Wide Open?

After Panthers stunning 4-0 victory in Belfast and a huge match-up to come against Braehead tomorrow, Jono Bullard examines if the title race is as clear cut as some may think

I’m still on a bit of a euphoric high after watching Panthers dismantle the Belfast Giants last night in a superb victory at the Odyssey Arena. Thing is this article could become mute at around 6.30pm tomorrow, however I’ll take the risk!

Thing is, the performance in Belfast was probably the most complete I’ve seen from this Panthers side all season, we dominated every area of the ice for 60 minutes and The Giants, a quality side themselves, had no answer. Granted, it seemed that several Giants players took the night off but we looked so balanced throughout every area of the team. So many players could have taken the man of the match award in last night’s game:

  • Craig Kowalski – Another shut-out for K-Wall and a commanding performance in net. It is now 134 minutes & 58 seconds since Kowalski last conceded a goal.
  • Colby Cohen – Was given the man of the match on his league debut for Panthers. Logged a lot of minutes and looked incredibly assured and calm when he was on the puck. For me he added more steel to an already strong defence.
  • Guillaume Doucet – Finished the game with figures of 2+1 to take his overall figures to 4+4 in just 5 games for the Panthers. We said on the Podcast that we were lacking a sniper and Doucet has now fulfilled this role with aplomb. An incredible signing at this stage of the season.
  • Robert Farmer – We have been extolling the virtues of Farmer for several weeks now and his 1+3 performance in Belfast was nothing short of outstanding. Personally I would have given him man of the match for his performance and in my opinion I believe he is currently the best British player in the Elite League.

After such a commanding performance it now becomes imperative that Panthers take a regulation time win against the Clan. Thanks to the showing in Belfast I’m very confident we can do it, but I think we also have the advantage from a days rest and the Clan having to travel down for a 4pm face-off after playing against Edinburgh at home tonight.

The Clan should beat the Caps tonight and come to the NIC tomorrow with a 5 point advantage over Panthers. A Cardiff victory in Hull will see them leapfrog above Panthers, as would a Giants victory over Fife. Sheffield, I believe, are out of it. Out of the challengers to the Clan I feel that Panthers & Cardiff are the best equipped squads to make a charge for the title, the Giants are just too inconsistent and another defeat this weekend would probably see them out of it as well.

Braehead are the favourites for the league, there’s absolutely no doubt about that, however I do believe that they can be caught and I also believe that we are a team that can catch them. It is going to be a fascinating run-in for the Elite League crown.

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