars remain rooted to the foot of the table with just a single point to their name.

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