2003/04

FIXTURE LIST & GAME SHEETS    CHALLENGE CUP   ELITE LEAGUE

 PLAY-OFFS    PLAYER-STATS     HONOURS    SUMMARY

PLAYERS IN * early release,  # late sign PLAYERS OUT
David Clarke Guildford Flames (BNL)  Lee Jinman Timra Red Eagles (Swedish Elite) 
Kim Ahlroos London Knights (ISL)  Mika Pietila EHC Straubing (German Bundesliga)
Marc Levers Basingstoke Bison (BNL)  Jason Clarke Verdun Dragons (QSPHL)
Calle Carlsson Sheffield Steelers (ISL)  Dody Wood Verdun Dragons (QSPHL)
Geoff Woolhouse Nottingham Lions (EPL)  Marc Hussey IHC Alleghe (Italy)
Dave Struch Bracknell Bees (ISL)  Jimmy Paek Orlando Seals (WHA2)
Daniel Scott Nottingham Lions (EPL)  Scott Allison Bracknell Bees (BNL)
Mikko Koivunoro Guildford Flames (BNL)  Jason Elders Orlando Seals (WHA2)
John Craighead Manitoba Moose (AHL)  John Purves Retired
Robert Stancok HC Martimex (Slovak) 

Barry Nieckar

Retired
Niklas Sundberg Baton Rouge Kingfish (ECHL)  Eric Charron HC Sibir Novosibirsk (Russia) 
Joel Salonen Lukko Rauma (Fin1)  Todd Wetzel Ravensburg EV (Germany)
Lee Jinman # Timra Red Eagles (Swedish Elite)  Petter Sandstrom IF Troja Ljungby (Sweden)
James Morgan Semi-Retired

This season saw the inauguration of an "Elite" league. Following the financial collapse of Manchester & Ayr the season before and the loss of Bracknell at the season's end, a five team Superleague wasn't viable. The new Elite league was to have a salary cap of 7k per week, theoretically with greater use of "home-bred" players. In addition to the ex-Superleague teams, minus Bracknell, the Elite league was to included teams from Basingstoke, Cardiff, Coventry, Glasgow & Manchester, but Glasgow dropped out in mid June. As that month ended things were still very much up in the air after the sport's governing body refused to affiliate the new league. This could lead to untold difficulty with match officials and player transfers. Their preference was for a single league combining the remaining ex-ISL sides with the more British based BNL. But as things stood the gap between those behind the two league's remained as wide as ever. It was then reported that the NIC were threatening to oust the Panthers and replace them with a new team entered in the BNL. Meanwhile the Elite league had affiliated to the EIHA and would enter the new season under the umbrella of that organisation. As August started the Elite league announced that work permit holders would be limited to 5 per club.
Goals would not be a deciding factor this season for teams tied level on points and wins. After that, the next order of priority would be the result of the games between tied teams. In addition, the maximum bench size was increased to 20 skaters and 2 goalkeepers provided that at least two players were eligible to play for the GB Under 20's National team. 
The Challenge Cup would be run again with the top four at the end of the qualifiers meeting in the semi's, 1v4 & 2v3.
The season's ending play-offs would commence with the top 6 finishing teams playing in two groups, 1st,4th & 6th and 2nd,3rd & 5th, with the top two in each group going on to the finals weekend knockout. 

isl.jpg (1390 bytes) CHALLENGE CUP

RESULTS

GP W OW D L OL GF GA
Basingstoke Bison 2 2 0 0 0 0 4 2
Coventry Blaze 2 1 0 0 1 0 6 5
Sheffield Steelers 2 0 0 1 1 0 6 9
Manchester Phoenix 2 1 0 1 0 0 4 3
Cardiff Devils 2 0 0 0 2 0 5 8
Belfast Giants 2 0 0 2 0 0 4 4
London Racers 2 2 0 0 0 0 6 1

Semi-Final

Belfast Giants 2 2 0 0 0 0 11 5

Final

Sheffield Steelers 2 1 0 1 0 0 4 3

Early season League games also counted toward the Challenge Cup. After a decent start Panthers slumped. It was clear Paul Adey had problems with his team. The forwards seemed reliant on the perfect passing play to create a goal and the D men were over-reaching themselves trying to help out. At this stage it looked as if only London could save Panthers from the wooden spoon! After 3 short weeks it was obvious that the silverware would be heading to Sheffield or Belfast, who had both already amassed almost twice as many points as the other contenders. On Oct 10th the Panthers ended their miserable run with a creditable 3-3 tie in Belfast after being 3-0 down early in the 2nd period. This result seemed to give the players a lift and several narrow victories followed. On Oct 25th the Devils made their first appearance for several years. The respective difference in finishing was stark as the Devils converted 6 of 29 shots, while the Panthers could manage only 4 from 44. The Challenge Cup group stage ended with a comfortable 3-0 home win over the London Racers and a place in the semi's. The inability to put the puck in the net reliably was as evident as ever though in this game, with Craighead, Ahlroos & Cadotte all missing guilt edged chances. Panthers faced the Giants away and home in January and by now Lee Jinman was back in the line-up, having been released by Swedish side Timra. Panthers got off to a flying start in the first leg in Belfast, leading 3-1 at the end of the 1st period. The 1st leg ended 4-2 in the Panthers favour. The return saw Panthers run out 7-3 winners, 11 -5 on aggregate. Neither Dave Struch nor Kris Taubert didn't finish the game. Taubert's injury in particular was a bit of a cheap shop as Giants Paxton Schulte stuck out a leg and hit Taubert knee to knee behind Panthers net. Predictably our final opponents were Sheffield. On March 9th the 1st leg at the NIC against the newly crowned league champions ended 1-1. For a change the Panthers didn't give up an early goal against the Steelers and Niklas Sundberg was solid throughout. Panthers only goal was scored by David Clarke on a quick slap-shot which the Steelers goalie could only touch with his mitt as it flew in off the post. In the return at the Sheffield Arena a week later the Panthers overcame the Steelers 3-2 to lift the trophy 4-3 on aggregate.
Cup Winners celebrate.

CUP TABLE

GP W OW D L OL GF GA PTS GD
14 8 1 3 2 0 58 40 21 18
14 8 0 3 3 0 54 38 19 16
14 8 0 1 5 0 39 38 17 1
14 6 0 4 4 0 37 32 16 5
14 6 0 2 5 0 44 35 15 9
14 5 0 2 6 1 32 40 13 -8
14 4 0 3 6 1 31 33 12 -2
14 0 0 1 14 0 23 60 1 -37

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LEAGUE

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TABLE

GP W RW D OL L GF GA PTS
Sheffield Steelers 56 44 41 3 1 8 214 109 92
Nottingham Panthers 56 34 33 6 2 14 209 158 76
Coventry Blaze 56 29 24 7 0 20 185 156 65
Belfast Giants 56 27 26 7 1 21 218 185 62
Cardiff Devils 56 23 23 6 3 24 155 162 55
Manchester Phoenix 56 22 20 8 1 25 140 155 53
Basingstoke Bison 56 20 19 5 3 28 146 195 48
London Racers 56 3 2 2 2 49 106 253 10

 

RESULTS

GP W OW D L OL GF GA
Basingstoke Bison 8 5 0 0 3 0 27 23
Belfast Giants 8 4 0 2 2 0 35 30
Cardiff Devils 8 5 0 1 2 0 28 15
Coventry Blaze 8 4 0 1 2 1 32 21
London Racers 8 7 0 0 0 1 32 13
Manchester Phoenix 8 7 0 1 0 0 33 16
Sheffield Steelers 8 2 1 1 5 0 22 37

When the Cup qualifiers games came to an end Panthers hit a bit of a purple patch, winning four on the trot. In the process they made their way up to a heady 2nd in the league. That purple patch came to an abrupt end in mid November with the visits of Cardiff & Basingstoke to the NIC. The local press trumpeted: "Two victories will see the Panthers one point behind league leaders Belfast". A lacklustre 2-2 tie against the Devils was followed two nights later by an abject 6-2 defeat against the Bison. A further defeat by the Bison, 5-2 this time, saw Paul Adey threaten changes, pointing the finger at the higher paid "import" players. The return of injury victim Mikko Koivunoro saw an immediate improvement in Panthers attacking form as they saw off Manchester 4-2 at the NIC. They then went to "Wooden Spoon" destined London Racers at Lee Valley and scraped a 3-2 win. Panthers were without the retired Morgan, injured Clarke and Koivunoro still carrying an injury. Next up at the NIC were the league leading Giants. In arguably their best display of the season so far Panthers won 5-3. Peterborough youngsters Lewis Buckman & Sean Yardley joined Mark Levers on the 3rd line and together with Paul Moran, the work rate of this British quartet was outstanding. Panthers notched up their 4th & 5th wins on the trot with impressive 7-4 & 5-1 victories at Basingstoke & Cardiff, over the weekend of 6th & 7th Dec and sat, for the moment at least, on top of the league. Just before Christmas it was announced that old favourite Lee Jinman was returning having been released by Swedish Elite League side Timra. With Panthers sitting atop the league, albeit having played more games than the Giants & Steelers, the future looked promising. Panthers 8 game winning streak came to an end in Belfast just before Christmas with a 4-3 loss, but to soften this blow "Jinners" was to ice the following night at the NIC. In his first game back Jinman notched 2 goals, but was still upstaged by John Craighead who added an assists to his two. On Boxing day the Steelers made their usual visit to the NIC and went away with a 7-3 win. How humiliating was that? Panthers only did three things wrong. Sundberg had a mare, the defence was like a sieve and the forwards were at the wrong end of the ice. The following night's 5-0 loss in Sheffield merely underlined the gulf in collective ability or desire. All in all a dismal Christmas for the Panthers as we went from 1st to 4th. A rough-house 6-4 win in Belfast followed, then a hard fought 4-2 win at the NIC over the Bison. A 2-0 away win in Manchester followed, Niklas Sundberg managing a shut-out, who'd have thought it possible? The Devils were next up at the NIC and Panthers managed another hard fought 3-2 win, with Briane Thompson bagging the winner on a stunning wrap around effort three minutes from the end. The Bison were the next visitors in the league, following Panthers exploits against Belfast in the Cup. With Kris Taubert absent & Johnny Craighead obviously carrying an injury the 2nd & 3rd lines were severely disrupted and it looked to be a case of "after the Lord Mayor's show", but 4 goals in as many minutes in the 3rd period saw off the Bison 6-2. Next up were the Blaze. They left the NIC with a 5-3 victory, largely due to a particularly inept display from Andy Carson IMO. It's not often you see 5 on 3 power-plays, this game had three. Two for the Blaze, they scored on one, and one for the Panthers which resulted in a goal. Five on five, Panthers were clearly the better side. Unfortunately, thanks to Carson, there wasn't much of it. After a fairly even game the Phoenix went away having been surprisingly beaten 5-1. Sundberg had a fine game and I thought he would pick up the MOM, but John Craighead scooped the award. Then Panthers were away in Coventry and came away 6-3 victors. Faint hopes of winning the league looked to have been extinguished when the Giants went away from the NIC with a 7-4 win. With two goals, three assists and numerous face-off wins, Curt Bowen had beaten us almost single handed. All in all a tired looking display, but the absence of Joel Salonen & Marc Levers hadn't helped. More worryingly the line of Koivunoro, Ahlroos & Craighead looked a shadow of their pre Christmas form. Panthers bounced back with a 4-1 win in Cardiff as Mark Cadotte bagged an empty netter. After seeing off London 4-1 at the NIC one of Panthers best displays of the season followed as they won 5-0 in Coventry, despite being well outshot. The Blaze gained immediate revenge, winning 4-3 in OT at the NIC. In truth Panthers should have won this. The Blaze worked hard, but without Craighead in the line-up Panthers PP was toothless. They had numerous opportunities including a 4 minute PP in which to make a mark, but came up empty. As the season wound down, with the Steelers a street in front of the chasers, Phoenix then came to the NIC and lost a shoot-out 7-5. Also notable was Geoff Woolhouse taking over from Niklas Sundberg at the start of the third. They followed this up in Belfast with a 6-4 win, in which Mark Cadotte excelled with 2+3. Geoff Woolhouse also made his first league start and registered 87%. Panthers lost any mathematical chance of winning the title when they lost 3-2 in OT to wooden spoon destined London on the same night Sheffield won in Belfast. In a fore-runner to the Challenge Cup final, Sheffield visited at the end of February and went away comfortable 3-0 victors. On the evidence of this game Panthers chances of lifting the Challenge Cup were zero. The 2nd line of Craighead, Koivunoro & Ahlroos had ceased to function almost entirely. Panthers bounced back from this with a great 8-3 win in Manchester. Paul Adey had obviously changed the lines around, putting Craighead on a line with Jinman & Cadotte to great effect. Panthers rounded off their away league schedule with a 6-1 win in Cardiff.. The following night the league schedule came to an end as the Giants went down 7-4 at the NIC.

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PLAY OFFS

TABLE GRP B

GP W OW D L OL GF GA PTS GD
4 3 0 0 1 0 12 6 6 6
4 3 0 0 1 0 12 8 6 4
4 0 0 0 4 0 10 20 0 -10

 

RESULTS

GP W OW D L OL GF GA
2 2 0 0 0 0 9 5
2 1 0 0 1 0 3 1
Manchester Phoenix(SF) 1 1 0 0 0 0 6 1
(Final) 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 2

Panthers go their play-offs underway with another hard fought 3-0 win over the Devils at the NIC, 3 days after their Challenge Cup success at Sheffield. This was followed the following night with a 4-2 win in Coventry. On the 25th the Panthers visited Cardiff needing a point to qualify for the semi-final, but lost 1-0. They clinched their play-off semi-final place and the top spot in the group with a 5-3 win against the Blaze at the NIC and in the process faced a semi-final tie against the Manchester Phoenix, runners-up to the Steelers in group A. In the 1st semi-final, Sheffield overcame the Devils 2-0. In the 2nd Panthers scored a decisive 3 goals in 4 minutes at the start of the 3rd period, before running out 6-1 winners. The finals ended with a tight game against the Steelers, but disappointingly the Panthers lost 2-1. 
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pansm.jpg (722 bytes) PLAYER STATS

PLAYER STATS

Pos GP Gls Ass Pts Ave Pims Ave MoM F/O%
Mark Cadotte F 68 37 58 95 1.4 48 0.7 5
John Craighead F 65 46 37 83 1.3 224 3.4 4 48%
Kim Ahlroos F 69 38 44 82 1.2 36 0.5 10
Lee Jinman F 36 25 41 66 1.8 42 1.2 6 51%
Miko Koivunoro F 58 13 50 63 1.1 119 2.1 0 48%
Briane Thompson D/F 64 16 34 50 0.8 152 2.4 5 46%
Joel Salonen F 63 16 32 48 0.8 36 0.6 4
Dave Struch F 69 14 33 47 0.7 20 0.3 5 52%
David Clarke F 54 18 22 40 0.7 62 1.1 4
Calle Carlsson D 68 7 30 37 0.6 56 0.8 0
Paul Moran F/D 69 7 14 21 0.3 84 1.2 3 34%
Robert Stancok D 61 3 16 19 0.3 98 1.6 9
Kristian Taubert D 61 5 11 16 0.3 67 1.1 1
Marc Levers F 57 6 4 10 0.2 44 0.7 0
James Morgan D 24 2 2 4 0.2 42 1.8 1
Daniel Scott F 32 0 0 0 0.0 2 0.1 0
Nicky Chinn F 11 0 0 0 0.0 6 0.5 0
Lewis Buckman F 8 0 1 1 0.1 14 1.6 0
Darren Cotton F 2 0 1 1 0.5 0 0.0 0
Sean Yardley F 2 0 1 1 1.0 0 0.0 0
Jason Buckman F 2 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Rhys McWilliams F 2 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Andy Howarth F 2 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Richard Taylor F 2 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Nick Whyatt F 2 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Paul Adey F 1 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 0
Geoff Woolhouse N 69 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0 2
Niklas Sundberg N 67 0 3 3 0.1 8 0.1 3
GOALIE STATS GPI Min Sht Gls S% GAA
Niklas Sundberg 65 3819 1811 162 91.1 2.5
Geoff Woolhouse 11 361 157 22 85.4 3.7

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ANNUAL AWARDS

Most Valuable Player Robert Stancok
Players Player Of The Year Mark Cadotte

Top Points Scorer Award

Mark Cadotte

Top Goalscorer Award

John Craighead

Most Consistent Player

Kim Ahlroos

Most Entertaining Player

Mark Cadotte

Best British Player

Paul Moran

Supporters Player Of The Year

Robert Stancok

Sponsors Player Of The Year

David Clarke

The Gary Rippingale Memorial Team Spirit Award

Geoff Woolhouse


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pansm.jpg (722 bytes) SUMMARY

TOTAL GAMES 2003/04

GP W OW L OL D GF GA
68 41 2 16 2 7 254 181
% of Games & Goals Ave 60% 3% 24% 3% 10% 3.7 2.7
HOME 32 19 1 8 1 5 134 98
59% 3% 25% 3% 16% 4.2 3.1
AWAY 33 21 1 8 1 2 117 81
64% 3% 24% 3% 6% 3.5 2.5
Average Attendance: 3915 (-12%)

All things considered this was a pretty good year for the Panthers.. Statistically the 4th best win percentage in their history and an appearance in the season's showpiece finals. The only fly in the ointment was that we finished runners up to the Steelers in both the league and play-offs. At least we stopped them picking up another clean sweep. 

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2003/04 HONOURS

Top Points Team GP Gls Ass Pts Ave Pims Ave
Mark Dutiaume Sheffield Steelers 53 34 54 88 1.7 69 1.3

 

HONOURS

League Champions Sheffield Steelers
Runners Up Nottingham Panthers
Challenge Cup Winners Nottingham Panthers
Runners Up Sheffield Steelers
Championship Winners Sheffield Steelers
Runners Up Nottingham Panthers
BNL Champions Fife Flyers
Runners Up Guildford Flames
Elite League Loss Bracknell Bees
Elite League Gain Coventry, Basingstoke, Cardiff

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