The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2019/20 season

Sheffield Steelers won the last Challenge Cup in March 2020 (PHOTO: Dave Williams)

The Elite League’s decision to cancel the rest of the season due to the coronavirus outbreak brought a premature end to the action at the top end of the sport in the UK.

Leagues lower down the scale are expected to follow suit over the coming days, with the English Ice Hockey Association and Scottish Ice Hockey scheduled to hold talks about their competitions.

With the likelihood that UK ice hockey is set for a complete lockdown, this seems like a good point to reflect on the 2019/20 campaign.

We assess some of the teams who have impressed us this year and look at others who have failed to shine in their respective leagues.

Stewart has worked miracles at Coventry

Cardiff Devils were favourites at to win the Elite League at the start of the campaign and held top spot when the competition was cancelled.

However, while the Devils can be pleased with their season the most notable achievement has been Coventry Blaze’s rise up the table.

Coventry’s loyalty towards head coach Danny Stewart was richly rewarded as he guided Blaze up to third in the standings.

Stewart has come in for plenty of criticism over the past few seasons, but his team’s performances have been the perfect answer to his detractors.

Tigers deserving National League champions

Telford Tigers have had plenty of ups and downs over the past few years, with off-ice issues often clouding the team’s efforts on the ice.

The club’s reputation took a major hit under the ownership of Wayne Scholes, leaving many people believing that their successes at that time were tainted.

The same cannot be said for the current regime and the Tigers fully deserved to clinch this season’s National League title.

Head coach Tom Watkins has done a superb job this term and Telford are fully expected to be the team to beat next time around.

Moralee big guns fail to deliver

Whitley Warriors swept to the title in NIHL North, although their cause was helped by two of the league’s biggest clubs failing to perform.

It is not that long ago that Billingham Stars and Blackburn Hawks were riding high in the north, but both clubs endured disappointing campaigns.

With a batch of promising youngsters coming through the system, Billingham appear well-placed to improve their standing next season.

By contrast, the situation at Blackburn looks pretty dire and the club appears to be in need of a massive overhaul from top to bottom.

Murrayfield on the rise in Scotland

Murrayfield Racers returned to the UK ice hockey scene less than two years ago, but the club has already won plenty of silverware.

Their victory over Whitley in the final of the NIHL North Cup during February was thoroughly deserved and highlighted the progress they have made.

Having impressed both on and off the ice over the past couple of seasons, the Racers look capable of plying their trade at a higher level.

Whether the set-up next season affords them the opportunity remains to be seen, but it is something that needs to happen for the good of the sport in Scotland.

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