The Cardiff Devils had their first chance to win the Elite league title last Sunday. But Belfast winning at home to Nottingham - and then the Steelers handing the Welsh side a 6-2 defeat - put their celebrations on ice.
The Devils will have a second chance to win their first league title in 20 years this Saturday when, ironically, they head back to the Sheffield Arena.
The fixture list can throw up strange schedules at times, can’t it?
Last Sunday the Steelers showed the pride you’d expect from the country’s leading club. Sheffield turned around to the Devils and said: “If you want our title, come and beat us.” And they didn’t.
Cardiff will win the title; although they do have a recent history of choking come the big moments. The Devils will know they need to get it done sooner rather than later, though; they won’t want to feel the jitters. Expect a very different Cardiff team than last Sunday’s.
The Steelers went after Cardiff last Sunday, physically they played with an edge. I think we all enjoyed that. Maybe it was a surprise to Andrew Lord’s side.
They will be ready for that on Sunday.
By the way, did you read the second line of this article? Look up and read it again; ‘The Devils have a chance to win their first league title in 20 years’.
Yes, Devils fans have had to wait that long for glory.
Only four years ago Nottingham won their first league title in 60 years. They haven’t looked close to winning it again since.
Yet here in Sheffield you would think the world was about to cave in because we haven’t won three league titles in three years, adding to more league championships than any other club.
The Elite League isn’t the Scottish Premier League - it’s not dominated by one club, sometimes two. This is a league where four or five teams can deliver. It’s a league now where there are no “gimmies” and a league where every club can take points off every other club. Bottom place Edinburgh have beaten all the top teams; so have Dundee.
Expectation is greater in Sheffield than any other club, don’t argue that point. It’s not close to the limited expectation at Nottingham, Cardiff or Belfast. Coventry used to have expectation, that went years ago.
The great thing with the Steelers is after delivering, they have a history of re-building and then coming back even stronger. Rebuilding has already started for next season. The Steelers never stand still.
Never have, never will. Don’t you ever forget that either.
Whilst different permutations exist for the final league standings it is looking more and more likely that the Steelers will face the Nottingham Panthers in the play off quarter finals - what a series that will be.
It’s a shame that the EIHL didn’t bring the best of three series into this year’s competition.
Can you imagine that. Panthers win on Saturday, Steelers win on Sunday and than a winner-takes-all game on Tuesday to see who makes the final four? Don’t tell me that wouldn’t sell out, even on a Tuesday night.
Here is an idea for you, it happens elsewhere in Europe. For 29 weeks, for 52 games, you play your heart out, play hurt, play with horrible schedules (for every team) and why? To finish as high up the league as possible. You should be rewarded by finishing up the table, that’s what you have worked for.
So my play off idea would be that the first seed, the league champions, select who they play in the quarter finals.
Cardiff’s GM Todd Kelman would have to stand up and then say “the Cardiff Devils draw...” and then make their selection, Braehead as the second seed would then follow and so on.
Imagines the week’s press interest leading up to the draw. Who matches up best against who? It’s radical, it’s different and it would be fantastic. Then play the best of three series to make the Nottingham final four weekend.
That double change would inject life into the play offs. It would bring finance into the clubs. It makes sense and I’d love to see it.
Saying that, if the Steelers win out it’s then likely we will draw Fife.