Ice Hockey – UK Round-up (from Blackburn Hawks match programme 27/03/11)

Coventry Blaze have clinched their place in the English National League Division One North play-offs with a resounding 10-0 win over Sheffield Spartans. The result sees Blaze join Whitley Warriors and Nottingham Lions in the end of season shoot-out. The final place rests between Sheffield and Blackburn Hawks who moved into the final position with a pair of 3-3 draws against Telford Titans and Northern Stars. Blackburn have one final match against Telford while Sheffield face the Titans and Trafford Metros needing to win both to pip the Hawks.

Wightlink Raiders picked up their first championship for 14 years in front of an ecstatic crowd at Ryde Arena. Over 900 fans packed into the rink to see the home team demolish Cardiff Devils 9-0 to seal the ENL Division One South title in emphatic style. Alex Murray top scored with a hat trick while Richard Bentham, Jason Gorrie, Dom Hopkins, Damon Larter, Steve Gosset and Robbie Brown all got on the scoresheet.

Manchester Phoenix need one point from two games to lift the English Premier League title. They beat MK Lightning 6-5 and hope to wrap up the title either away to Peterborough Phantoms or at home to Swindon Wildcats. Defeat in Milton Keynes would have left Phoenix in a nervous position knowing Guildford are hot on their heels. The game was poised on a knife-edge for the full 60 minutes with never more than a goal between the teams. Lightning led 2-1 at the first break with goals from Michael Wales and Ross Green either side of a Pavel Gomeniuk strike. Marcus Kristoffersson fired a second period hat-trick but two goals from Grant McPherson and one from Blaz Emersic meant Lightning were still ahead going into the third. Tony Hand changed all that with an equaliser within minutes of the restart and Joe Miller hit the winner with five minutes left.

Sheffield Steelers have clinched their third regular season Elite League title after completing a weekend double over Braehead Clan. Steelers won 5-1 in Scotland before romping to a 7-2 win on home ice. They finished tied with Cardiff Devils on 87 points but won the title courtesy of more regulation time wins.

Attention now switches to the end of season play-offs with Sheffield facing Dundee Stars, Cardiff up against Hull Stingrays, Braehead meeting Nottingham Panthers and Belfast Giants taking on Coventry Blaze. All ties are played over two legs with the winners proceeding to the play-off final four weekend at National Ice Centre, Nottingham on the first weekend in April.

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