8 has now become 4, and the season is reaching its climax! I think I did pretty well with my predictions for the quarters! 3 out of the 4 correct with my heart ruling my head on the Phoenix v Panthers result!
So the league champions Sheffield made it through relatively unscathed against the Capitals. This tie was more or less dead and buried at Ice Sheffield Friday night when the Steelers ran out 8-2 winners. An already tough situation was made worse for the Caps in their return game in Edinburgh. However the Caps were not to be outdone on home ice and won their last game of the season by the score of 5-4.
Now onto my beloved Phoenix, the army travelled over to Nottingham Saturday night with some Steeler/Bison and Hull fans in attendance too! My thoughts on this game were, keep it close and we have a chance! Well for two period we did! Going into the third and the scores were level at 3-3. However the Phoenix March Madness™ took its toll and the team ran out of steam. At the end of the first leg the Panthers were in front 6-3. So a difficult second leg was made worse, but all the Phoenix needed to do was to win each period by a clear goal to go to OT. At the end of the first it was going to plan and the Phoenix lead 1-0. The second was to be our downfall, a lucky bounce for the Panthers left Murphy stranded out his net with the puck on a Panthers stick in front of an empty net. A second goal squeeze through Murphy’s pads more or less sealed the tie. The Phoenix looked downhearted and exhausted. But the boys kept fighting and won the final period 1-0. Loosing the game on the night 3-2 and tie 9-5 overall. I think the relevant statistic for the end to our season is this – For the month of March 15 games in 27 nights!!!!
Next up was Coventry versus Newcastle, if you remember from my quarterfinal preview post I said this one was possibly the easiest to predict. But how I was wrong, this tie goes to show nothing is easy and league placement counts for nowt come playoff time! The Vipers travelled to Coventry Saturday night and scared the bejeebuz out of the Blaze to get a 2-2 tie. So off to Newcastle with everything to play for! It looked to be going the way of the Vipers in the second leg, then with 2min 20sec left on the clock Sylvian Deschatelets scored the go ahead goal for the Blaze and Barrie Moore scored the empty netter. I fancied the Vipers to get a result after the first leg, but the Blaze obviously dug deep and ground out the win.
Finally was Belfast versus Cardiff, this was probably the tie where one of the top 4 was going to come into trouble. It looked almost a done deal after the first when the Devils skated out of Belfast with a 2-1 lead. This was to prove vital as an epic game in the big blue tent. The Giants managed to fight back and tie the game. Then with 59sec left on the clock the numpty that is Bobby Robins took a penalty. Powerplay to the Devils going in to OT, and who else but Brad Voth scored the winner for Cardiff at 60min 33sec to send the Devils to Nottingham!
So for yours truly another weekend of heartbreak, another great game at the Dome with a big crowd. A big shout out to the travelling Panthers support, probably the biggest away crowd this season. This will now leave me to enjoy the finals weekend, and not having to worry about my teams chances in the final. I always think its nice to enjoy the weekend with no worries about my team. But this season more than any, it’s a case of what could have been! But never mind, onto my semi final predictions and maybe a couple of final predictions too!
Sheffield Steelers vs Cardiff Devils
The Steelers have obviously switched back on for the playoffs, after a potentially tricky tie against the Capitals was pretty much over after the first leg, the Steelers will want to carry on that devastating form into finals weekend. With a large support behind them in the NIC they will fancy a spot in the final. Standing in their way will be the Devils, who came through a great tie against the Giants. The Devils have to fancy their chances, they are playing well and will ‘probably’ have the support of most of the arena against the Seelers. Ill be throwing my support behind them if I can be bothered. If they promise to silence that stupid drummer ill be behind them 100%!
Who will win: My feelings on this are much the same as mine on the Phoenix chances against the Panthers. I want the Devils to win, on behalf of the ‘Little Six’™ and to show the ‘Big four’™ they cant have it all their own way. However with my head switched on, I can see the Steelers winning this. They have shown a ruthless efficiency in winning games this year and have such strength in depth. After missing out last year they will want to win this one! So ill go for a Steeler win in this one.
Nottingham Panthers vs Coventry Blaze
This game will depend on two things, will either team turn up? Its an evenly matched tie, either team can win it. I do worry about the Blaze, they are no longer the dominating force they once were. Plus they were very disappointing in the finals last year. The Panthers can beat any team with ease, however if you knock them early they can wobble and are easily beaten.
Who will win: To stick two fingers up at Elite Towers I hope the Panthers don’t make it to the final. But the Panthers are on home ice, with a huge support, there will be an air of expectation. I fancy this game going the distance and maybe all the way to penalty shots. As to who will win, well that’s a toughie! If the Blaze hit top form they will beat the Panthers, but im pluming for a Panther win on home ice. Sorry Paul, but you’ll have my support of the Blaze in this one!
I think ive listed all possible final permutations, if ive missed one out let me know!
Sheffield versus Nottingham
This is the final Elite towers will be dreaming about! The self-proclaimed ‘biggest rivalry in Europe’. What a load of dogs danglies in my opinion, this final has equal opportunity to go two ways. Live up to the hype and be an awesome final of intense end-to-end action or, turn into a bore fest. With 8 sets of fans quickly loosing interest and starting their own chants and Mexican waves! As for who will win, either team can, however im going for a Steeler win, even though I don’t want them too! Every thing about this Steeler team points to one that is unstoppable at the moment! The famous quote applies more than ever to the team from Sheffield: ‘Offence wins games, defence wins championships’. I think in a final the Steelers will be too strong for the Panthers, however the Panthers will have my support, and could win on home ice!
Sheffield versus Coventry Blaze
Much like their semi-final this game will depend on which Blaze team turn up! They still have quality players who can win games on their own. But they will be coming up against a team with such strength in depth! My support would be with the Blaze but again my head says the Steelers would win through.
Nottingham versus Cardiff
An interesting game to call, the Devils so far have flattered to deceive at finals weekend, having always been the bridesmaids. Will this year be the time they take the cup? I think they have a chance, the type of game the Devils play will needle the Panthers and if they run into penalty trouble the Devils will win it. Plus the Devils will have the large Steeler support behind them and much of the rest of the arena. Im going to stick my head out and go for a Cardiff win in this one!
Coventry versus Sheffield
A clash of two of the most skilful teams in the league, the once dominant Blaze against the currently dominating Steeler machine. The Blaze are another team, like the Devils, who never seem to click on finals weekend. If they do they can match the Steelers and take the game, but anything less than 100% will cost the Blaze the cup! As for a winner, ill go for the Steelers…..just!
Coventry versus Cardiff
This is a final id like to see, and, probably, most of the ‘Little Six’™. If this were to happen I predict a massive coronary at Elite Towers! I really think this could give us the most entertaining final of all the possibilities. The Blaze bring the free flowing skill and the Devils bring the gritty determined work effort. I wouldn’t mind either team winning, as each has had many attempts at it! However as for a winner, ill go for the Blaze!
Phew, sorry for the long post, if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading! I hope you liked it! As mentioned, if you cant make it to Nottingham, keep an eye on the blogs to the right as there will be many that are updating through the weekend. Sadly due to technology issues (ie. I don’t have a laptop) The Angry Budgie will not get updated until next week. However I do plan a fairly in dept review of the weekend, including pics and videos.
I don’t plan on posting again before the weekend (though you never know!) so ill sign off for now! Im off to Nottingham Friday morning, then returning next Monday morning. So for those fans attending the weekends fun and frolics have fun and wave at the Phoenix block. You never know I may wave back! For those who cant make it, keep an eye on the blogs, and remember, support your local team!!