Ice hockey: Gardiner Conference win not enough for Braehead Clan

Braehead Clan celebrate winning the Gardiner Conference for the third year in a row
Braehead Clan celebrate winning the Gardiner Conference for the third year in a row

Braehead Clan captain Matt Keith says his team will not rest on their laurels, despite winning the Elite Ice Hockey League's Gardiner Conference at the weekend.

Clan confirmed silverware for the third season in a row by winning the mini-league, involving all four Scottish teams and Manchester Storm.

And it means a preferential seeding come the end-of-season play-offs next month, but Clan's skipper is refusing to take his foot off the gas.

"Winning the Conference doesn't mean the rest of the season is pointless," Keith said. "We want to be playing well going into the play-offs and there's a lot of pride here at this club.

"We want to win and win in the right way as we head into March and the tough games ahead. As long as I've been here, it's important to do things the right way and hopefully we can be successful.

"Goals can maybe change as the season goes on, but one thing that hasn't changed is the winning of this Conference and we have to take overall pride in winning it for a third time in a row."

Clan clinch it against Stars

Their only game of the weekend was against Dundee Stars, who were the only team that could catch up going into the game.

But a 4-1 result later, it was Clan with their hands on the silverware as Dundee were effectively beaten in the first period thanks to three goals.

Cody Carlson, Matt Beca and Mike Hammond were all on the scoresheet early on and although Cale Tanaka pulled one back in the second period, it was as far as they got.

Braehead's success was confirmed with a wonderfully executed solo goal from Alex Leavitt as the team celebrated the season's first trophy of the campaign.

Manchester Storm suffered a setback to their hopes of staying in the top eight with a 5-2 loss at home to Edinburgh Capitals.

The Caps are still fighting and although they cut the gap to six points at that point, midweek losses to Coventry Blaze and Sheffield Steelers made it difficult for them in the final push.

That said, a win's a win and Michal Dobron's side came from behind to take the points in Altincham, despite Karel Hromas opening the scoring for them.

Jack Prince's double put Storm in front, but the Caps bounced back as Ian Schultz, Mike D'Orazio, Jacob Johnston and a late Pavel Vorobyev empty netter sealed the victory.

On Sunday, Caps returned home to Murrayfield to host league leaders Cardiff Devils in something of an ice hockey equivalent of the rugby Six Nations game in the nearby stadium the day before.

Devils continued their march to the title with a 3-2 overtime win, coming from behind to beat the Caps.

Chris Jones' opener for the Devils was cancelled out by Ian Schultz before Pavel Vorobyev put Edinburgh in front.

Patrick Bordeleau levelled for the league leaders to take the game into the extra period, where Joey Haddad struck to seal the points.

Flyers involved in two high-scoring games

Fife Flyers suffered a mixed weekend in terms of results, but managed to deal what could be a significant blow to one team's title hopes.

They went to Belfast on Saturday and returned on the wrong end of a 7-2 thrashing by the Giants, who took the lead through Mike Forney and Steve Saviano.

Sebastien Thinel pulled one back, but Saviano put Giants 3-1 up at the end of the first. Although Carlo Finucci added another for Fife, Belfast blitzed them in the third to kill them off.

Another two from Saviano, to make it four on the night and a brace from Jerome Leduc confirmed a strong win for Derrick Walser's side as they look to close in on the title.

Flyers played another title challenger in Sheffield Steelers at home on Sunday, but the 6-3 win by Todd Dutiaume's side could be pivotal in the context of the season.

Zack Fitzgerald's opening goal was overturned by Matt Sisca and Brendan Brooks, with Matthieu Roy levelling for Steelers, but Sisca picked up his second to regain the lead.

John Armstrong equalised again, but Flyers surged to victory through goals from Chase Schaber and Justin Fox, with Carlo Finucci rounding things off with an empty net finish.

Weekend results

Saturday

Belfast Giants 7-2 Fife Flyers

Braehead Clan 4-1 Dundee Stars

Manchester Storm 2-5 Edinburgh Capitals

Sunday

Edinburgh Capitals 2-3 Cardiff Devils (OT)

Fife Flyers 6-3 Sheffield Steelers

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