FIXTURE LIST & GAME SHEETS PRE-SEASON AUTUMN-CUP
LEAGUE/CHALLENGE CUP PLAY-OFFS PLAYER-STATS HONOURS SUMMARY
The wage cap for this season was reduced by £50k to £450k.
Changes to the league format were
announced early in May. For Superleague, Challenge Cup & Play Off group or single game
matches a regulation time win would accrue 3 points. In the event of a tie at the end of
regulation time the 10 minute 5 on 5 OT period from the previous season had been scrapped
in favour of a 5 minute 4 on 4 period. If still tied at the end of the 5 minute OT period
there would be a penalty shoot out. The winner of this would receive 2 points and the
A new team from Belfast, the Giants, would compete in the ISL for the first time.
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After a low key start, Panthers
qualified for a quarter final tie against the Storm, by virtue of a 3 wins & 3 losses
record. Although they were pretty sound at the back the forwards were having great
difficulty putting the puck in the net. Jamie Leach & Greg Hadden were suffering a
point-scoring blight compared to 99/00 when both averaged a point a game. Just prior to
the quarter final tie the welcome signing of another forward was announced, Casson
In the first leg of the quarter final at the NIC, PC Drouin put the Panthers 2 up in the 1st period. This was followed by a scoreless 2nd and Panthers entered the 3rd with high hopes of taking a handy lead back to Manchester. In the 3rd the Storm pulled a goal back before "Ash" restored Panthers two goal lead. Panthers were suffering their familiar 3rd period slump and the Storm scored a second just as the hooter went. Ref Boniface gave the goal at 59.59 and the final score was 3-2. The line of Tait, Struch & Drouin were working well, just as well for the Panthers.
In the return at the MEN Arena the Panthers withstood enormous pressure and were out-shot 44 to 23. With Jordan Willis standing firm, an unlikely hero emerged in the shape of Randall Weber (ex retiree again), who grabbed a hat trick. The 4-2 result saw Panthers through 7-4 on aggregate to the semi-final, where Panthers were to play old favourites the Steelers.
The 1st leg in Sheffield was almost a carbon copy of the 2nd leg Q/F tie against Manchester. Panthers were again out-shot 2 to 1, but with some frantic defending and Jordan Willis again playing out of his skin, Panthers managed to escape with a 2-1 loss.
In the return the tie was over by the 7th minute as the Steelers took a 3-0 lead and the period 4-1. Panthers did what they do best and hung on in there to win the 2nd period 2-1 and the final 1-0, for a 4-5 loss, 5-7 on aggregate. Drouin starred for the Panthers, yet again, netting a hat-trick. But the Panthers were out of the Autumn Cup.
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AND CHALLENGE CUP
Panthers carried on in the league
struggling to get any output from a line other than Drouin, Struch & Tait. Immediately
after the backs to the wall Autumn Cup win in Manchester, the Storm took revenge with a
5-2 league win at the NIC. The score flattered the visitors, but a good goal by Eldred as
he stepped out of the penalty box on a break-away, a 5 on 3 pp goal and a blind back hand
pass behind his net by Jordan Willis to a Storm forward gave the visitors 3 goals the
Panthers never looked like overcoming. At this early stage the power-play was virtually
non-existent, unfortunately this was to continue for much of the season.
On Oct 28th Panthers faced the Knights in the first Challenge Cup encounter. Although they started brightly enough Panthers were unable to find a way past old favourite Trevor Robins, but the Knights looked different class. The most memorable event of this game from Panthers' perspective saw Barry Nieckar knock Rushforth and Ferschweiler to the ice with left hooks after being checked in the back.
The following evening the Jesters were the visitors. Despite being outshot 32 to 18 Panthers somehow managed to win 4-1. Willis had an outstanding game and Struch & Drouin work some magic to score two short-handed and one empty netter between them.
On the 4th Nov Cardiff were the visitors, with two more new signings - Brigley & Ahlroos - despite being outshot again Panthers played a get out of gaol card and won 4-3 in OT. Surprisingly Panthers scored 3 on the PP, Drouin on the right point made a big difference in that department. Only the first line was still on the score sheet with any regularity though.
The night following Panthers tough B&H SF2 against the Steelers, Manchester were the visitors. Sitting in the stands watching it seemed all one way traffic as the Storm consistently out-skated the Panthers, so the point from a 3-4 overtime loss was probably a bonus.
On Sat 18th Ayr Eagles made their first visit of the season. Alex had changed the 2nd and 3rd lines around. The 2nd comprised Leach, Hadden and now Masters. The 3rd Garden, Nieckar with Lavoie moved up from D. In what was a pretty even game Willis was again outstanding. A lucky bounce of the boards which evaded Ayr goalie, DeRouville. allowed Garden to knock the puck into the vacant net. A Drouin slapshot from right point deflected off an Ayr stick to make it 2-0 and near the end Ash flipped a nice long range back-hander into the empty net.
An immediate return to the NIC for Ayr on Sunday 26th Nov. Oh dear, what can one say after this. Panthers were the better side for two periods and indeed out-shot their visitors comfortably for a change. Masters had a goal washed out and Struch hit a post early on. Just before the end of the first, Montanari caught Panthers on a defensive mix up, cut inside Struch trying to play D, and scored a simple goal. It was down hill all the way after that. For the first time in 20 years of watching hockey in Nottingham I heard the crowd booing!!. At this stage Panthers looked destined for the wooden spoon.
On Dec 2nd recent road crash victims, Bracknell Bees, came to town and went away with a 4-3 penalty shoot out win. This was almost a replay of the previous game v Ayr. Coming from 1-0 down to be 2-1 up then 3-2 down, Panthers managed to score 22 seconds from the end of the game with the extra skater to take the game into OT. During the shoot-out Panthers failed to score and the Bees only went one better, but it was enough. Once again the powerplay was non-existent, even failing on almost 3 minutes of 5 on 3.
On Sun 10th Dec Panthers reached their lowest point yet, travelling to Ayr with several players missing through injury and coming away having been hammered 10-2.
New boys Belfast Giants were the next visitors, in the event the game was pretty dire. Panthers were outshot 40-21, but thanks to outstanding goaltending by JW and some desperate defending, managed to scrape a 2-1 win after OT and penalties.
Predictably Panthers lost 7-2 the next night in Newcastle as their away form continued to be abysmal.
On December 22nd it was announced that Duncan Paterson & Darryl Moxam, both long term injury victims, had been released.
It was with much trepidation that Panthers visited the House of Steel on Dec 23rd, but back up goalie McInerney, making a rare appearance, stood on his head and turned away 52 of the 53 shots on his goal returning a 98.1% save percentage as Panthers came away with a 2-1 penalty shoot-out win.
On Boxing Day the Steelers were presented with an opportunity for immediate revenge. In the process the largest ever crowd to watch a hockey game in Nottingham were treated to an absolute farce. Already without the released pair Moxam & Paterson, Panthers were also missing Paek, Gillis and Willis. Lavoie moved back onto D to form a quartet including Lavigne who could barely walk let alone skate. Of the nine remaining regular forwards, a sick Masters didn't ice until Nieckar had been thrown out early for roughing and didn't reappear after the first period, while Tait iced for a grand total of four shifts throughout the game. Quite how three fit D and seven regular forwards were expected to compete against the strongest team in the league was a mystery. The eventual SOG totals of 12 to 57 just about sums this game up!!
The first game in the New Year was a 3-2 penalty shot loss against the Jesters. I can't comment as I couldn't be bothered to drag myself out on a cold wet winter evening to watch it, and I'd already paid for my seat!.
On Friday Jan 5th it was announced that not only was Peter Woods, ex GB team coach, going to help Alex Dampier with the coaching, but that finally another player had been signed - Chris Baxter.
At last a win as London Knights are beaten 3-2. The foundation for this victory was laid by the unprecedented success Panthers had in the face-off circle.
Two home wins on the trot! Bracknell Bees go down 5-2. After a close struggle and a hat full of missed chances at both ends, Panthers finally put some away, netting three in the final ten minutes after being awful in the first period. What an amazing turnaround 0-2 down at the end of the first when they weren't in the game, Panthers scored 5 unanswered and dominated the middle session. Five different scorers and not one of them Drouin.
Two away defeats followed.
Ayr were the visitors on 19th Jan and once again the toothless power-play lost the game.
After a narrow 3-2 defeat at Bracknell, Panthers entertained the Giants. After an even game Panthers entered the final minute trailing 0-1. With McInerney off for the extra skater, a Drouin blast from point through the crowd leveled it. After no further scoring in OT Panthers won the penalty shoot-out 3-1. Tait, Drouin and Hadden being successful.
On Jan 31st, signing deadline day, it was announced that Ryan Gillis, who had left for Canada the week before amid concerns for his unborn child, had been replaced by ex Storm defenceman Kevin Hoffman.
Sat 3rd Feb saw the Storm in town. Panthers turned in by far their best performance of the season to return a 5-1 success. The joy was only dampened by the fact that the Storm had by far the worst defence in the league.
On Feb 9th the Steelers were in town again, wanting 1 point to clinch the title and at 3-1 up in the 24th minute they looked to have sealed it. At this point a cross-check from Denis Vial, which went un-called by ref Hanson, left Greg Hadden face down on the ice. Barry Nieckar took almost immediate retribution. This sparked a mass brawl among the players on the ice. As Nieckar was clearly getting the better of his personal encounter, Blaisdell sent the remaining Steelers off the bench to join in, shortly followed by the Panthers bench. When the dust settled the game was delayed for about 45 minutes and three from each side were ejected. On the restart Panthers caught Steelers replacement goalie Torchia cold. After four minutes play 1-3 had become 4-3. Steelers leveled it with their 3rd power-play goal of the night, before PC put Panthers one ahead again. Greg Hadden was then thrown out of the game after he took extreme objection to Rick Brebant's attempt to remove his head with an elbow. With about a minute and a half remaining and Panthers visibly tiring, ref Hanson called yet another minor on Panthers. Steelers pulled their goalie to make in 6 on 4, but with just 20 seconds left on the clock, PC again latched onto a loose puck and fired into the empty net to seal a thunderous 6-4 win.
Panthers penultimate home game against the Jesters was a low key affair. Panthers generally held the Jesters well. considering they were missing Lavigne, Nieckar & Garden, to eventually run out 4-2 winners with Hoffman getting an empty netter with one second on the clock.
Back in the house of Steel, with the hosts boasting that "It's time to put the cat out", Panthers came away with an amazing 3-2 overtime win after Jordan Willis turned away 45 of the 47 shots on his net. After coming within 3 minutes of a regulation win, Kevin Hoffman notched the OT winner with Jason Weaver off for hooking.
Feb 24th saw Panthers final home league game of the season. Unfortunately they couldn't continue their recent winning streak as the Devils went away with the points from a narrow 4-3 win. However this wasn't such a bad result as the Devils went into the game as the form team on the back of an 11 game winning run.
The regular season ended with three away games and still in with a chance of making the play-offs. The first an OT win against the London Knights was followed by a 5-3 defeat in Belfast, leaving Panthers having to beat Newcastle on their own ice to leapfrog the Jesters. In the event, with the game tied 2-2 and a mere 8 seconds left, Panthers withdrew Willis for the extra skater. Hadden won the face-off in the Jesters end, Hoffman fed Nordmark who fired in the winner with just 4 seconds left. Panthers were in the play-offs, while the Jesters were cruelly out :o).
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Panthers opened their surprise play-off programme at home to the London Knights. In a close fought game Panthers went down 2-1, the main differences being the Knights ability to score on rare power-play chances and the form of Trevor Robins. Panthers next game was against the Steelers, many of whom were smarting from financial problems with their management apparently. They went home smarting even more on the back of a 5-0 drubbing. There followed a 3-1 away loss in London and a 4-3 reversal up the M1 and the chances of another surprise looked dim. Panthers last hope of making the finals ended when they went down 4-2 in Belfast in their penultimate game of the season. The return, Panthers final game of the season, was a dire affair. All Panthers weaknesses apparent throughout the season were encapsulated in this encounter. Let's hope for better next year.
Back to TopSUMMARY
A pretty dismal year considering our pre-season expectations. Maybe they were too high, but the last place Challenge Cup placing and just scraping into the final play off place were far worse than I think we were entitled to expect for the 3rd best supported team in the league. Only the form of Drouin, Struch & Tait stood up to scrutiny. At least the Panthers had some success against the Steelers, who were found guilty post season of breaking the wage cap, as well as going bust again. It was suggested that the Grand Slam winners would be stripped of their titles. By mid May the ISL had announced that the Steelers had overspent the wage cap by a minimum of 37% while the Times went as high as 48%. Steelers Trophies were repossessed early in June as the receivers were called in, but no announcements were forthcoming from the ISL At the same time both the Devils and the Jesters had gone into liquidation still reportedly owing players outstanding wages.
Back to TopPLAYER STATS include Autumn Cup, ISL, Challenge Cup & Play Offs.
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