Last up we take a look at the last, and newest, conference in the form of the Patton Conference. We have already discussed the Patton conference with team fans and you can read that blog here. However let’s take a more in depth look at the conference and those all-important predictions.
The Blaze had a really tough 2016/17 EIHL campaign. Not only did they struggle for most of the year in their league campaign but they failed to qualify for the playoffs, were knocked out of the challenge cup during the group stages and finished almost bottom of the league. Not something we have come to expect from the Coventry Blaze. On a positive note things can only improve for the club moving into the 2017/18 season something the Blaze fans will be looking towards.
This summer the Blaze see the departure of goal tender Brian Stewart replaced by new face to the league Kevin Nastiuk coming off a spell in the DEL2. The blaze have made five changes to their defensive lines with signings including Dax Lauwers, Gaelan Patterson, Gustav Ahnelov and Vojtech Kloz. Similar changes up front for the Blaze with the addition of seven new faces coming into the line-up. While Ryan Dingle’s move from fife and Luke Ferrara a 24 year old brit coming from the Steelers, the other five faces are new to the league, adding not only ECHL experience but also DEL and EBEL quality players.
What can we expect in the coming season? Hopefully a return to form, a strong Blaze team that is competitive on the ice is a good thing for all fans of the league. The Blaze have been known in the past as a formidable team that delivers an exciting game of hockey. With the new blood added to the line up a slow start might be expected but hopefully this is a team that has been shook up enough to reignite the fire in the Blaze.
Prediction: Overall 6th place finish in the league and 1st place in conference.
The 6 time league champions, 5 time league cup winners and 5 time playoff Champions are the first of the two new teams making the move from the now defunct EPL to the EIHL. Guildford started as a team in 1992 in the English League Division One and won their first league and playoff title in 1997/98.
The Guildford Flames have made themselves known in the lead up to their inaugural season in the top flight of UK hockey by swopping in and signing a number of familiar EIHL faces. The flames not only took former Blaze netminder Brian Stewart but also signed fellow team mates and British forwards Liam Stewart and Ben Davies. All in all this team will look different to long term Flames fans with 10 new forward signings and 5 new defensive signings. Fans will be happy to see the return of familiar faces Samuel Godfrey and former Belfast Giant Kevin Philips as well as Ben Campbell and Andrew McKinney.
The 2017/18 season will be an interesting one for the Guildford Flames, the step up to the EIHL will already be a tough enough transition for head coach Paul Dixon, but to pull together a relatively new team will add to the challenge. A complete unknown quantity this one, but one that is definitely intriguing, this will be a close fought conference and the flames will certainly compete right until the end of the season.
Prediction: Overall 12th place finish in the league and 4th place in conference.
No longer the rookies of the league, the Manchester storm came out of a strong 2016/17 campaign with a number of high profile changes. Right at the top Neil “the coach” Russell announced his departure to the fans at the Storm Shelter, and while this will not have a knock on effect to the coaching and on Ice product, it sure was a blow to the club as his energy and promotion of the team has catapulted the Storm into the public eye.
The Storm are another team that sees a change to their head coaching position. Omar Pacha departs for Dundee after two years at the reigns, and the Storm appointed Ryan Finnerty as new head coach. What could be viewed as the quickest swoop of the off season, Finnerty quickly signed former NHL and Braehead Clan alum Jay Rosehill and quickly followed up with two more former Braehead players Mike Hammond and Matt Beca. It’s a relatively new forward line up for the storm with only fan favourites Matt Bissonnette and British born Jake Nurse returning to the side’s offensive.
Two notable players to watch out for this coming season come in the form of NHL forward Dane Byers and draft pick Luke Moffatt. It’s a similar story on the blueline with a relatively new line up there also. Five new faces join returning defence men Swindlehurst and Ehrhardt to make up the Storm defensive core.
The season ahead should be an interesting one for the Storm, can we expect to see a Ryan Finnerty style team full of grit and determination, only to fall at the last hurdle? What is for sure is that the Storm have went with a pretty young defensive core of players with some serious fire power in the front. This will certainly make for an interesting team to watch in this upcoming season.
Prediction: Overall 7th place finish in the league and 2nd place in conference.
Milton Keynes Lightning
Joining Guildford are fellow new boys, Milton Keynes Lightning. A relative young team founded 2002 when they replaced the Milton Keynes Kings. While the lightning were credited as a founding member of the EIHL they ended up competing in the EPL finishing 2nd in the league and a playoff win in their first competitive season. Prior to the crumbling of the EPL this year the Lightning had set their intentions on joining the top flight of hockey and have worked this summer to complete in the new Patton Conference. The less we talk about the new branding the better as the controversial choice to replace the existing logo has met a lot of criticism for long term fans.
Similar to Guildford, the lightning have signed a relatively new team with only 4 former players resigning for the 2017/18 season. A number of familiar names have been added to the roster, British defence man James Griffin, former Manchester Storm player Paul Phillips and Belfast fan favourite Matt Nickerson join the lightening’s blue line, while new faces to the league Hudson, Gibson and Pompi round out the defensive core.
Up front young Brit Lewis Hook is the only returning player with familiar names from the elite league in Jonathan Boxill and Denny Kearney signing for the Lightning. In what is one of the best moves of the season the Lightning signed former Cardiff Devil Guillaume Doucet to add to the fire power in the forward lines. The team is rounded out with a raft of young players and the trio of Essery, Isackson and new Milton Keynes Captain Kevin King all signing from former team Rapaces de Gap.
The season ahead will be an exciting adventure for the Lightning; Pete Russell came off a successful World Championship run with team GB and will have a point to prove in the EIHL. The signing of three team mates for the forward line will only help in the initial stages with line chemistry and the experienced EIHL players will help steer the direction of new players to the league.
Prediction: Overall 9th place finish in the league and 3rd place in conference.
So what do you make of Marty’s predictions on the Patton Conference? Do you agree, disagree, or want to comment on anything? If so, let us know on Twitter @Door14Hockey or on Facebook or even just follow us there!