The Monday After: Potential kingmakers

Guildford Flames opted out the Elite Series, but have no regrets about that decision (PHOTO: John Uwins)

Potential kingmakers

We’re in the final five weeks of the season and after the weekend, we’re still closer to knowing who will win the league or who will end up in the play-offs.  But Guildford Flames could hold the key to it all.

Paul Dixon’s side are in sixth place and sit 12 points away from the top spot and 13 points away from the play-off scrap so their season will come down to the play-offs.

However, their remaining fixtures sees them potential playing a huge part in how both the Elite League title and the race of the play-offs shapes up in the final weeks.

Of the other nine teams they can play in the run-in, they’ll take on eight of them starting next week in a weekend that could be key for their opponents.

They start with a double header in Belfast against a side who suffered a setback in their own title aspirations with one point from the two games just gone, losing to Manchester Storm then Sheffield Steelers.

It’s important to note Guildford have never won in Northern Ireland since joining the EIHL and would be the hell of a time to turn that record around.

From there, it’s back home next Sunday to take on the Steelers and it’s one they’ve done well in, winning seven of their last eight at home.  What effect would that have on the title race?

Guildford coach Paul Dixon and his team could play a big part in how the regular season concludes (PHOTO: Scott Wiggins)

The following week, it’s off to Nottingham and a venue where it’s relatively 50/50 and could go either way depending on what the form book is like.

Then, on 14th March, it’s an away trip to Cardiff and another place where the Flames haven’t had too good a record in recent times.  But they have won there and as we’ve seen, anything’s possible.

From there, Guildford turn their attentions to the teams fighting for their lives and scrapping for the play-off spots.  In the final couple of weeks – and again depending on how intervening results go – the Flames host Glasgow twice and Dundee while travel to Manchester as the regular season reaches its climax.

It’s fair to say a lot of the other teams and their fans will be looking to the Flames to help them out with a favour or two and we start to get an idea of how this crazy, crazy campaign will climax.

For Dixon, he won’t bother too much about that as he looks to cement a position as high up the table as they can and set themselves up for a decent draw in the play-off quarter finals.

However, the secret part of the Guildford coach may look at this and enjoy the fact his team are going to be everyone’s second favourite in the weeks to come.

Whatever way you look at it, the destiny of all teams could be affected by how Guildford Flames do in the coming weeks and have the power to crown the title winners and who will make it or miss out.

Interesting times ahead.

Glasgow Clan’s latest defeat has left their play-off hopes in a precarious position (PHOTO: Al Goold)

Clan slump continues to worry

You have to give immense credit to Manchester Storm, Dundee Stars and Fife Flyers for the performances and results they’ve given as the race for the play-offs could go right to the wire,

However, the slump of Glasgow Clan has to be a worry going into the final month of regular season games and a team who are playing with very little or no confidence and that’s in the words of their coach, Zack Fitzgerald.

The fact that Fife picked up a four-point weekend, particularly Saturday’s success over Dundee Stars means Clan are just on the right side of the black line.  And I mean just.

Two games this weekend with the Storm, one at home and one away, look set to be pivotal in how the top eight ends up, but Glasgow can’t afford any more slip ups.

The added subplot of Ryan Finnerty going back to his old team and all that goes with that adds to the drama of this fixture, not to mention the motivation of having missed the play-offs last season.

This fight is for from over and on current form, it’s the Clan fans who’ll be the most worried unless they can find the spark that’s worryingly gone missing in recent weeks.

We are all David Ayers

I’ve just been on Talksport 2 as I write this, discussing emergency Carolina Hurricanes goalie David Ayers and his magnificent story of making his NHL debut at the age of 42.

If you haven’t seen this, injuries to the ‘Canes two goalies, James Reimer and Petr Mrazek meant Ayers was put between the pipes as an emergency stand-in and helped them to a 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It’s the stuff of dreams and while the sporting world will talk of Tyson Fury and his success on Saturday – and rightly so, it must be said – Ayers’ elevation to the NHL in quite an unusual circumstance was creating a buzz as well.

So for all the zamboni drivers out there, like Ayers, there’s hope for you out there as well as those of us at the age of 42 still to realise our sporting potential.

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