Elite League Mid Season Review
Once again the Pelicans are leading the way in the Elite League with Matej Radusovsky once again being their key player and currently leading the league in points. The gap made by Michal Radusovsky exploring other opportunities this season has been filled by Peter Cergel who has been solid in net when called upon this season. The Pelicans secondary scoring has been boosted by the addition of American Chris Barry this season who has put in a number of fine performances to help maintain the Pelicans 100% record. As always there is little weakness in the Pelicans with the likes of Roman Kiciny and Ladislav Jaros continuing on from their good play from last season.
The Chiefs, currently sat in second place are off to a much improved start to the season and are benefiting from improved performances from key forwards Darren Snel and Luke Campbell. This complemented with consistent secondary scoring and a solid defensive core has resulted in the Chiefs picking up a number of wins early in the year as well as pushing the Pelicans right to the wire. The Chiefs will be disappointed with their loss to the Rebels in the final game of 2016 but will look to push on in 2017 and challenge for the title and if Andrew Creane keeps up his performances in net it could be a tight finish to the Elite League this season.
The Hawks, also on eight points after two wins last time out will be hoping new goaltender Igors Paluhs can help lead their charge for the title. The Hawks as always are a difficult team to play against and have a number of players who can put the puck in net including long time Hawk, Janis Kipars. Young Nauris Osenieks has also proved his worth at times this year and is defiantly a dangerous player for the Hawks. To have a real shot at the title the Hawks will have to ensure they stay out of the box, a trait which has cost them in the past.
The Rebels, level on point with the Chiefs and Hawks will be full of confidence heading into 2017 after some impressive displays in the last couple of rounds. As with the theme so far this season have too benefited from depth in the line up with Vladimir Polacek currently leading the team in scoring. The Rebels have also proved to be defensively sound led by some great goaltending from both Jiri Svoboda and Robert Trnovec. The Rebels will look to start 2017 strong as they face the Storm and Lightning next time out.
Last years League One champions, Cork Wolfpack have proved that they are not out of their depth in the Elite League with a number of competitive encounters so far this season. The Wolfpack have benefited from a good mix of youthfulness and experience with both Andreas Miller and Rob Kay leading the way on the offensive side. While the return of Jason Tessier coupled with players like Derek Mullin on the back end have provided a solid base for the Wolfpack. Richie Barry in nets has again shown that he is one of the top goalies in the country.
The Lightning as always have been led by Conor Bell who alongside Hardarsh Panesar are offensive threats that the opposition are always wary of. The Lightning have struggled to gain much momentum this season as they've struggled to put together a consistent line up. However, they can't be taken lightly in the second half of the season and could play a major role in the title race as on their day are capable of taking points of anyone.
The Storm struggled in the off season to find a replacement for Richie Barry in nets but Marek Kosar has stepped up to the mark and has perhaps been the Storms most consistent performer this year. Again like the Lightning the Storm have struggled at times to field a consistent line up and have been short benched in all games this season. However, the Storm always bring hard work and dedication to the rink, something which is emitomised by Storm player-coach Paul Cummins.
Finally, we have the Rileys who are newcomers to the league. Despite going winless in the first six games they have put in some good performances and were unlucky not to pick up points against the Wolfpack. The Rileys are backboned by netminder Riley Gatensby who has put in a number of sound performances to date. The Rileys have a number of hard working skaters and will look to get into a groove in 2017 and push for a playoff spot.
Through the first half of the 2016-17 Elite League we have seen a number of great games with end to end action, most notably the Pelicans-Chiefs game back in November. We look forward to what twists and turns 2017 will bring us and hope that all teams, players and their families have wonderful Christmas.
Picture courtesy of David Irwin, Compass Travel.