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1997/98

FIXTURE LIST WITH LINKS TO MEMORABLE GAMES

PRE-SEASON     AUTUMN-CUP    LEAGUE     EXPRESS CUP

PLAY-OFFS     PLAYER-STATS      HONOURS       SUMMARY

Momentous happenings during early July saw the directors put the club on the market, with debts of around 250k reported from the previous season. The directors estimated that by the time the new arena opened the club would be 750k in debt. Unable to countenance this prospect the club was put up for sale, reportedly for around 3/4 of a million. Having failed to gain sufficient interest locally, an advert was placed in the business section of the Financial Times. This elicited several interested parties. However by the beginning of August it was reported that those players with contracts had been asked to accept a 10% pay cut along with reductions in both performance bonuses and living allowances. The players, speaking via captain Garth Premak, refused the request. Shortly before contracts were signed, a buyer who had been in talks with the directors, dropped out. The new season was now a matter of weeks away.
August 18th and news broke that Panthers had finally been sold, subject to the ISL ratifying the franchise transfer, to a sports management company called Aladdin Management, whose Chairman was a Neil Black.

PLAYERS IN * early release,  # late sign PLAYERS OUT
Jamie Leach Vienna (Austria) Darryl Olsen Phoenix Mustangs 
Jeff Sebastian Villach (Austria) Jason Jennings EHC Straubing
Kraig Nienhuis Humberside Hawks Jeff Hoad Ayr Eagles
Jim Mathieson Richmond Renegades Ashley Tait Kingston Hawks
Blake Knox Richmond Renegades
Steve Carpenter Erie Panthers
Mike DeAngelis # Peterborough Pirates

PRE SEASON

CHALLENGE

GP W L D GF GA
Interlaken (Swiss) 1 1 0 0 11 3
Guildford Flames 1 0 1 0 3 6
Kingston Hawks 1 1 0 1 9 5

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AUTUMN CUP

AUTUMN CUP GroupB 1st Rnd

GP W L D GF GA PTS GD
Cardiff Devils 10 8 1 1 58 19 17 39
Nottingham Panthers 10 8 1 1 54 16 17 38
Basingstoke Bison 10 5 4 1 40 32 11 8
Bracknell Bees 10 4 4 2 44 26 10 18
Slough Jets 10 1 7 2 29 70 4 -41
Peterborough Pirates 10 0 9 1 18 80 1 -62

 

AUTUMN CUP

GP W L D GF GA
Peterborough Pirates 2 2 0 0 18 2
Bracknell Bees 2 2 0 0 7 3
Slough Jets 2 2 0 0 18 3
Basingstoke Bison 2 1 0 1 7 4
Cardiff Devils 2 1 1 0 4 4
Ayr Eagles (QF) 1 1 0 0 5 8

The Autumn Cup Campaign started with Panthers in a preliminary group with Cardiff, Basingstoke, Bracknell, Slough & Peterborough. Predictable wins over the Jets & Pirates, a win and a draw against much improved Bison, two close victories over Bees and two close games against the Devils saw Panthers finish behind the Devils on goal difference after they shared eight goals in the round robin games. This saw Panthers through to a quarter final match up with Ayr Eagles. Ayr proved to be too strong winning both encounters 4-2 in Ayr and 4-3 in Nottingham, but as the Eagles would go on to sweep the Grand Slam they were perhaps two creditable performances.

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LEAGUE

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SUPERLEAGUE RESULTS

GP W OW L OL D GF GA
Ayr Eagles 4 1 0 3 0 0 7 19
Basingstoke Bison 4 4 2 0 0 0 13 9
Bracknell Bees 4 1 0 2 0 1 15 13
Cardiff Devils 4 1 0 3 0 0 9 15
Manchester Storm 4 2 0 1 0 1 18 17
Newcastle Cobras 4 2 0 1 0 1 17 12
Sheffield Steelers 4 3 1 1 0 0 16 14

 

SUPERLEAGUE TABLE

GP W L D GF GA GD OT PTS
Ayr Eagles 28 20 7 1 117 69 48 2 43
Manchester Storm 28 18 7 3 123 80 43 1 40
Cardiff Devils 28 15 11 2 99 79 20 2 34
Nottingham Panthers 28 14 11 3 95 99 -4 0 31
Bracknell Bees 28 14 13 1 95 116 -21 1 30
Sheffield Steelers 28 11 15 2 103 101 2 3 27
Basingstoke Bison 28 5 19 4 80 116 -36 6 20
Newcastle Cobras 28 6 20 2 66 119 -53 1 15

The Superleague had been reduced to 2 home and 2 away games. This was due to the intention to introduce a new competition which would include opposition from the continent. This however failed to materialise. It was essential to get off to a good start in the much shortened league competition. This Panthers duly did and by the beginning of November were on the heels of leaders Manchester. 
The cross channel competition failure saw the start of a new competition between the Superleague clubs sponsored by the Daily Express. Panthers first game in the new competition saw them play old favourites Sheffield Steelers. This resulted in a 9-1 home win and Panthers fans were in heaven, walking around for days wearing cheesy grins. Successive narrow home losses against Devils & Eagles soon wiped away those grins. The latter game exploded in controversial circumstances when referee Lehtonen awarded the Eagles a crucial goal after consultation with linesman Folka a couple of minutes after the original incident. This caused the Panthers to lose their composure and go on to give up two, 5 on 3 powerplay goals as they finally went down 6 - 5.
At the end of November Panthers lost Jamie Leach & Neil Morgan to injury. No sooner was Leach back than Mike Bishop went out with what appeared to be a serious back unjury. The team though continued to play well and two close road wins against the Storm in both ISL & Express Cup saw them rise to the top of the ISL and make up ground in the Cup. 
Just before Christmas, Panthers fans were cheered by the news that a new signing had been made. Mike DeAngelis a 31yo American/Italian with seven years international Pool A, and two Winter Olympic games experience, had played the previous season with Lugano in the Swiss league. DeAngelis received a rude introduction to British Hockey after a disappointing team performance, a 6-3 home loss against the Storm.  
Panthers went to Steelers the next night and ended up being involved in a bench clearing brawl. Referee Rowe ejected seven players. Panthers were leading 4-0 at the Arena when fighting broke out all over the ice, all the players being involved bar the four goalies who held a union meeting at centre ice. The penalty count reached 301 minutes, an ISL record. The Nottingham Evening Post reported Mike Blaisdell as saying :- "It was not in our interests to disrupt the game and it is quite clear who started it. When
Sheffield came off their bench to gang up on one of my players, there was little else we could do. We showed great character in the face of intimidation." Panthers lost Nienhuis & Sebastian, Steelers - Ware, Beaulieu & Allison, before the cooling off period imposed by Rowe. Laxdall & Steelers skipper Wilson were ejected later. Panthers went on to win 5-0, with ex Steeler Jamie Leach netting the final goal. In the process Netminder Trevor Robins became the first visiting goalie to shut-out the Steelers at home.
At the end of the year and into the start of 98 the injury front took a turn for the worse as first Steve Carpenter and then "Wags" joined long term victims Bishop and Morgan, thus reducing Panthers to four "D" men. Bishop joined the warm up prior to the Jan 3rd Express Cup game at home to Bees, but did not ice. Panthers went on to lose this game 4-1. It was the old story at home as the Bees were comfortably outshot. Bees had a couple of lucky bounces and that, as they say, was that. 
On a lighter note, Panthers played a challenge game against Kingston Hawks, with NHL Hall Of Fame star Reggie Leach turning out at the age of 47, to play alongside son Jamie.
At the end of January Panthers faced a crucial weekend in their quest for the league title, at home to Cardiff then away to Ayr. In the former, Devils took a 5th minute lead which they stubbornly hung onto until the 51st minute when two goals in 12 seconds, by Morgan & Leach, saw Panthers in front. Derek Laxdall scored an ENG to close the proceedings, but it had been a close fought exhausting game in which coach Blaisdell felt able to use only 13 skaters. 
The following evenings' game at Ayr proved, for a team with three absentees and numerous walking wounded, one game too many. The resultant 8-1 defeat probably ended Panthers title dreams along with several others in the chasing pack, who must have been praying for a Panthers win.
By the start of January Panthers hopes of winning the league crown had by all but disappeared and their progress into the
Express Cup semi finals required an away win at the Bison. With DeAngelis now in Japan with the Italian Olympic team, Bishop dressing but not taking a regular slot. Morgan having broken a thumb shortly after coming back from a wrist injury, Hunt and perhaps crucially Robins out for the remainder of the season and Dallman carrying a groin strain, things looked grim. However Panthers produced a stunning display of counter-attacking hockey to register a 9-3 win and book a semi final place.
At the same time that the Express Cup came to a close the League programme ended. Panthers suffering injury problems struggled toward the end of the campaign but ground out an overtime 3-2, away win, over Basingstoke Bison to end the League season. Kraig Nienhuis hitting the overtime winner.

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EXPRESS CUP

EXPRESS CUP RESULTS

GP W OW L OL D GF GA
Ayr Eagles 2 0 0 2 0 0 5 8
Basingstoke Bison 2 2 2 0 0 0 14 7
Bracknell Bees 2 0 0 2 0 0 3 11
Cardiff Devils 2 0 0 2 0 0 4 10
Manchester Storm 2 2 1 0 0 0 10 8
Newcastle Cobras 2 2 0 0 0 0 12 7
Sheffield Steelers 2 2 0 0 0 0 12 3

 

EXPRESS CUP TABLE

GP W L D GF GA GD OT PTS
Ayr Eagles 14 12 2 0 64 34 30 1 25
Sheffield Steelers 14 9 5 0 61 55 6 0 18
Bracknell Bees 14 8 5 2 58 55 3 0 17
Nottingham Panthers 14 8 6 0 60 54 6 0 16
Manchester Storm 14 5 6 3 55 44 11 2 15
Cardiff Devils 14 6 7 1 41 49 -8 0 13
Basingstoke Bison 14 4 10 0 43 69 -26 0 8
Newcastle Cobras 14 1 11 2 35 56 -21 1 5

 

EXPRESS CUP Semi-Finals

GP W L D GF GA
Panthers v Eagles* 2 0 1 1 8 16
Bees* v Steelers 2 1 0 1 7 5
* Winners 2 2 0 0 9 6

In the Express Cup Semi-Finals and Panthers were drawn against in form favourites, Ayr Eagles. Despite missing five players, Panthers put up a gritty display to hold an Eagles side missing only Jeff Hoad. The final 4-4 scoreline reflected great credit on all those involved with the Panthers. Panthers headed north for the return leg with only 13 skaters, 6 defencemen & 7 forwards, including Knox suffering from a stomach strain. Kraig Nienhuis being the latest injury absentee with knee ligament problems. Graham Waghorn was penciled in for a slot on the forward line. Things looked pretty bleak The resultant 12-4 defeat was disappointing, if not unexpected, and Panthers were out of the Express Cup.

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PLAY OFFS

PLAY-OFFS Quarter-Finals

GP W L D GF GA
Ayr Eagles 2 1 1 0 4 8
Sheffield Steelers 2 0 1 1 6 7
Newcastle Cobras 2 1 1 0 6 4

 

PLAY-OFFS QF Grp A

GP W L D GF GA GD OT PTS
Ayr Eagles 6 4 1 1 19 12 7 0 7
Sheffield Steelers 6 2 2 2 16 14 2 1 2
Nottingham Panthers 6 2 3 1 16 19 -3 2 -3
Newcastle Cobras 6 2 4 0 15 21 -6 1 -6

As the play-offs opened Panthers were beginning to get back some of the wounded. In the first game, despite outshooting the Steelers, Panthers went down to a 3-2 overtime loss, but bounced back to record a 5-2 away success over league strugglers Cobras. 
The following week-end panthers finally overcame their Eagles hoodoo as they recorded a pulsating 3-2 home win over the B&H, League & Express Cup champions, to go top of their group. 
After that though the wheels fell off. Against main rivals Steelers, Panthers managed only a 4-4 home tie. This was a game in which Panthers surrendered a 4-2 lead with two soft goals. 
Needing to defeat Cobras at home to book their semi final place Panthers again managed only a 1-1 tie. The overtime period failed to gain Panthers the extra point they required as Cobras scored the OT winner. 
The last chance to make the semi finals was against the Eagles at the Centrum, not a happy hunting ground. The resultant 6-1 defeat brought to an end Panthers season. New owner Neil Black was not a happy man, complaining that the failure to reach the semi finals had cost him around 20,000. Mike Blaisdell was left promising changes for next season. In truth Panthers had been short of goal scoring punch throughout the season, a defect that came home to haunt them in the play-offs. Equally alarming was the fact that over the season Panthers gates had dropped on 96/97 by 12%.

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SUMMARY

Results Summary 97/98

GP W OW L OL D GF GA
Total 65 34 3 25 2 6 263 226
W% L% D% AGF AGA
52 39 9 4.0 3.5
Total Home 33 22 3 8 1 3 152 99
67 24 9 4.6 3.0
Total Away 32 12 0 17 1 3 111 127
38 53 9 3.4 3.8
Average Attendance: 2504 (-12%)

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PLAYER STATS include Autumn Cup, ISL, Express Cup & Play Offs.

PLAYER STATS

Pos GP MoM Gls Ass Pts Ave Pims Ave
Derek Laxdal F 62 32 35 67 1.1 129 2.1
Jamie Leach F 55 3 27 33 60 1.1 40 0.7

Paul Adey

F 60 25 33 58 0.9 24 0.4
Kraig Nienhuis F 60 3 25 33 58 1.0 53 0.9
Greg Hadden F 58 2 24 32 56 1.0 22 0.4

Marty Dallman

F 51 25 30 56 1.1 22 0.4

Blake Knox

F 56 20 29 49 0.9 107 1.9
Jeff Sebastian D 62 1 12 30 42 0.7 109 1.8
Garth Premak D 54 1 12 25 37 0.7 109 2.1
Brent Bobyck F 55 1 10 21 31 0.6 20 0.4
Randall Weber F 60 2 7 16 23 0.4 16 0.3
Steve Carpenter D 57 3 8 15 23 0.4 77 1.4
Neil Morgan F 40 10 13 23 0.6 28 0.7
Jim Mathieson D 57 2 11 13 0.2 76 1.3
Simon Hunt F 44 2 2 6 8 0.2 28 0.6
Graham Waghorn D 54 0 7 7 0.1 93 1.3
Mike DeAngelis D 24 1 2 5 7 0.3 16 0.7
Mike Bishop D 42 3 3 6 0.1 60 1.4
Marc Twaite F 55 1 3 4 0.1 41 0.8
Trevor Robins N 40 3 0 2 2 0.1 61 1.5
Simon Greaves F 54 0 3 3 0.0 0 0.0
Scott O'Connor N 24 0 0 0 0.0 0 0.0

 

GOALIE STATS

GP Mins Shts Gls Save% GAA
Trevor Robins 40 2390 1262 111 91.2 2.8
Scott O'Connor 24 1387 755 95 87.4 4.0

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97/98 HONOURS

Top Points Team GP Gls Ass Pts Ave
Tony Hand Sheffield Steelers 28 9 30 39 1.4

 

HONOURS

Autumn Cup Winners Ayr Eagles (2)
Runners Up Cardiff Devils (1)
Express Cup Winners Ayr Eagles (3)
Runners Up Bracknell Bees (2)
Superleague Champions Ayr Eagles
Runners Up Manchester Storm
Championship Winners Ayr Eagles (3ot)
Runners Up Cardiff Devils (2)
BNL league Champions Guildford Flames
Runners Up Telford Tigers
ISL Loss/Gain London Knights added for 98/99

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