After another busy week of action in the Elite League, Luke James selects two key takeaways as teams prepare for the final stretch.
Manchester Storm ‘low on confidence’, says Ryan Finnerty
The Manchester Storm ended February on a disappointing note, losing back-to-back against the Cardiff Devils (7-1) and Belfast Giants (6-3). However, Ryan Finnerty’s side battled fiercely against the Giants, forcing Jackson Whistle into several high-quality saves in the first period.
Of his team’s performance versus Belfast, Finnerty said: “I thought we played a pretty good game, I don’t think the scoreline’s indicative.
“We did everything we wanted to, we had a lot of shots on net, we had missed backdoor plays. I thought the guys battled, competed real hard. You come out and play a first period like that, you’d expect to be up by a couple, not down by a couple.”
That is, however, how February went for the Storm. Their 1-7-1 record on the month speaks volumes, as does their skid to ninth place in the standings.
“This team’s a little low on confidence with the way it’s going,” Finnerty explained on Sunday, “we’ve had a tough schedule and key injuries. It’s just about trying to stay in the fight and putting a good push on.”
If Manchester are going to stay in the playoff conversation, they’ll need a big month from Adam Brady in March. Although the 26-year-old was kept off the scoresheet by Cardiff, his point-scoring acumen has captured the attention of fans across the Elite League. He’s played above a point-per-game rate since 1 January, registering a goal or an assist in 12 of his last 18 appearances.
Next weekend, they face the Nottingham Panthers in a back-to-back. After that, Finnerty’s side will lock horns with the Fife Flyers (twice) and Coventry Blaze (twice). If they’re going to get back above the playoff line, the next fortnight is the perfect time to do it.
Are the Glasgow Clan Playoff Bound?
“I didn’t like our second period,” Glasgow Clan head coach Malcolm Cameron said after his team’s 6-3 win over Cardiff on Sunday, “I thought we were way too soft on them [and] gave them far too much time and space.
“In the third period, we got back to doing what we did in the first – putting a lot of pressure on them. They didn’t have opportunities to make a lot of switches in the [offensive] zone like they were doing earlier, and I liked our pushback.”
Glasgow finished the month with a pair of excellent results (they beat Fife 5-4 in OT on Saturday) and are now seven points clear of the playoff line. What’s more, their performance against Cardiff was especially impressive. The Clan ultimately had the contest won after 14 minutes, with Colton Yellow Horn scoring the game-winner.
After his team’s four-point weekend, Cameron is starting to think about the postseason.
“Now we’ve gotten over the hurdle of Sheffield, Belfast, and Cardiff, hopefully it’ll help us if we face them down the line in the playoffs,” the Canadian added.
The Clan face Fife and Cardiff next weekend; they’ll be aiming for another goal-filled weekend.
Elsewhere in the Elite League:
Sheffield Steelers – Aaron Fox’s side recovered from their Challenge Cup disappointment by winning back-to-back in the Elite League; their quest for glory continues.
Belfast Giants – Also back-to-back winners, the Giants were forced to dig deep against Coventry on Saturday. Adam Keefe’s side face Guildford in a three-in-three next week – it could make or break their season.
Cardiff Devils – Barring a catastrophe for Belfast or Sheffield, Cardiff’s loss to the Clan probably ends their title chase. Jarod Skalde’s team are five points back from the Steelers and have played four extra games.
Nottingham Panthers – It feels like the Panthers are just drifting towards the post-season. One step forwards, one step back.
Guildford Flames – Speaking of which… the Flames are starting to slide towards the playoff dogfight. It’s important they pick up some points from their triple-header against Belfast next week.
Dundee Stars – Omar Pacha was understandably furious with his team’s performance against Guildford on Saturday (they lost 5-0). Although the Stars responded versus Fife (they won 4-1), they have a huge week ahead. Dundee face Sheffield twice next weekend.
Coventry Blaze – Sam Russell netted his first professional goal in the Blaze’s 5-3 loss to the Sheffield Steelers on Sunday.
Fife Flyers – The Flyers are still waiting on their tenth win of the season. Will it come against Sheffield or Cardiff next weekend?
Are the Manchester Storm “low on confidence?” Let us know by joining the discussion on Twitter by tagging @BritIceHockey.