FLAMES ON FIRE
Not long after this blog began, we spoke about Guildford Flames and how no-one was talking about them. Nearly three months on, they are now.
Flames have enjoyed an amazing week where they clinched a place in the Challenge Cup Final then went on to win the Patton Conference – their first Elite League honour.
At the times, I wrote this: “Whatever Paul Dixon does at the Spectrum, you have to hope there will be some success or even silverware somewhere down the line and let’s face it, there’s a decent argument for it.”
This has proved to be and the Flames fans can look ahead to big day in Cardiff next month when they go head to head with a chance to claim the Challenge Cup. What an achievement that would be.
I wanted to know what has been an underlying factor behind what’s happened with Flames in the last couple of years that’s seen them transition into the Elite League almost seamlessly.
After putting out such a question on Twitter, I had the usual cynical suggestions of money as the reason behind it. Without knowing the sort of figures Guildford deal, it could well be true.
But the money, while helping to attract players, doesn’t coach or score 60-70 points a season.
Some of the words that came back to me were “chemistry”, “team speed”, “playing for the front of the shirt”, “coaching” and “passion”.
Paul Dixon’s commitment to the club was also commended as well and it’s fair to say his importance in all this shouldn’t be understated.
Flames, when making the step up, could have given Dixon a new role within the club or moved him on and gone with a North American coach when they made the step up.
What’s clear is that was never going to happen. He was their man and they had total belief he could take Guildford to the next level. And he has. And more.
The final in Cardiff will be on the back burner for the next three weeks until that day comes and there are plenty of obstacles to face in their league campaign as they look to finish as high as they can.
The Patton Conference is in the bag so that’s one less thing to have to worry about. It’s all about points and taking four of them from Manchester Storm, who won the Conference last year, was significant after their success against Nottingham Panthers during the week.
So I’ll finish this part with how I finished the blog on Guildford I wrote previously.
“So why can’t they go on and claim a trophy? They’ve got the players to do and a Challenge Cup final with the Giants will hold no fear for them.
“It’s been one hell of a ride for the Flames and their fans so far. Can they bother the so-called top teams and challenge for the big prizes? This writer would love to see them do it, that’s for sure.”
THE BIGGEST WEEKEND OF THE SEASON?
One of the key couple of games of the 2018/19 season will take place this weekend when Cardiff Devils head to Belfast Giants for a double header which might – or might not – decide where the Elite League championship is going.
Belfast will be glad to be at home considering their 5-0 loss in Glasgow made it six defeats in seven on the road on Sunday and they have an impressive domestic record of two losses in 17 and undefeated in their last 10 in the Elite League since the turn of the year.
The Devils are three points ahead with only three losses in 17 and have been scoring plenty of goals recently so these two games have the makings of being classics.
While the only outcome could see a potential title winner is Cardiff wins over both nights to open up a seven point gap, anything else will keep things ticking over as we head into the final few weeks of the regular season.
As a neutral, we can only hope we can see this thrilling battle go the distance before the champion is crowned. As for games in their own right, let’s hope for two massive adverts for the Elite League.
SIMMSEY AND FRIENDS RIDE AGAIN
As if two mammoth walks aren’t enough, Dave Simms, Dean Woolley, Eliott Hall and Neil Edwards are doing it all again for another great cause.
Former Sheffield Steelers man Mark Thomas, now coaching with Manchester Storm’s junior set-up and Storm owner Jamie Tunstall are joining them to raise funds for Prevent Breast Cancer and for Vicki Thomas, Mark’s wife, who was recently treated for it.
They’re going from Sheffield to Manchester, starting at 7am on Saturday and aim to reach Manchester by the end of the game between Steelers and Storm on Sunday and the only break coming to cover the Steelers home game on Saturday night. That’s 50 miles, no breaks.
Whether you like Simmsey or not, you can’t argue with the power of good he does for the sport and things like this remind us why there are more important things to life than ice hockey.
Check out their Just Giving page with all the info here and if you can chuck a few quid their way, the lads will certainly appreciate it.
Good luck, chaps!