By Kris Smith
Three teams are currently locked in a race to grab the last spot for the 2019 PredictorBet Elite League Playoffs.
Dundee Stars, Coventry Blaze and Manchester Storm are the three teams battling for the eighth and final playoff spot. Cardiff Devils, Belfast Giants, Nottingham Panthers and Glasgow Clan have already secured their place but the rest of the teams from fifth to 10th have yet to lock-up their spot in the post-season.
Only seven points separate Guildford Flames down to Dundee and with a maximum of 10 points available to some teams, no one’s fate is guaranteed.
However, Milton Keynes Lightning are guaranteed to finish at the foot of the table and have announced their intention to join the English Ice Hockey Association’s newly formed National Ice Hockey League next season.
Although, the real interesting battle is the one developing for the last playoff berth, which is currently occupied by Manchester Storm. The Altrincham side have played 56 out of 60 games and have 55 points.
Their last four fixtures see them face the top two sides, battling it out for the league title. This weekend they host Belfast before travelling to Cardiff and in the final week of the regular season they are on the road against Milton Keynes before facing playoff push rivals Coventry Blaze at home.
The Blaze face a similar challenge in their last five games. Also, on 55 points but with a game in hand, the West Midlands club take on Dundee on Wednesday before a trip to Guildford this Sunday. A mid-week encounter with Belfast follows before their penultimate fixture against Manchester. Danny Stewart’s side round of their season at home against current league champions, Cardiff.
Finally, Dundee who lie just a point behind Manchester and Coventry have a chance to leapfrog the pair into eighth, if they can beat Coventry on Wednesday. Their last home game of the regular season comes against Cardiff this Sunday before facing a daunting road weekend in their final two matches. A trip to Northern Ireland is Stars second last game as they visit Belfast before the long-drive south to Guildford the following night.
Stars head coach, Omar Pacha knows his team face a tough set of fixtures but insists his team are not getting ahead of themselves.
He said: “You just have to go one game at a time and that is what we are focusing on.
“We just take it as it comes and go from there, you can’t control the other results, all you can control is the game on Wednesday and that is what we are going for, one game at a time.
“We took it game by game at the weekend and we did a good job with that, so we are not really focusing on the other games.”
Tickets for tonight’s game against Coventry Blaze are available from the DIA website or online.