Left Panther: November 2016

Wednesday 30 November 2016
reading time: min, words

November has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde month for the Nottingham Panthers, who had great success in Europe to progress to the final of the Continental Cup, while nosediving in the Elite League. The Panthers lost six consecutive league games resulting in a slump in the table to take them from second to fifth place, out of ten teams.


Following their previous successful trip to Europe in October, the Panthers immediately lost to Edinburgh, Clan (Glasgow), Manchester, Belfast and Sheffield in the Elite League. The latter was one of the most humiliating away games to their erstwhile rivals with an embarrassing score line of 1-8, scraping a consolation goal only on the final buzzer. Having only won the Elite League title once in the last 57 years, it is fair to surmise that another win would please the fans. The club is obviously dividing its time now, but the priority does appear to be Europe with Coach Corey Neilson saving players with injuries from playing in the League to play in Europe. It is hard to argue against the win/loss ratio following the trip to Denmark, that competing in this competition as well as the League and Cup at home seems to be having an adverse effect on subsequent games.  

The only game we won in the string of losses was a Challenge Cup match against Coventry. Always good to get a win, but the game was actually meaningless in terms of results for Nottingham, as the Panthers had already progressed to the next stage of the competition. Coventry needed the win, but we controlled the run of play for the full sixty minutes. The narrow 2-1 score reflects many of their recent home games where they are not being clinical in front of the goal and finishing chances. Brian McGrattan did his job and had a lengthy scrap against Garrett Klotz, which ended up with blood on the plexi glass and both players having to leave the ice for treatment.

Following the game, Assistant Coach Rick Strachan acknowledged the improvement in the team on the night:It was a different team. We played with more energy and commitment to the system. We played smart hockey and beat a good hockey team." 

The following night was the 1-8 loss to Sheffield. Within ten minutes, Sheffield were 3-0 ahead and it was a clinical performance from the Yorkshire side, who are not short of firepower or commitment. They continued to rain in shots on Henry Pacl in the Panthers goal and it was all Panthers could do from stopping them scoring ten. Nottingham were missing Miika Wiikman, Chris Lawrence, Stephen Schultz, Geoff Waugh and Robert Farmer from the game.


So yet again, the team have been decimated by injuries. Top goal scorers Stephen Schultz and Chris Lawrence have only just returned to the team after long absences. David Clarke and Geoff Waugh are also on the sidelines, with injuries undeclared by the club. Mikka Wiikman has been on and off the ice, with Henry Pacl providing back-up more regularly than one may expect from a no. 2 net-minder, including both a win against Coventry and the poor defeat against Sheffield. Every team suffers injuries, but they seem to be having an adverse effect on Nottingham, as in previous seasons 

It is hardly surprising with the poor run of form and string of defeats, that Coach Corey Neilson took action against his team by releasing a player, to send a message to the locker room.  More surprising was his choice of player: he sacked forward Petr Kalus, a recent short-term signing, apparently to make way for a new signing. Neilson then brought in 6’7”, 35-year-old, Slovakian defenceman Kristian Kudroc. He is proving to be a good solid D-man, but it was arguably an unusual signing for a team that clearly needs to score more goals.


In a mysterious turn of events, Kalus appeared again, only a week or so after his sacking, to play for Panthers in the European Continental Cup. He was apparently still registered with the team, so played likely to cover injuries, and performed so well in fact that he was awarded Man of the Match, scoring several goals. He has not since returned to Nottingham for league action.  

The Panthers travelled to Odense in Denmark on 18 - 20 November where they finished top of the group of four teams, beating Odense Bulldogs 5-4, French side Angers 4-3 and HC Donbass of Ukraine 3-1. Panthers have now bid to host the prestigious Super Final, which takes place on 13-15 January. This depends on securing the availability of local alternative ice, as the National Ice Centre is currently scheduled to host a synchronised skating competition on the same weekend.


In the weekend of 25 - 27 November, there was a return to winning ways in the League with Panthers securing a maximum of four points against Belfast and Fife, both of whom are above them in the table. Both were marginal wins again, both with a final 3-2 score. The Belfast game was won on penalties and thanks to Miika Wiikman’s excellent netminding skills as he saved all three shots fired against him, while Matt Carter scored for Nottingham. Against Fife, Panthers controlled large parts of the game, but gave up a 2-0 lead to allow the Scots to get back to 2 all. Panthers nicked a winning goal in the last sixty seconds, which did feel harsh on Fife’s netminder Shane Owen, who had a fantastic night, facing 42 shots compared to Fife’s 25 shots on Nottingham.   

Coming up, Panthers face a very heavy schedule with thirteen games in December, which are often back to back with each other. They have league and Cup games, the latter of which are quarter finals and knock-out stages against the Braehead Clan. Panthers traditionally have a Christmas slump, but since they seem to have had that early, it will be interesting to see what December serves up to the ice hockey faithful

Nottingham Panthers play Devils away on Wednesday 30 November, 7.30pm
Nottingham Panthers play Steelers at home on Saturday 3 December, 7pm

Sally on Twitter: @sautton22

Nottingham Panthers website

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