GET THE POPCORN
If we thought we’d seen it all in this Elite League title race, then we were very much mistaken as the destination of the trophy is still unclear going into the last weekend of the regular season.
On Friday, when Belfast Giants lost 5-2 at Manchester Storm, a good majority thought that was it. It was Cardiff Devils’ now and the rest of the games were a mere formality.
Devils then shutout the Storm the following night, winning 4-0 and opened a six-point gap with Adam Keefe’s men watching, almost helplessly, rueing what had happened in Altrincham the night before.
Just when we thought it would be a simple procession, along come Dundee Stars, fighting for their own play-off lives to take an unexpected 3-1 win over the Devils and suddenly, the Giants were back in play, helped by their own 5-1 success over Sheffield Steelers.
If they win in Coventry on Wednesday, the gap is shut down to two points with two games to play this weekend and as outsiders, we get the nerve-jangling finale to the season we hoped for.
The pain on Andrew Lord’s face was clear when he summed Sunday’s game up and if Keefe and his team are to somehow snatch this title away from Cardiff, then they should remember to send a case of something to Omar Pacha and Dundee for their part in it.
We’ve known for some time it was going to be between these two. The two most consistent teams in the league by far and for it to be going to the wire in the manner it has deserves more column inches and air time than what it will get.
The excitement of this shouldn’t be understated and every point, every hit, every play will mean everything in the final games for these two.
If that isn’t breathless enough, you’ve now got three teams tussling it out for the final play-off spot down the other end, with two points between Storm, Coventry Blaze and Stars.
Most, if not all coaches, have talked up the quality of this league and they haven’t been wrong. When there’s so much at stake in these final games is phenomenal advert for the sport in this country.
Unless you’re a fan of any these teams with something to play for in the final weekend, it’s going to make for great watching as the most dramatic chapter of the season could prove to be the best one yet.
We can’t wait.
POSSIBLE CHANGE FOR SNL SHOULD BE WELCOMED
One scoreline that leapt out across the country was Murrayfield Racers making their way into the SNL play-offs with a 30-0 (that’s not a typo) win over Solway Stingrays.
In my old days as a press officer for the SNL, I began a hashtag to try and promote it #TrytheSNL as a way of trying to get fans in Scotland along to their local teams if their Elite teams weren’t playing or were away from home.
Some comments made in using the hashtag to bash the SNL with are disappointing when you consider they are amateur players and scorelines like this happen from time to time.
But the announcement from the SNL chairman David Hand that they are looking at ways to freshen the league can only be a good thing.
He told Edinburgh Evening News: “We’ve had a few meetings with the clubs and my committee already this year looking to see what we can do in the future.
“Next week we’ll be announcing a new team that will be joining the league, which brings us back up to ten teams again and this will hopefully rejuvenate the league a wee bit.
“I feel the top six teams can play each other comfortably week in week out, but the others have a bit less ability and it’s difficult for them. It’s definitely something we’ll look at in the summer to see if we can make these games a lot closer.”
Let’s hope the changes work out in the long run.
STRACHAN FOR PANTHERS?
After Saturday’s 4-0 result over Glasgow Clan, I wondered if Rick Strachan will at least be involved in the conversation when it comes to selecting a new Nottingham Panthers coach.
With third place secured and finally getting a tune out of his players after a slow start, he’s turned it around quite well as they head into the play-offs.
For me, he’s worth taking a punt on. After all, he knows the set-up much more than anyone, but it could be that winning the play-offs may be the only thing that will put him in serious contention.
You would hope not and as the possibility of another season of transition may beckon, ‘Strachs’ could be just the man for the job at the Panthers.