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Monday, March 21, 2011

Closest ever title race see’s Steelers come out on top

badge_steelersIt took until the last day of the season, but last night the Sheffield Steelers became the Elite League Champions for the 3rd time (and their 7th league title). Going in to the final game, Steelers were level on points with the Cardiff Devils and just one point ahead of the Belfast Giants.  With Cardiff’s last game being against league whipping boys the Edinburgh Capitals, realistically Belfast were out of the race and the title came down one game, than between Sheffield and Braehead.  A Sheffield win and the championship would be theirs, a loss and the title would be going to Wales.

Sheffield came out and did the job required in a dominant and clinical performance.  The game was as good as over early in the second when the Steelers scored two quick goals leaving Braehead looking lost.  After Steve Munn scored on a breakaway to make it 5-0, Braehead called a time out to recompose themselves, and while it steadied things, the Steelers never looked back taking the win 7-2 and with it the Elite League title.

In a post last month, I made my predictions on where I saw the league going and I’m happy to say this time I was wrong.  I correctly predicted that Belfast would only drop a couple of points to Sheffield, I just expected Cardiff and the Steelers to each drop a couple more points that they did.  But no sooner is the business of the regular season over, than we move on to the playoffs, in fact Sheffield and Dundee get things underway this Tuesday in Sheffield.

The match-ups for the quarter finals look like this: -

Sheffield V Dundee
Cardiff V Hull
Belfast V Coventry
Nottingham V Braehead

It’s hard to look beyond the top four to make the finals weekend, perhaps with the exception of Nottingham where a Braehead upset is definitely on the cards.  Certainly a win for Hull or Dundee would be a major shock and while if they can all click Coventry certainly have all the tools to beat Belfast, giving their form this season a Coventry win is unlikely.  But over two games we all know anything can happen, a lucky bounce or a hot goalie is all that’s needed to bring about a surprise or two.

Assuming the final four is made up of the top four things then get a little more tricky to predict, I wouldn’t write off any of them when it comes to a one off game, you only have to look at some of the results between the teams this season to see that.  As for my predictions, I’m going to sit firmly on the fence. One of Nottingham, Sheffield, Cardiff or Belfast will win the play-offs, but which one, I guess we’ll know in a couple of weeks.

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