Ice Hockey – UK Round-up (from Blackburn Hawks match programme 3/04/11)

Blackburn Hawks claimed the fourth and final place in the ENL Division One North play-offs – but only after an almighty scare against Telford Titans.

The Hawks started quickly with player-coach Jared Owen grabbing an early goal but the Titans drew level and finished the first period stronger. Worse was to follow in the second as a Karol Jets breakaway goal put the visitors in front and he should have extended the lead in the third but Hawks netminder Danny Brittle made a vital save. The Hawks were handed a lifeline midway through the period with Tom King being tripped when clear on goal but he missed the resulting penalty shot. Hawks continued to press and were rewarded when Matt Viney grabbed the game tying goal.

The result sees the Hawks now face off against champions Whitley Warriors while Nottingham Lions meet Coventry Blaze. Both ties will be played over two legs.

Fife Flyers have completed the Northern League title and play-offs double. A 7-2 win over Blackburn secured the league crown with Whitley finishing runners-up. The play-off weekend in Kirkcaldy saw the Flyers beat Sheffield 8-1 and Whitley overcome Solway Sharks 8-4 in the semi-finals. The final was a one-sided affair with Fife running out comfortable 6-0 winners.

Manchester Phoenix are the new EPL champions – but Tony Hand’s men made heavy weather of claiming the point they needed to secure the crown.

A 6-2 road loss to Peterborough Phantoms left Phoenix needing to avoid defeat against Swindon Wildcats. Pavel Gomeniuk and James Archer settled Phoenix nerves as they roared into a two goal lead but when Hand was dismissed for high sticks in the 14th minute the Wildcats staged a rally. Dino Bauba scored on the powerplay for Swindon and Phoenix looked in trouble.

Hand’s men regrouped at the break and spent the second period camped in the Swindon half but couldn’t break down a rugged Wildcats defence. However, the floodgates opened in the third with Steve Wallace skillfully working the puck past the keeper and James Archer firing in on a breakaway. James Knight pulled a goal back for Swindon but with the clock counting down, Curtis Huppe’s empty netter in the final minute brought the house down.

The Elite League play-off quarter finals all went to form. Champions Sheffield Steelers beat Dundee Stars 8-5 on aggregate while Cardiff Devils beat Hull Stingrays 8-4. Nottingham Panthers defeated Braehead Clan by the same score but the closest tie featured Belfast Giants and Coventry Blaze. With the teams tied at 3-3 after two legs the game went to a penalty shoot-out with Giants’ Jeff Mason securing the win and a place at the final-four weekend. Sheffield now meet Nottingham with Belfast facing Cardiff for a place in the final.

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