Preview: Elite League Play-off ties set

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It’s that time of year again where we see who can claim the title of Elite League Play-off Champions.

With an entertaining regular season having just come to a close, the seedings of each tie are now known.

The ties are as follows:

Belfast Giants (1st) vs Coventry Blaze (8th)

Sheffield Steelers (2nd) vs Dundee Stars (7th)

Cardiff Devils (3rd) vs Glasgow Clan (6th)

Nottingham Panthers (4th) vs Guildford Flames (5th)

Related: Elite League Playoff Bracket Set

Did not qualify:

Manchester Storm (9th)

Fife Flyers (10th)

There are some very competitive ties on offer for the neutral spectators and for fans of any side to get excited about.

Writers’ Predictions

Max:

For me, the tie to watch will be the mid-table clash between Nottingham and Guildford.

Other play-offs have shown the fourth versus fifth clash is often the most competitive clash as the teams are similar in quality.

Also, both teams have not had strong seasons and only performed well on occasion.

Ultimately, I’d expect Nottingham to come out on top in that series, but that’s not to say Guildford couldn’t cause them any issues.

Either way it’s going to be a close tie and one to keep your eye on!

Something else to watch is Glasgow Clan, they’ve shown real promise at times this season and missed out on a higher finish by two points.

That being said, they’ve only beaten Cardiff once in the league and lost the other five times, so it’ll be an uphill battle for Malcolm Cameron’s side.

In terms of the other two ties I’d expect Belfast to cruise past Coventry, no disrespect to Danny Stewart’s side but the Giants have been fantastic this season.

Scott Conway will be buoyed with his Team GB call-up earlier this week for the Worlds so should be in fine form.

I’d expect similar from Sheffield too, a few of their players received GB call-ups, rightly so.

Dundee have been bright this season, like their fellow Scots, but just haven’t had that cutting edge to seal games out.

I’d like to say it’ll be the top four seeds through to finals weekend, but I have a feeling all won’t go as planned for the top seeded sides.

Luke:

Hockey is an incredibly random sport, especially during the postseason. As a result, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of puck luck heading into this year’s playoffs.

While the Belfast Giants look like overwhelming favourites versus the Coventry Blaze, there’s potential for an upset in round-one. Luke Ferrara, a surprise exclusion from Pete Russell’s Team GB squad, leads the Elite League in powerplay markers (12) and will be hungry to make his presence known in the playoffs.

Could Omar Pacha’s Dundee Stars stun the Sheffield Steelers in the first round? Sure. Charlie Combs ended the regular season on a tear and shows no signs of slowing down.

Cardiff’s quarter-final meeting with Glasgow also carries plenty of spice, although the head coachless Devils remain sizeable favourites.

However, it’s the battle between the Elite League’s fourth and fifth seeds that I’m most excited for. Nottingham versus Guildford is a complete tossup – one likely to be determined by goaltending.

As a result, my eyes are fixed on Will Kerlin and James Downie heading into the playoffs. Will the Panthers get the netminding they need to reach the final four? We’ll soon know for sure.

Team Form

Belfast:

The Giants go into this as favourites, Adam Keefe’s side have already won the Challenge Cup and the league title.

Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe celebrates winning the 2021-22 Elite League title (Image: Dean Woolley)
Belfast Giants head coach Adam Keefe celebrates winning the 2021-22 Elite League title (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

They also come into these games on the back of eight consecutive league victories, making them the in-form side.

They won all three of their games against Sheffield to round out the season, so have shown they have the bottle.

Sheffield:

They started the season strongly and it looked like Aaron Fox’s side were going to win the league.

Aaron Fox's Sheffield Steelers are neck and neck with the Belfast Giants in the Elite League's title race (Image: Dean Woolley)
Aaron Fox’s Sheffield Steelers went neck and neck with the Belfast Giants in the Elite League’s title race (PHOTO: Dean Woolley)

They let themselves down a little towards the back end of the season though, losing four of their last five games.

This included a loss to Glasgow Clan where they were shutout by the Scottish outfit.

Dundee shouldn’t prove too much of a threat to them, but you never know.

Cardiff Devils:

A very up and down season took a nasty turn as Jarrod Skalde left his post as Head Coach a couple of weeks ago.

Jarrod Skalde will exit the club effective immediately (PHOTO: Dave Williams)

They made the Challenge Cup final under the Canadian and pushed for the league title, ultimately falling short in both competitions.

Glasgow have proven a threat to big sides and with Cameron signing a new deal recently they could cause an upset.

Nottingham:

Another side plagued by inconsistency, on their day they’re extremely capable.

After Tim Wallace’s dismissal fans lost a bit of faith in the team, but they’ve done alright for themselves since then.

Former Nottingham Head Coach Tim Wallace whilst at the club  (PHOTO: Panthers Images)

Mark Matheson and his cohort have proved they can hold their nerve and have managed a respectable fourth-placed finish under trying circumstances.

Guildford are no mugs though so their tie could prove very hard for both teams.

Guildford:

Another team who probably deserve their position, they’ve been entertaining and provided their fans with a lot to cheer about.

Guildford coach Paul Dixon (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

There’s not too much to say here other than they definitely have a chance at making it to the final four.

Paul Dixon will be hoping to nab a third and fourth win in a row over the Panthers after having lost their first four encounters of the regular season.

Glasgow Clan:

Lead by the charismatic Cameron it’s hard to call what these guys will produce.

Glasgow Clan Head Coach Malcolm Cameron first signing for the Clan (PHOTO: Glasgow Clan)

Some great results have been marred by poor performances, with the franchise also facing off-ice difficulties during the pandemic.

Things seem to be back on track with Cameron’s new deal committing him for next season.

I’d fancy them to cause an upset but their form versus Cardiff isn’t anything to shout about…yet.

Dundee:

Omar Pacha’s done remarkably well to see his side finish in seventh.

Dundee Stars Head Coach Omar Pacha (PHOTO: Helen Brabon)

It wasn’t the greatest of starts to the season for the Stars but they picked it up after covid restrictions lifted and have impressed.

Some big wins over Fife and Nottingham have shown they can score goals though.

Coventry:

It’s surprising they finished this low as they seemed to be in the mid-table tussle.

Danny Stewart’s side suffered some unfortunate losses towards the end of the season and fell of a little bit.

Coventry Blaze coach Danny Stewart (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

This isn’t to say they won’t be competitive, but they haven’t beaten Belfast in the league this season.

Nevertheless, nothing is set in stone and stats don’t mean everything, so Belfast can’t afford to let their guard down.

The ties are set to take place this weekend on the 23rd-24th April and then we’ll know our final four.

The Play-off Finals Weekend will be played at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham on the 30th of April and 1st of May.

For more on this or anything else visit our Twitter @BritIceHockey.

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