Adam Johnson’s death will loom over the sport of ice hockey for years to come, with long-lasting consequences for the future of player equipment and safety in the Elite League and beyond.
There will be a time for us to reflect on one of the darkest days in hockey history and take learnings into the future — not least around the implementation of neck guards — and, with the Elite League set to return on Saturday [4 November] we are quickly approaching that movement.
Before that, though, it is important for us — as a national publication covering the EIHL — to analyse last week’s play before we look ahead to future developments on Johnson and less terrifying events on the ice.
Elite League: Week Six Team of the Week
Excluding Saturday’s abandoned fixture between the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers, there were six Elite League and Challenge Cup games last week.
There were important wins for the Manchester Storm, who look every bit like a playoff team, and the Cardiff Devils, who will contend for trophies this year.
With those results in mind, we present our sixth team of the week of the 2023-24 Elite League season.
Netminder: Evan Weninger, Manchester Storm
Evan Weniger has taken to the Elite League like a duck to water, upholding a league-leading .923 save percentage through eleven appearances for the Manchester Storm.
The Canadian was in fine form on Friday [27 October] when he produced a 35-save shutout in a 2-0 win over the Fife Flyers.
Weniger, who was the busier of the two netminders in period one, denied three higher-danger scoring chances and totalled 2.18 goals saved above expected through an hour of faultless hockey behind
Defenceman: Mark Richardson, Cardiff Devils
Mark Richardson remains one of the best defenders in the Elite League, playing crucial minutes in all situations for the Cardiff Devils.
Paired with Marcus Crawford on Pete Russell’s top unit, Richardson continues to play at least 20 minutes per night into his late thirties and was a clutch performer versus the Coventry Blaze (5-1) and Guildford Flames (5-3).
The Welshman tallied the 353rd assist of his Elite League career against Coventry, firing his way into our team of the week.
Josh Batch, with three points in two games, also has a strong case for all-star recognition, but misses out this time after playing fewer minutes than his veteran teammate.
Defenceman: Drydn Dow, Dundee Stars
Drydn Dow was a standout performer as the Dundee Stars handed the Belfast Giants their first domestic loss of the season, finding the back of the net, tallying two assists, and finishing the night with a plus-four rating against top-line opposition.
The 31-year-old also led his team in expected goals – a rare accolade for a defenceman – and totalled 21:09 in ice time.
Playing alongside Craig Moore on Marc LeFebvre’s top pair, Dow continues to impress in Dundee.
Forward: Jamie Arniel, Cardiff Devils
Jamie Arniel carried on his electric start to life with the Devils by scoring in consecutive games last weekend.
The Canadian has been a mainstay as Russell’s second-line centreman this term, completing a competitive trio alongside Cole Ully and Ryan Barrow.
Arniel dominated the face-off circle versus the Blaze, helping his linemates breakout of the defensive end and establish offensive zone dominance over Coventry.
With 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 12 appearances, the 31-year-old looks like the real deal on his new team.
Forward: Stephen Johnson, Manchester Storm
Stephen Johnson is another centreman who dominated the face-off dot last time around, winning 16 of the 25 draws he contested versus Fife.
The 28-year-old also scored the game-winner and registered five shots on goal through just shy of 22 minutes of ice time.
Forward: Phillipe Sanche, Glasgow Clan
Philipe Sanche’s four assists helped the Glasgow Clan topple the Flames 6-4 on Saturday, creating separation at the foot of the table.
The Canadian, who thrives with the puck on his stick, is one of the most creative players in the Elite League, which he demonstrated in bucketloads on his last outing at the Braehead Arena.
Sanche, still only 28, has 135 points (61 goals, 74 assists) in 126 Elite League appearances.