Ice Hockey Play Off Weekend in Nottingham

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Early April at the National Ice Centre can only mean one thing:  EIHL POFW or the Elite League Play Off Finals for those who don’t read in acronyms. 

So, as Nottingham prepares for the influx of hockey fans in colourful jerseys from around the UK and for the party atmosphere - hopefully not dampened by the change in weather – we give you a little preview of what to expect, and what not to expect.

The big news of course is that Hull Stingrays have made it through to the finals weekend for the first time and in doing so they become the lowest ranked team to ever reach the finals in the Elite League history. 

While the Stingrays are still swimming, the Steelers were well and truly sunk.  No trophies this season after Hull knocked them out of the playoffs and their promising league title challenge rather stumbled in the home straight.  Having already signed over half the current team for next season it will be interesting to see how they rebound from that.  If the netminder is anything to go by, it will be a big rebound.

Belfast cruised through to the semi final against lowly Dundee and this was the one tie that was never really in doubt.  Belfast will be strong favourites for the play off title despite their relatively poor track record at this stage of the post season. 

Belfast do have to negotiate their way past a Cardiff team who, having despatched Coventry courtesy of a solid home 2nd leg, will be looking to make it three consecutive Sunday final matches – something that no other team has done in the EIHL era.  This time though Cardiff will be hoping to improve on their past two runner up finishes.

Nottingham will do well to not underestimate a Hull team in the later of the two semi finals.  Despite not having lost to Hull all season, the Stingrays will have their tails up and could cause an even bigger shock than their victory over Sheffield if they make it to the Sunday final.

The Panthers have the firepower and will certainly be looking to win the playoffs for the third time, equalling Steelers’ record in the Elite League, and make up for yet another disappointingly inconsistent season in the league.

Their appearance at the playoffs this year was well and truly in the balance having lost the first leg of the quarter final 0-3 to Braehead.  A 5-1 turnaround with an overtime winner from Benedict at the NIC squeezed them through in what was the closest of all the quarter final match ups.

If history is anything to go by, Panthers will certainly be hoping for a Cardiff victory in the first semi final as Belfast have never lost a play off final and Nottingham have only won against Cardiff in the final.  That is of course, only as long as Nottingham get past Hull first…