The DEL2’s Fischtown Pinguins and PHL’s KH Sanok have advanced to the third round of the Continental Cup following their respective wins in Group B and Group C action this weekend. As well, the EIHL’s Belfast Giants will also move on to the next round after former Ukranian champion Kompanion Kyiv was forced to pull out due to the political situation.

The hometown Pinguins had a flawless tournament, winning all three games, including the final contest against Belfast on Sunday. The game wasn’t decided until the final two minutes of the contest when Brock Hooten, who recorded three points on Friday, scored a power-play goal to lift his team ahead. It wasn’t all too disappointing for Belfast, who will move on after having the best second place record between the two pools that competed this past weekend.

For Sanok, who featured former NHL/AHLer’s Mike Danton and Bryan Pitton, actually ended up tying Corona Brasov in the final standings, but wouldn’t move on due to goal differential. Neither Sanok or Corona finished with a perfect record after three games, but Sanok did have a GDF of +4, while Corona had just a +1.

Fischtown will now compete with Ritten Sport, Herning Blue Fox, and Yertis Pavlodar in Group D, while Sanok and Belfast will battle it out in Group E with Neman Grodno and Angers Ducs.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

The Belfast Giants have now improved to 2-0 heading into the final day of the Continental Cup Group B stage, defeating CSKA Sofia 6-2 on Saturday.

From the opening face-off, Belfast proved to be the much more dominant club, outshooting Sofia 24-7 after 20 minutes of play. With under five minutes to go in the first period, both Darryl Lloyd and Mark Garside scored a goal each for the Giants to give the team the 2-0 lead. The first wouldn’t end in a perfect scenario for Belfast, as Vladimir Antipov recorded a goal with just seconds remaining in the period to put his team within one.

Sofia had the advantage on the shot clock in the second, but it would be Belfast that would take advantage of their opportunities. First, Lloyd would get his second of the game on the power-play at the half-way mark in the contest, only to see his teammate Jeff Mason make it 4-1 Giants. Sofia would get yet another late goal, as Stanislav Muhachev potted one past Stephen Murphy with just three seconds remaining in the period. The goal would mean nothing in the grand scheme of things, as two more goals by the Giants allowed the EIHL based club to take their second victory of the tournament, sitting as only the second undefeated team along with the German hosts, Fischtown Pinguins Bremerhaven.

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The Belfast Giants proved to be superior over their Netherlands opponents, the Tilburg Trappers, beating them by a score of 4-1 to open up the Group B stage of the Continental Cup.

Belfast’s first period saw the club pester longtime Netherlands national goaltender Ian Meierdres early, forcing him to make 16 saves early. He wouldn’t have a perfect period between the pipes, however, as Adam Keefe found the back of the net with five minutes remaining in the opening frame, giving his club the 1-0 lead heading into the change room.

It would take less time in the second for the team to record their second goal of the game. This time it would be Mark McCutcheon, who squeezed the puck past Meierdres to make it 2-0 Giants with half the game to go. Just 52 seconds later, defenceman Cody Brookwell gave Belfast the safe 3-0 lead, ripping a shot from the blue line to capitalize on his team’s momentum, Belfast would record one more just for fun later in the second, as a power-play goal by Mike Kompon gave his team the 4-0 lead heading into the third.

The Giants were lucky enough to have goaltender Stephen Murphy in the net for the contest, as he was forced to make 29 saves through three periods of action. It looked as though he had his shut-out secured late in the game until the game hit the 56th minute, as Jurryt Smid beat Murphy close range to give the Trappers their only goal of the game. The marker proved to be meaningless at the end, as Belfast’s impressive effort throughout allowed the EIHL club to take the first game of the tournament on Friday.

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Former Colorado Avalanche forward Colby Cohen has left the EIHL’s Nottingham Panthers after finishing a short-term contract with the club.

Cohen, a second round draft pick of the Avalanche back in 2007, joined the Panthers prior to Lthe season after Cody Wild went down with an injury. A Stanley Cup champion with the Bruins, Cohen played a combined seven games between Porin Ässät in Finland and the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL after taking time off for personal reasons.

Cohen played in four Champions Hockey League games this year, recording two assists for the win less Nottingham club.

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Defending champions Belfast kicked off their 2014/15 campaign with back-to-back-to-back road games in Scotland, securing 5 points from a possible 6.

Former Texas Star and St John’s Ice Caps forward Ray Sawada grabbed his first goal for the club with Craig Peacock, Darryl Lloyd and Evan Cheverie also on target in a 4-1 win over Dundee.

Cheverie and Sawada were on target again on Saturday, but could not prevent a 4-3 shootout loss to Braehead before the Northern Irish outfit got back to winning ways against a spirited Edinburgh side on Sunday – grabbing a narrow 2-1 victory in the Scottish capital.

Cardiff began their season with two home games. A Jake Morissette brace secured a 3-2 overtime win against Hull on Saturday, but the Welsh side slipped to a 3-2 defeat against play-off winners Sheffield on Sunday.

Hull’s weekend got little better as they came out on the wrong side of an 8-6 epic when they entertained Braehead.

Veteran Neil Trimm scored twice for the Scottish side, with Leigh Salters also on target with a hat trick – 19-year old Sam Towner was one of six separate scorers for the hosts.

Rory Rawlyk’s goal was the sole marker as Coventry topped Fife 1-0, with new Blaze netminder Brian Stewart posting a shut out in his debut. Coventry also came out on top in the return leg 24 hours later, with Stewart again the star as he made 30 saves in a 4-2 victory.

This week, Edinburgh travels to the Odyssey Arena to take on Belfast in Friday’s only game.

Belfast then entertain Braehead on Saturday, whilst Nottingham take a break from the Champions Hockey League to start their EIHL campaign when Cardiff visit the National Ice Centre.

Edinburgh continue their road trip with a visit to Hull, Fife look to get back on track when the Sheffield Steelers come to town and Coventry take on Dundee in a mouth watering encounter between two sides vying for silverware this season.

On Sunday, Fife and Sheffield meet again in the return leg of their weekend showdown and Edinburgh round out a busy weekend with a home clash against Braehead.

Elsewhere, Hull continue their tough start to the season with a trip to Dundee whilst Coventry travel to Cardiff.

News Roundup

Hull Stringray’s Kurtis Dulle shocked the club by quitting just days before the start of the season.

Dulle spent three seasons as Stingrays captain between 2010 and 2013, but sat out last season before new Rays coach Omar Pacha convinced the 34-year old to return to the Yorkshire club.

Sheffield signed tough winger Devin DiDiomete, who spent time in the AHL, ECHL and SHL after leaving Cardiff in 2012, but lose Tyler Mosienko for 5 games due to an IIHF imposed suspension following a spot fixing scandal whilst with Danish side Esbjerg last season.

Edinburgh added 6’7″ Kyle Flemington to their roster. The Ontario native had signed with NIHL Oxford, but was given a chance to move up to the UK’s top tier by Capitals coach Richard Hartmann.

Photograph (C) Chud Photography. Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe

After a break in action, the Champions Hockey League continued this weekend with a whole new level of excitement. With the success of the opening weekend in August, fans were excited to see the action that would take place on the second weekend of hockey. For the Finnish club, Lukko was a hot commodity. The Finnish league team had already defeated their Friday opponents, the Nottingham Panthers, in a 4-2 victory. With the Panthers only suiting up 9 forwards due to injuries, the much weaker club from the EIHL didn’t have much hope when it came to winning the game. The massive difference of skill was apparent from the puck drop, as Lukko took the 6-2 victory after holding control of the game from start to finish.

Nottingham’s game started poorly. With the Panthers having issues keeping up with Lukko’s speed and strength, former Dallas Star Aaron Gagnon wrapped around the net before beating Panthers goalie Craig Kowalski for the 1-0 marker. The Finnish club were looking to strike again shortly after, but Jonne Virtanen’s break away attempt just squeaked over Kowalski’s elbow and over the goal.

Nottingham’s best chance came on a power-play midway through the first. Following a great set up in the offensive zone, Bruce Graham had a wide open cage to pot home the puck. Unfortunately for the British club, Lukko’s goaltender Ryan Zapolski made an incredible glove save while reaching back behind him to keep the puck out and hold on to the lead for the time being.

The Finnish club would extend their lead to two goals after Nottingham failed to tie the game. With six minutes to go, Ville Vahalati picked up the loose puck from in front of the British crease that happened to see nobody defending it. Nottingham didn’t think defense was all too important on that play, and it costed them dearly as their opponents took the 2-0 lead.

Lukko would leave the first period with a four goal cushion. With about two minutes to go, former Manchester Storm forward Janne Niskala beat a screened Kowalski through the five hole. Shortly afterward, Jesper Pitulainen gave his team the fourth and final goal of the period when he beat Nottingham’s goaltender with a soft wrist shot.

The second period looked quite similar to the first period. Lukko, the much stronger team coming into the contest, lived up to their expectations by absolutely controlling the puck in every aspect. Surprisingly, though, it would be Nottingham that would score the first goal in the period. With just a few minutes remaining in the period, Evan Mosey gave Nottingham their first goal of the game after breaking past two slow moving defensemen. for the goal. The goal truly meant nothing, as Lukko’s top scorer Jerry Ahtola scored one of his own less than a minute later thanks to some terrible defensive tactics by the Panthers.

The third period got to the point where Nottingham might as well have just gone home. Henrik Kovisto made it 6-1 Lukko after his brother, Toni, did all the work to blow past the slow Nottingham defense core. Brandon Benedict was able to get Nottingham back on the board with about 2:45 remaining in the game, but it would have had little impact as Lukko’s domination was displayed throughout the 60 minute debacle.

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Joe Grimaldi

American defenceman Joe Grimaldi has joined British Elite League outfit Edinburgh for the 2014/15 season.

The 28 year old had a brief, and somewhat controversial, stint in the EIHL last season with Nottingham. Grimaldi scored 2 goals and 8 points in 7 games for the Panthers, also earning a whopping 110 PIMs and a four game suspension following a confrontation during the post game handshakes between Nottingham and rivals Coventry.

Grimaldi was subsequently released by the club, but Edinburgh coach Richard Hartmann sees the former Ottawa 67’s blue liner as a strong addition to the Capitals, telling the clubs website:

“Joe is a player who we’ve talked with throughout the offseason, and we’re pleased to have signed him. Grimaldi is an experienced player in North America and in Europe, he played in the UK with Nottingham last year, so he knows what to expect from our league. He is a no nonsense Long Island, New Yorker who adds toughness and offence to the club’s defence – he put up 8 points and 110 penalty minutes last season in only 7 games in the EIHL, so he’s not a guy to ignore. Joe knows what we need from him, we expect him to score points while adding a gritty, physical dimension.

“In previous years we felt that we’ve been a club that other clubs looked forward to playing against, we were bullied on some evenings. That stops here with the signing of Riley Emmerson, and Joe Grimaldi, as well as with big bodies like Lukas Bohunicky, Daniel Naslund and Jade Portwood. Our message to the rest of the league is that we have size, snarl and strength and we can match any team in this league physically. This year we’re here to compete.

“We are first and foremost a hockey team with an attractive brand of European-rooted hockey, but this year, as we promised our fans that we we would, we have added grit and a bit of nastiness for when we need it. Opposition teams will not look forward to seeing us this year.

“We have one more signing to deliver, don’t be surprised if we recruit another impact player. Quality players are looking at Edinburgh as a competitive option. This is the most exciting start to a season for the Edinburgh Capitals in a long time.”

Grimaldi had stints with with Elmira, Fresno, Gwinnett and Cincinnatti in the ECHL, as well a handful of AHL games with Rochester, Peoria and Albany. He was also part of the WSHL’s Southern Oregon Spartans coaching team during the 2013/13 season.

With the addition of Grimaldi, the Capitals roster now stands at just 14 players ahead of this weekends games against Dundee Stars.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

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Craig Peacock
With just two weeks remaining until the start of the new season, the British Elite League’s ten teams are putting the final touches to their rosters in preparation for the new campaign.

Defending league champions Belfast retained the bulk of their squad for the new season, with the biggest changes coming off the ice.

Former player and Coach Steve Thornton returns to the club, assuming almost total control of the club’s day-to-day operations. Thornton not only succeeds Paul Adey as Head Coach, but also Todd Kelman as the teams General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations.

Thornton, won the Challenge Cup and Knockout Cup as player/Coach of the Giants in 2009 and then the play-off crown in 2010, has been keen to ensure the stability built by the Northern Irish club over the past few seasons endured by signing 15 players to contract extensions, including club Captain Adam Keefe and Team GB star Colin Shields.

Departing forwards Chris Higgings (to rivals Nottingham), the enigmatic Jeff Szwez and Dustin Whitecotton were directly replaced by experienced AHL winger Ray Sawada, Mike Kompon and former Colorado draft pick Mark McCutcheon, who split last season with Norwegian side Vålerenga and Danish outfit Aalborg.

Elsewhere; 2014 play-off champions, and league runners up, Sheffield look forward to their first season under Coach Gerard Adams.

Former Cardiff player/Coach Adams replaced Doug Christiansen behind the Steelers bench mid way through last season, leading the Yorkshire side to their first trophy since 2011. But the departures of Steven Goertzen and star forward Jeff Legue, along with 7 others, left a significant hole in the teams line up for Adams to address.

Former Cardiff and Dundee forward Jay Latulippe was brought in, along with veterans Colton Fretter and Pascal Morency, as the Steelers look to build on their post season success and go one better this year.

Steelers midlands rivals Nottingham saw their recruitment policy heavily influence by participation in the Champions Hockey League, with Head Coach Corey Neilson’s assembling a 26 man roster ahead of the tournament.

Kicking off their CHL adventure tonight against Finnish side Lukko; Nottingham have retained the service of club stalwarts Craig Kowalski and Captain David Clarke, but added 16 new players to their roster for the coming season.

25-year old blue liner Colby Cohen and DEL veteran Nathan Robinson head up some strong additions for the Panthers, who are hoping to impress as the British entrant to the CHL, and Head Coach Corey Nielson will be hoping the additional depth he has sought this season will help the club both in Europe, but also domestically after a slew of injuries disrupted their 2013/14 campaign.

Four time Elite League winners Coventry will also be hoping to bounce back this season, following their 6th placed finish last year.

Marc Lefebvre replaced former Blaze D man Mathias Söderström in February, and has assembled a strong roster for the coming season; with former Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan O’Marra and ex-Hull Stingrays hot shot Jereme Tendler among those to have joined the club this summer.

Tendler scored 171 goals and 288 points in just 226 games for EIHL rivals Hull, whilst Steven Goertzen’s arrival from Sheffield provides top level experience. Between the pipes, 6’5″ Brian Stewart will be hoping for a successful first season in England.

Last seasons surprise package Dundee will be hoping to maintain their place among the leagues elite, with Head Coach Jeff Hutchins adding a number of players with EIHL experience.

Chris Blight joins, having split last season with Cardiff and Sheffield before an acrimonious departure from the latter, along with the mercurial Jade Galbraith and former Edinburgh stalwart Martin Cingel. Matt Ryan, Brad Plumton and Shane Lust also spent last season in the Elite League, but netminder Marc Cheverie, brother of Belfast’s Evan, is new to these shores after four seasons flitting between the AHL and ECHL.

Braehead’s seat at the top of Scottish hockey was shaken by the Stars last term; but Head Coach Ryan Finnerty has moved quickly this summer to make the club a contender again.

Talented British forward Ben Davies was signed from Cardiff, whilst Zack Fitzgerald and Matt Keith bring nearly 1,000 games worth of AHL experience to the club, as the Clan look to become the first Scottish side to life a trophy in the EIHL era.

Fife will be looking to continue their year-on-year improvement since joining the league in 2011.

The Flyers reached the semi-finals of the play-offs lats year, and Head Coach Todd Dutiaume has kept player turn over to a minimum during the off season. Chris Auger and Scott Fleming both join from the Fort Wayne Komets, with D man Jamie Milam also coming in to plug the gap left by Tim Hartung and Justin DaCosta’s departures.

Hull edged out Cardiff for the final play-off spot last season, but a summer of turmoil has led to major changes at the club.

Omar Pacha assumes the role of player/Coach from veteran Sylvain Cloutier, and has had to fill the some big shoes on the Stingrays roster with Team GB netminder Ben Bowns, Jason Silverthorne and Jereme Tendler all departing.

Former Captain Kurtis Dulle returns to the team after a year out, with Pacha picking up several former college players to bolster the roster.

Cardiff also underwent significant change over the summer, with former Belfast General Manager assuming control of the club.

Forward Andrew Lord steps up to take over as Head Coach, with 23-year old Bowns taking the starters role in net following his move from Hull.

Centre Joey Martin arrives with a strong ECHL pedigree in his young career, with the Devils hoping other new arrivals such as Brent Walton and Chris Culligan can help propel the club back to the top.

Slovak Richard Hartmann enters his fourth season as player/Coach of Edinburgh, hoping to finally lift the club out of the league’s basement.

The departure of Cingel was a significant blow for the Scottish side, who have run on a slim budget for many years. But René Jarolin’s return to the club gives the Capitals a proven EIHL scorer, whilst Daniel Näslund and Dennis Rix will hope their NCAA experience translates to success in the Scottish capital.

The Elite League season opens on Friday September 5th, when Belfast travel to Dundee.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

Team GB's World Championship campaigns will remain on British screens for 3 more years (Photograph © Graham Goodman/Flyfifer.co.uk)
The World Championship will remain on British and Irish screens for 3 more years
(Photograph © Graham Goodman/Flyfifer.co.uk)

Premier Sports has retained the rights to show Team GB’s World Championship games until 2017.

The deal with Infront Sports & Media, the media and marketing partner of the IIHF, also covers 15 games from the World Championships in Belarus this spring, as well as future tournaments through to 2017.

The UK’s newest sports channel, which is already home to the British Elite Ice Hockey League and NHL, brought the World Championships to British and Irish screens for the first time last season.

Richard Sweeney, General Manager of Premier Sports, said: “Premier Sports programming content is clearly decided by audience demand and this decision to extend the initial agreement was a reflection of the fan interest for ice hockey. We have continued to expand our ice hockey portfolio, which now includes the North American NHL, the British EIHL Elite League as well as long-term coverage of the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship meaning Premier Sports really is your home for hockey with over 600 games available to view every year.”

Bruno Marty, Infront’s Executive Director Winter Sports, said: “It is a great sign of sustainable expansion that the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is now accessible in a European core market for the long-term. With the two-prong approach, fans will be able to follow both their British national team as well as the top games of the annual IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.”

Great Britain will be competing in Division 1B in Lithuania this year, following relegation from Division 1A last season.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

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Belfast Giants captured the first major trophy of the 2013/14 season last weekend, as they were crowned league champions.

Robby Sandrock’s game winner sealed back-to-back wins over defending champions Nottingham Panthers on Sunday, and ensured the Giants would finish top of the Erhardt Conference. But defeats for Dundee and Sheffield later that evening gave the Northern Irish club an unassailable lead at the top, securing the clubs third EIHL title, and second in the past three seasons.

Paul Adey’s side, who also finished runners up in the league and play-offs last season, are currently on an incredible 11-game winning streak in the Elite League and recently qualified for the Challenge Cup final as well. They will face either holders Nottingham or Sheffield Steelers in the final as they seek to make EIHL history with an unprecedented Grand Slam.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

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At just 25, Craig Peacock already has winners medals at Elite and Premier League level – helping his home town Peterborough Phantoms to an unprecedented treble in 2009 before joining the Belfast Giants, where he has enjoyed league and play-off success.

Now in his fifth season with the Giants, Peacock is an established member of the national side and one of the most talented players Great Britain has produced in recent years – and he looks set to enjoy even more success with the Northern Irish club this season.

Belfast are an incredible 15 points clear at the top of the Elite League, playing some of the finest hockey the league has seen under Head Coach Paul Adey. I started by asking Peacock what it was that set this Giants team apart

“I think this season we just have a very well rounded team. There is always a different player ready to step up any given night – to score a big goal, or get the team going with a hit, or whatever it takes. (Stephen) Murphy has been great in goal for us as well, which always makes things that bit easier on the ice – knowing he will be back there to make that crucial save.”

Peacock was also quick to praise the spirit of the team in Belfast this season, as the club looks to extend its recent winning streak to 7 games this weekend.

“It’s a great group of guys; everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to win and we have a ‘never say die’ attitude – no matter how the game is panning out.”

“Everybody comes to work everyday at practice; and we just try and approach each game the same, no matter who we are playing. The league has improved once again, as it does year on year, and anybody can beat anybody it seems – so there are no easy games this season.”

The Giants dominance this year might seem to belie that sentiment at times, but the Conference system, introduced last season, does seem to have brought a little more parity to the league. Peacock’s return to Belfast in October certainly boosted the Giants title chances, with the forward contributing 13 goals so far this season, but he started the 2013/14 season with Danish side Frederikshavn.

Unfortunately things did not pan out as Peacock had hoped in one of Europe’s fastest growing leagues, but the experience hasn’t soured his hopes of success on the continent in the future.

“I just found myself in an unfortunate situation whilst over there. Maybe a different team, or a different coach, and it could have played out a lot differently for me.” he continued “It was always my ambition to head to Europe and give it a shot over there, and things started off really well. I didn’t feel out of my depth, and I had 5 goals in six preseason games. I figured that everything was fine and the coach was happy with my play.”

“Once the season started, I found myself off the powerplay, and the top 2 lines, and not really being used in the way I thought I had earned. I spoke to the coach and asked if there was anything he was seeing in my game that I needed to do, to be able to play those top minutes and on the powerplay. He assured me that everything was fine and he was happy with me and I would be playing those top minutes.”

“But after another 2-3 weeks nothing had changed and I didn’t feel I was getting a fair shot, so I made my decision to leave. I didn’t feel like it was going to do me any good to stay there as I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I wanted to.”

One of Peacock’s goals is to try and help Team GB build on some recent successes; and forget a few disappointments.

The national side made it to the final qualification tournament for Sochi 2014, but could not overcome France, Kazakhstan or qualifiers Latvia. Worse was to come, as the team was relegated from Division 1A at the World Championships in Hungary last April.

Despite these setbacks, Peacock feels the team is making progress however.

“I feel the team has made great strides in the right direction in recent years. Obviously things didn’t go the way we wanted to at the World Championships last season, but it was a very tough group and we now have a new challenge to re-gather ourselves and get back into that division this year.”

The teams quest to qualify for Sochi has also given the young forward hope for Great Britain’s chances of Olympic participation in the future – with one eye already on Pyeongchang in 2018.

“I though we did great in the Olympic qualifiers. It was a lot of fun and I was proud to be apart of that. To be just 3 games away from Sochi was amazing, and although we lost out in Latvia we have shown that we can get to that final stage – with some more preparation I don’t any reason we couldn’t pull off an upset and make it to the 2018 Olympics.”

It’s a lofty aim without any doubt, but Peacock believes a good start in such a tournament could lead to great things.

“Once you are in the final round of the qualifiers the level of competition is so high that anybody can beat anybody; if we managed to get a result in the first or second game you never know what could happen after that.”

“There is a great team spirit when we are away at those tournaments. That’s what carries us through and gets us results. We know that with the right preparation, and the guys that we have on the team that play with so much heart, we can start to achieve great things.”

The subject of preparation for the national team is always a hot topic among British hockey fans, with the current balance between club and country currently stacked firmly in favour of the former.

With wages to pay, ice rental and numerous other running costs, clubs are reluctant to have gaps in the schedule – meaning international breaks are often ignored because budgets are so tight.

For many fans, club success comes ahead of the national program – to the point where complete apathy might be the most apt description of attitudes toward Team GB from some. For the players however, it’s about hoping a compromise can be found.

“This is a tough one as I think that every player would like to see us enter more tournaments, or at least meet up as a team more often during the season. To give us the best preparation possible leading up to major tournaments.”

“But, as has been said previously, it’s a difficult situation as the clubs do have a business to run. I feel that there has to be a compromise somewhere along the line; as it is difficult to go into these tournaments with very little preparation while other nations have been playing exhibition games and training together all season long. It gives them a bit of an advantage over us right off the hop.”

“We have shown that we can compete on the international stage and I know the guys all feel we can still give more and push our world ranking up and get ourselves to the heights of the very top division – if we are given the right preparation leading up to the tournaments.”

Many fans dream of seeing Great Britain taking on the games elite nations again, but for now perhaps the best lesson Peacocks experience can teach us is in terms of development of British talent.

Peacock successfully made the transition from Premier League to EIHL – a move that some have struggled with, leaving some clubs reluctant to move for ‘unproven’ British players.

“I think its all about giving guys a chance, that’s the main thing.” Peacock told me “I think the problem a few years back is that players were making the jump up too soon, they were too young.”

“It’s great to have the ambition and want to get yourself an Elite League contract but if you come up too soon then you just find yourself sat on the bench.”

It seems to be an issue particularly prevalent among young goaltenders, but there are several other examples of players rapidly reaching the EIHL – only to come back down again.

After coming through the Peterborough junior system, Peacock spent two seasons in North America (with the Florida Junior Blades then the Richmond Hill Rams) before joining his home town club in 2007.

Two successful campaigns with the Phantoms set Peacock on the right path, an experience he feels a lot of players could benefit from.

“For me it definitely helped having 2 full seasons in the EPL before I moved up. It gives you the experience that you need at that age, you can take on a role with more responsibility and play in pressure situations and gain valuable experience that you will need when making the step up.”

Peacock also echoed the sentiments of Belfast team mate Colin Shields when it comes to the link between EPL and EIHL – and hopes the two leagues can form a closer relationship for the good of the game.

“From what I have seen since I was in the EPL, the league looks to be improving each year – which is great for British hockey on a whole. I feel that maybe there could be a better relationship between the two leagues to help bring on that next generation of hockey. For example more players on two way contracts – allowing them to train and dress in games when they can, and to see what they will need to do to prepare themselves to make the step up full time. This would also allow them to continue their development at the right speed with their EPL club.”

It is frustrating that something which should be so simple continues to somehow remain absent from the British game. Hopefully someone will look at the success Peacock has had, and the path he took, and a bigger picture will begin to form.

Thanks to Craig for his time. You can follow him on Twitter @Peaks71, and you can follow me @RobMcGregor35

All photographs © Richard Davies (Chud Photography).

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The National Hockey League’s rise from a $500m league to one worth billions has been well documented. The economic stakes have never been higher, and as a result teams are out to ensure they have the best people being employed by their organisation.

This includes the players, who, as part of that drive to be the best, get top notch health care and advice to ensure they train, eat and develop in to the best athletes they possibly can be.

Invariably what the best do soon trickles down to the minor leagues, then on to smaller hockey nations.

The science behind the sport gains traction across the hockey world.

One area, or should I say group, who have gained particular prominence in recent years are strength and conditioning coaches. Even in the hockey backwaters of Great Britain, the benefits are becoming apparent to clubs at all levels.

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Hull Stingrays Photo
Hull Stingrays Photo

James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail published a brilliant piece on the falling standards of Canadian goaltending last night.

You can read the full article here (and I strongly recommend that you do), but in short Mirtle looks at how nations like Sweden and Finland changed their approach to the position, and why Canada is falling behind as a result.

One particular part stuck out for me –

the Finns invested in developing goalies after realizing they could be a great equalizer for a small country.

A small nation, investing in goaltending? Great Britain is a small nation (in hockey terms); but the lack of investment in goaltending has been a bugbear for British puck stoppers for years now.

There are those who are trying to change attitudes however. Hull Stingray’s and Team GB netminder Ben Bowns is one of them:

“It’s something I’ve been saying for a while that I’d like to do. However, I’ve never really known what steps to take or what I needed to do.” he told me. But the former Sheffield junior is now hopeful that the road to change is, slowly, being built:

“I’m working on something with Tony Hall (Technical Director for the North & Course Administrator for the EIHA), we’ll hopefully get to run some seminars to teach coaches the basics of goaltending, and how to run effective sessions specific to goaltenders. We’d also like to help them understand how they can involve goalies more in regular practices too.”

“It’s well known that the British game is lacking top British goalies. The position is overlooked in the UK, especially at junior level. Obviously being a goalie myself, and knowing how difficult it is for a Brit goalie, is one of the main reasons why I wanted to do something about it.”

Whilst the project is still in its early stages, I asked Ben where he hoped this new endeavour might lead:

“It would be nice to end up with an actual goalie coaching level system, a bit like Sweden, but that is along way away. It would have to be approved by the IIHF, and before that has to by approved by the Head of Coaching for the EIHA. So obviously there’s a lot of things that could stop it happening. It’s the reason why we’re taking small steps, to try and get there.”

As a junior, Bowns grew up under the Sheffield development system – which has produced a number of top players and goaltenders in recent years. It was a system that put Ben in good stead for the future:

“I can’t begin to explain how good the Sheffield junior system was back when I was there, We had great coaches, and the players were of a high calibre too. You got great coaching, and from my point of view I was also shots from the best in the country every practice. You were never held back, but also never rushed.”

“We had help a lot more often than at other clubs. Matt Darlow helped coach goalies a lot throughout the years I was there and older goalies like Alex Mettam would coach younger goalies like myself, and run goalie sessions. Then you’d combine that with the inter-club competition and you’re on to a winning system.”

His time in Sheffield also helped Ben develop mentally, as well as technically: “We had unbelievable head coaches like Jon Rowbotham, Martin White and Craig Webster. They made sure everyone stayed level headed and disciplined. When your winning all the time it’s easy to get ahead of yourself as a kid, but they kept our feet planted.”

Sadly Bowns doesn’t feel the same standards of excellence have been maintained in the Steel City, with external factors playing their part:

“Unfortunately, in my eyes, the club has changed now. It’s sad to see. It’s not just at Sheffield, but in every club; the parents are too involved with their children and their children’s teams.”

“When we were young, most parents stayed out of it and let the kids get on with it. I never experienced having a coach who had a son or daughter in the team. Now, you see kids not getting in the A team so parents throw a paddy and transfer their child to the next club, where they think they’ll get in that A team.”

Bowns is not the first player to notice the changing trend in ‘parental involvement'; a problem which seems to becoming increasingly prominent both here and abroad. “In the long run, 95% of the time this has a negative effect on the kids career.” the Stingrays stopper said, and it’s hard to disagree.

“I know, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t be where I am now without my parents, and I’ll never be able to repay them for that. But the difference between them and current parents is that they let me fight my own battles on the ice.”

“If I didn’t make a team they told me to do something about and prove people wrong. That’s how it should be, let the kids do their bit on the ice, work hard and they’ll improve faster than if they’re mollycoddled!”

Ben Bowns in action for Team GB
© Graham Goodman (Flyfifer)

The opportunities Bowns had at Sheffield are not reflected at all clubs however. At present few clubs, such as Widnes and Peterborough, have dedicated goalie coaches; and so for many summer clinics are vital to their development.

I first met Ben as a teenager during my own playing days. We both attended the Great British Goaltending Clinic in Guildford, then run by former Great Britain netminder Joe Watkins. Ben was one of the brightest goaltending prospects in the UK at the time, and has since gone on to much greater things, but Watkin’s clinics, which are still going under the guidance of Joe’s brother and Telford Head Coach Tom, has also helped Bracknell netminder Alex Mettam and former Coventry stopper Thomas Murdy during their career.

I asked Ben about the importance of these clinics in the current landscape, and how he’d like their role to develop in the future:

“The role of goaltending clinics in the UK is huge. That’s why I decided to set up my own for next summer – the Ben Bowns International Goalie Clinic. I’ve employed coaches that I know are not only great goalies, but great coaches too.”. He continued “The biggest bugbear for me with the UK goalie schools is that a goalie, or their parents, have to pay a lot of hard earned money to attend, they turn up and the standard of shooting, in my eyes, is often not adequate; except for a few shooters who may play EPL or NIHL, and have kindly offered to help out. That’s why at the BBIG Clinic we’ll be using shooters that I would want shooting at me during my goalie specific practice and drills.”

“We’ve already had four Elite League players agree to come down and act as shooters at the camp, which I’m extremely happy about.”

Bowns has learnt from his time as both a pupil and a coach at similar camps, and hopes that they form an integral part of the development system in the future:

“There’s always things at goalie camps that you agree with and things you don’t agree with; but on a whole the camps that run in this country are very, very good. In the end, I think it would be ideal if all the goaltending clinics could link up with each other, rather than trying to compete with each other. But that is for another day and is a lot easier said than done.”

One area that is difficult to overcome is the cost. Hockey is expensive at the best of times, but goaltending equipment carries an extra financial cost. It’s a problem even in established nations like Canada and can provide a barrier to young boys and girls who want to try their hand at goaltending.

“Sheffield used to have a set of goalie equipment that people could use to see if they like playing the position first before their parents invested thousands.” Ben told me, adding “That should be possible at every club.”

“But the funding isn’t always there for that kind of thing. It would have to be given to the club by past goalies when they’ve grown out of it.”

It’s certainly a tough issue to overcome, as are a number of the hurdles British netminders have to deal with during their careers, but with players like Bowns trying to improve attitudes towards goaltending the future feels a little brighter.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

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Last week, Matt Suderman, then-captain of the EIHL’s Hull Stingrays, announced that he would be leaving the team for a number of reasons, including harassment from the team’s fans, poor officiating in the EIHL, and lack of “having fun”. Most fans suspected that the Winkler, Manitoba native would be calling an end to his hockey career, but this idea was flipped on it’s head when Suderman signed a contract with the Central Hockey League’s newest team, the Brampton Beast, based out of Brampton, Ontario.

Suderman has spent the majority of his career known for his tough grinder style, which he developed as a member of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades from 1999 to 2003. In his four seasons with the Blades, Suderman had only 23 points in 190 games, but racked up an incredible 356 penalty minutes. Later in his career, Suderman also competed in the Southern Professional Hockey League, Central Hockey League, and the United Hockey League, all low-level professional leagues based in North America. Now, just a week after leaving the UK, he’s returning to the Central Hockey League to edge himself further up the league’s all-time PIM leader-boards. With his new team in Brampton, Suderman joins a few names that may be familiar to some, including former Toronto Marlies forward Matt Caruana, former Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending prospect Grant Rollheiser, and 8-game NHLer Rob Collins, who leads the Beast roster in points after a long seven-year stint in the top-tier German league.

Suderman’s departure from Hull leaves two holes in the lineup, after forward Derek Campbell was suspended 47 games earlier this month for the attempted eye-gouging of an opposing player. When asked about why he left, Suderman gave this quote to the press:

“Things just did not work out for me basically. It’s kind of personal, and I’m not really having fun. Some of the fans are the worst I’ve ever played in front of. They think they’re knowledgeable but they aren’t. Some send me personal messages and all sorts of stuff. There’s a lot of reasons for my decision, but those are the main ones… I feel the officiating could stop the league being considered one of the top ones in Europe”

Something tells me the EIHL won’t be on it’s knees crying for Suderman to return anytime soon. For now, he’ll have to try his luck with the Beast.

Follow me on Twitter @CurtisMMorrison

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Following impressive wins in their own respective tournaments, the Stavanger Oilers and HC Asiago have been promoted to the IIHF’s Continental Cup Super Finals.

In the Group D tournament, the EIHL’s Nottingham Panthers needed a regulation victory to spring from third to first in the group, but unfortunately it didn’t work out to their liking. Asiago’s Stefano Marchetti helped get his team on the board with two identical blasts (both on the power-play) from the point in the early going, however David Clarke cut the lead in half when he got one for the Panthers shortly after. Just like Marchetti on the opposing side, Clarke would also jam home his second of the game but Layne Ulmer got Asiago’s third PP goal of the contest and would take home the victory. The win gave Asiago an undefeated record, capping off an incredible 2013 calender year for the team who took home the Italian league championship a few months prior.

In Group E action, the Stavanger Oilers from Norway had high hopes going into the final match-up of the tournament following a dominant 9-1 victory over Dunaújvárosi Acélbikák the night before. Their competition for Sunday, SønderjyskE, had nothing more to lose after losing both of their two prior games, but they weren’t ready to just roll over and let the Oilers take home the easy win. Petter Røste Fossen got the scoring going for Stravanger 13 minutes into the game but would have his goal matched by Pauli Levokari at the start of the second. Unfortunately for SønderjyskE, they would see their underdog effort fall short when Dan Kissel and Christian Dahl Andersen both got markers of their own in the final ten minutes of the third to give the Oilers their third and final victory, edging out Neman Grodno in the final standings.

Follow me on twitter, @StevnEllisNHL.

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The EIHL’s Cardiff Devils have announced that they have released forward Andrew Conboy.

Conboy had a tough stint in the UK this year, having already been suspended three times this season and has served two of his current 12-match suspension. Prior to this season, Conboy played 150 American League matches for Hamilton Bulldogs and 49 games in the ECHL, recording 216 penalty minutes in just one season of action.

Conboy was banned for 12 matches for an attempted eye gouge ten days ago. Earlier this season, Derek Campbell was suspended for the remainder of the EIHL campaign after doing exactly the same thing. Additionally, Conboy was suspended for punching a ref earlier in the season, as well as headbutting an opponent at the start of the season.

Conboy was drafted 142nd overall by the Montréal Canadiens in 2007.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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From British Ice Hockey on Facebook

The British Elite League has announced a new deal with Premier Sports to screen live games this season.

The deal includes a live game on Saturday nights, as well as coverage of the play-offs, and will be fronted by Aaron Murphy – who provided play-by-play commentary for Premier Sports during Team GB’s World Championship games in Budapest last spring.

The UK’s top flight had been shown on Sky Sports, but with no new deal signed for the current season fans were left wondering whether the British game would grace their television screens again.

Following successful coverage of the World Championships, featuring games from both Division 1  and the Championship group, talks took place between the two parties; with an agreement announce last week.

EIHL chairman, Tony Smith, said: “The Elite League is thrilled to have live coverage on UK television.

“We would like to thank Premier Sports for joining us as a media partner to provide this fantastic coverage for supporters.

“We hope that fans support the commitment and investment from Premier Sports into the Elite League.

“The league believes this will help grow our fan base across the UK and Ireland.”

Premier Sports also shows NHL games in the UK.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Image
Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Image

Due to injuries with the parent NHL club in Carolina, the Charlotte Checkers have signed Allen York to a professional tryout contract, the second this week after John Muse re-joined the club.

York was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 6th round (158th overall) during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He played his first NHL game with the Blue Jackets on October 25th, 2011 against the Detroit Red Wings when then-starting goaltender Steve Mason was injured in the first period. He was impressive in his limited action that year, posting a 3-2-0 record to go along with a 2.30 GAA for a weak team that went through many goalies that season.

Last year, York played in 19 games for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons last season, in which he went 13-6-0 with a 2.39 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.On September 12, 2013 York joined the Nashville Predators training camp on a pro tryout, but was later released when he couldn’t crack their AHL squad, the Milwaukee Admirals. York is expected to re-join the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL following his AHL stint this month after putting up a 3-1-1 record to go along with .919 SP and 2.72 GAA last year.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

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The British ice hockey season is in full swing, with a full weekend of games in all of the countries top three tiers.

Elite League

Back to back wins for Belfast Giants saw the Northern Irish outfit rise to the top of the Elite League this weekend.

Great Britain international Craig Peacock scored on his first shift since re-joining the Giants last week, as they defeated Sheffield 4-2 on Saturday before recording a 7-4 win over Coventry on Sunday. Former Syracuse Crunch and Philadelphia Phantoms forward Jeff Szwez potted 3 goals over the course of the weekend as the Giants record extended to 7-2-0 to edge ahead of Dundee Stars.

The Scottish outfit went down 5-1 to Braehead on Saturday, but a narrow win against rivals Fife on Sunday ensured a 4 point cushion over 3rd placed Nottingham Panthers; who won both of their games over the weekend.

Under pressure, Cardiff coach Gerard Adams made a bold statement following a mixed weekend for his Devils side. Despite an 8-5 win over Edinburgh on Saturday, a loss to Sheffield on Sunday led to the surprise release of Great Britain forward Phil Hill on Monday. Hill has played 496 EIHL games for his home town Devils, and has spent almost his entire career within the clubs system. Speculation has already begun as to where the experienced forward may sign, with Coventry and Braehead both mentioned as possible destinations.

Sheffield Steelers D man Gord Baldwin was suspended for 5 matches for kicking following an altercation during Saturday’s game against Belfast. The ex-Medicine Hat Tigers blue liner will miss the remainder of Steelers games in October as a result of the ban.

English Premier League

Manchester Phoenix and Guildford Flames shared the points over the weekend, as the top two sides met in back-to-back encounters. Flames grabbed a narrow 3-2 win on Saturday, but a hat trick from Czech forward Michal Psurny ensured Manchester’s lead at the top was restored on Sunday with a 7-4 victory.

Rivals Milton Keynes Lightning and Peterborough Phantoms met on Saturday at Lightning’s temporary home in Coventry. Milton Keynes led 6-2 going in to the final period and survived a late rally from Phantoms, former Peterborough player Jordan Cownie scoring on an empty net to seal the victory.

Milton Keynes continued their good form on Sunday with a win over Slough, whilst Phantoms managed to snap their 4 game losing streak on Sunday however, as they battled to a 5-4 win over Basingstoke on home ice as Slovak star Erik Piatak scored a brace.

Elsewhere Swindon topped Bracknell on Saturday and Sunday, whilst Telford suffered their second major injury in as many weeks as forward Mikka Kiviranta ended up in hospital with a hand injury. The Finn joins Scott McKenzie on the Tigers injured list, but the Shropshire outfit did receive some good news as Red Hockey Limited took over ownership of the club.

English National League

London Raiders suffered a surprise defeat at Bracknell on Saturday, but rallied to grab a point on the road at fierce rivals Chelmsford on Sunday. Former Great Britain U20 netminder Euan King starred for the Raiders, who were only denied victory by a late equalizer from Chelmsford’s Ross Brears.

Further disciplinary action could follow for both sides however, after a brawl after the final buzzer resulted in 9 separate Match penalties being handed out. Chelmsford player-coach Gary Clarke was also ejected during the game for spearing.

Elsewhere Invicta Dynamo’s continued to mount their title challenge with a convincing 10-0 win over Cardiff, before overcoming hardworking Gosport on Sunday to round off a perfect weekend for the Kent side. Wightlink Raiders also had a strong weekend, tying with Chelmsford on Saturday before picking up a valuable 2 points in Cardiff on Sunday.

In the Northern section of the ENL, Deeside Dragons maintained their place at the top of the Laidler Conference with wins over Blackburn Eagles and Solihull, whilst Billingham hold a two point advantage over Solway at the top of the Moralee Conference.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35

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The Belfast Giants have re-signed Great Britain forward Craig Peacock, after a stint with Frederikshavn White Caps in Denmark.

Peacock, 25, played over 200 games for the Giants in four seasons before moving to Europe in the summer; but will be back with his former club in time for their games against Sheffield and Coventry this weekend.

After coming through the ranks in his home town of Peterborough, he spent two years in North America with the Florida Junior Blades and Richmond Hill Rams before returning to the UK to play for the Peterborough Phantoms in English Premier League, the second tier of British hockey.

He netted 26 goals and 48 points in his first sine in Belfast in 2009/10 and became a permanent fixture with the club before his move this summer, wearing an ‘A’ for the team last season.

Follow me on Twitter: @RobMcGregor35