Meet the opponents – What lies ahead for Nottingham Panthers

(PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Tim Wallace takes his Nottingham Panthers team into Continental Cup action this weekend when they head to Denmark for the third round group.

The top two will reach the Super Final, taking place in early January, but who lies in wait for the Panthers as they look to repeat their success in 2017 when they became the only British side to date to win a European competition.

Here, we give the lowdown on the three teams the Panthers will face as they look to make the next stage of the tournament and as you’ll see, it’s a tough task ahead for them.

Amiens, with head coach Mario Richer patrolling the bench (PHOTO: Fred Haslin)

Friday: Gothiques d’Amiens (France) – Face off 3pm

Amiens can be located in the north of France, in the Hauts-de-France region and the team are two times French champions, coming top of the pile in 1999 and 2004.

Last season, they finished third in Ligue Magnus and went out of the play-offs at the semi final stage, going out to eventual winners Grenoble, losing 4-0 in a best of seven series.

Amiens come into the weekend on the back of a heavy 7-2 loss to Angers on Tuesday night, but before that had won six of their previous seven, including a thumping 14-1 rout of Reims.

HEAD COACH: Mario Richer (54 years old, Canada)

Amiens’ coach took over in 2016 from American Barry Smith and has made gradual progress with the team, winning the French Cup with them last season.

He coached in a variety of teams in the QMJHL before striking out and getting an opportunity with Salzburg in EBEL, where he stayed in post from 2009 till 2011.

Richer then spent two and a half years at Graz 99ers, but was replaced mid season and took on the role at Italian side Val Pusteria, where he won the Italian Super Cup in 2014/15.

He was voted French coach of the year in 2018 and will hope to lead them to the final group, emulating fellow Ligue Magnus sides, Rouen and Grenoble, who have done the same.

CONTINENTAL CUP RECORD:

1998/99 – 1st Group Stage

2003/04 – 1st Group Stage

2004-05 – 1st Group Stage

PLAYER SWAP:

Kevin Bergin (Panthers 2007-10; Amiens 2010-13)

Mathieu Brisebois (Amiens 2016-17; Panthers 2017-18)

TOP SCORER SO FAR:

Phillipe Halley (27 years old)

The Canadian, in his third year at Amiens, leads the way with points, picking up 25 in his 15 league games so far this season and could certainly be one to watch.  Overall, his stats in France are good, with 48 goals and 63 assists in 121 appearances.

PREVIOUS CONTINENTAL CUP MEETING:

2004-05: Gothiques D’Amiens 1 Nottingham Panthers 3 (Konstantin Kalmikov SH, John Craighead (2, 1 x PP)

Ferencvarosi (in green) came through the previous round to earn their spot in Denmark (PHOTO: Ritten Sport)

Saturday: Ferencvarosi TC (Hungary) – Face off 3pm

Ferencvaros is the ninth district in the city of Budapest and the team itself come in as champions after winning the Erste Liga last season, their first since 1997.

The club itself are under the umbrella of a larger sporting organisation, including men’s and women’s football teams, handball and water polo.

Coming into the weekend, they beat DAB 3-2 after overtime for their second straight win.  Prior to that, they lost their previous two, which ended a seven-game winning run and are currently second in the standings.

HEAD COACH – Szabolcs Fodor (40 years old, Hungary)

Ferencvarosi’s coach is in his third season in charge and very much a hero figure after leading the club to their first title in 22 years last season.

He’s a former player as well and spent his entire playing career in his native Hungary, playing for Ferencvaros between 1998 and 2002.

Fodor has previously been in charge of MAC Budapest’s Under 20 side and was assistant coach of Hungary’s national team, who just avoided relegation in World Championship Division 1A.

As a player, he was a three-time Hungarian champion so knows the game there like the back of his hand.  The Continental Cup will be a new challenge for him.

CONTINENTAL CUP RECORD:

1997/98 – 1st Group Stage

2000/01 – Preliminary Round

PLAYER SWAP:

None

TOP SCORER SO FAR:

Gergö Nagy (30 years old)

The Hungarian international is in his second season with the club and has continued from where he left off last year, when he scored 92 points in 72 games across the regular season and the play-offs.

So far, he’s got 25 (11+14) in 18 appearances so far and could be a danger man for Ferencvaros and already has 1+2 in the Continental Cup from the previous round.

PREVIOUS CONTINENTAL CUP MEETING:

None

SønderjyskE are hosting the Continental Cup weekend this week (PHOTO: SønderjyskE)

Sunday – SønderjyskE (Denmark) – Face off 5.30pm

The hosts are based in Vojens, at the southern most part of Jutland and has a population of around 7,500 and will welcome fans from France, Hungary and the UK for this weekend.

SønderjyskE finished second in the Metal Ligaen and ended the season as runners-up, losing to Rungsted in the final after finishing behind them in the regular standings too.

This season has proved to be tricky, with inconsistent form blighting the campaign so far as they currently sit mid-table, but did win 2-0 on Tuesday against Odense Bulldogs, their first success in four games,

HEAD COACH: Mario Simioni (56 years old, Canada/Italy)

The name may be familiar to older Cardiff Devils fans as he played for them in 1998/99 in the old Super League, but in many ways, was not a successful year for them.

As a coach, he’s stayed primarily in Denmark and is in his second season of his second spell at SønderjyskE, where he’s a four-time champion previously with the club between 2005 and 2013.

Simioni replaced another face familiar to British fans in Dan Ceman, who coached the team for just under five years before he moved on to Slovakia.

The Continental Cup is not new for the experienced coach, who was in charge when they last played Panthers in this competition, back in the 2006/07 season.

CONTINENTAL CUP RECORD:

2006/07 – 1st Group Stage

2010/11 – Bronze Medal

2013/14 – 3rd Group Stage

PLAYER SWAP:

Dan Ceman (Panthers 2005/06; SønderjyskE 2006-10, 2013-18 (as coach))

Patrick Galbraith (SønderjyskE 2004-09; Panthers 2017/18; SønderjyskE 2018 – present)

Brendan Cook (Panthers 2008/09; SønderjyskE 2011/12)

Kevin Henderson (SønderjyskE 2017/18; Panthers 2018/19)

TOP SCORER SO FAR:

Mike Little (32 years old)

Amazingly, this SønderjyskE defenceman leads the way in terms of scoring with 16 points, although has only four goals to his name so far.

Team-mate Josh MacDonald has eight goals, but only two assists, but Little’s prowess, particularly in setting up chances could be key as SønderjyskE look to get ahead of their visitors this weekend.

Little has been on something of a streak with nine points in each of his last nine games, so coach Simoni could be looking to him to shake things up in their opponent’s defensive lines.

Interestingly, Little got 19 points in 40 games all season for previous club, Kassel Huskies so could reach and breach that figure this weekend.

PREVIOUS CONTINENTAL CUP MEETING:

2006-07: SønderjyskE 4 Nottingham Panthers 2 (Sean McAslan, David Clarke)

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