The Race for the Title – 26th January

This weeks title race update and preview of this weeks games. Last week I got all the predictions spot on, let’s see if I can do the same this week. (Maybe I’m a magical soothsayer! I predict Steelers will lose all their remaining games and then fall into bankruptcy! C’mon, a man can dream can’t he?)

1st – Sheffield Steelers – 65 points 

Results: 21st January – Belfast (A) – W 2-1; 24th January – Edinburgh (A) – W 4-0;  25th January – Edinburgh (A) – W 5-2 Points gained 6; Points lost 0.

League Fixtures: 31st January – Edinburgh (H); 1st February – Coventry (A). TCW prediction – one win, one loss. Games remaining: 15

Steelers continued their relentless mach to the title with another perfect week. A potentially tricky visit to challengers Belfast Giants was won thanks to a powerplay three minutes from the end in which Ryan Finnerty converted. What could have been a tough weekend double header in Edinburgh never materialised as Steelers skated to two victories by an aggregate score of 9-2. They face the Capitals again on Saturday in what should be another victory before they face a trip to the Skydome on Sunday. With three games in hand, the Blaze probably represent the most realistic chance of catching the Steelers. Should be a cracker!

2nd – Coventry Blaze – 55 points

Results: 24th January – Manchester (H) – W 7-6; 25th January – Nottingham (A) – W 3-1. Points gained 4; Points lost 0.

League Fixtures: 31st January – Hull (A); 1st February – Sheffield (H). TCW prediction – two wins. Games remaining: 18

After snatching victory against Manchester from not only the jaws of defeat but perhaps the throat, windpipe & stomach of defeat as well, plus a superb win at the NIC on Sunday has put Blaze as the most likely challengers to the Steelers for the title. With three must win games in hand the Blaze must win on Sunday night. Steelers are due a loss, I think Blaze will inflict it upon them.

3rd – Belfast Giants – 55 points

Results: 21st January – Sheffield (H) – L 1-2; 24th January – Basingstoke (H) – W 5-4; 25th January – Basingstoke (A) – W 7-1. Points gained 4; Points lost 2.

League Fixtures: 3oth January & 31st January- Newcastle (H). TCW prediction – two wins. Games remaining: 17

Defeat against the Steelers has probably ended Belfast’s title chances. Even if they were to win their two games in hand, they would still be six points behind. The weekend saw the Giants face Basingstoke in a home and away series, after struggling to win in overtime on Saturday in Belfast, the Giants won easily on Sunday night in Hampshire 7-1. Another double header for the Giants this weekend with two home games against Newcastle. Rushton v Payette is almost guaranteed, pity they don’t have that on Bwin!

4th – Nottingham Panthers – 54 points

Results: 24th January – Cardiff (A) – W 5-3; 25th January – Coventry (H) – L 1-3 Points gained 2; Points lost 2.

League Fixtures: 31st January – Manchester (H); 1st February – Manchester (A). TCW prediction – two wins. Games remaining: 16

Panthers have finally reverted to type, but the dream lasted longer than most of the previous 53 years, 1994/1995 excepted.  Two consecutive two point weekends have finally put a nail in the league title coffin. However, there is still much to play for, not least a piece of silverware in April and that must be the focus now. After a superb win in Cardiff on Saturday, Panthers disappointed against Blaze the following night. This weekend coming sees a home & away series against the Phoenix. Nothing more than two wins will do.

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