He was joined by ex-Viper teammate Ben Campbell who, along with Matt Towe from Up front, long time domestic star David Longstaff took his first trip away from Newcastle Vipers in 8 seasons. He looked out from his goal at newcomer defenceman Joe Graham who came south from the Manchester Phoenix. longest pro shutout streak in hockey history, netminder Miroslav Hala became the club’s first ever foreigner at that position since the team’s arrival in the EPL in 2005-2006.ndAfter a decade of success in the Slovak Extraleague, including the 2 Off season changes to accomplish that feat included invitations to 5 new roster members. After a cup winning season and a narrow miss of a playoff title thanks to a Slough Jets penalty shot goal during overtime of the championship game, the Flames entered 2010-2011 with hopes of even more success.Cardiff Devils, helped take the club’s team speed up a notch or two.
The new look Flames came hard out of the gate with their best start in 5 years, taking their opening league and cup record to a perfect 10 wins and 0 losses before finally suffering their first taste of defeat for the new season with a 4-2 loss on home ice against Slough Jets in late October. A quick return to winning form saw the Flames through to Christmas by holding down a .750 winning percentage in the following 16 games, suffering only 2 additional regulation time defeats since the opening loss and collecting at least a point in a penalty shot loss to Milton Keynes Lightning and an overtime loss to Telford Tigers to retain solid footing in the league table race.
After the Christmas break, an 8-3 win on Boxing Day was the last of the smooth sailing for a time to come. A 4-2 defeat on the road the following night to the same Bracknell Bees became the first game of successive losses all season after Surrey’s team added a home ice New Year ’s Day 5-3 defeat to the fixtures record. A pair of following wins against Sheffield on the way up, were rewarded with another down when the Milton Keynes Lightning offered a rare 5-0 shutout over the Flames, again on Spectrum ice, to force a virtual ‘win or go home’ weekend against Manchester Phoenix who had an opportunity to put a 9 point spread between their 1st place position and the Flames 2nd place slot. Up for a challenge, the 2nd place team responded with gusto by knocking the Manchester Phoenix over with a 2-1 overtime win at home before embarking on a 5-4 road win the following night to pull a potential insurmountable lead back to a 2 point race. In the process, the Flames secured the tie break procedure for their season series success in the event the pair of clubs ended the league schedule in a deadlock on the table summit. The signing of Canadian defenceman Jeremy Van Hoof, who departed exactly 2 weeks later, was of no immediate help as the club fell the following weekend on consecutive nights to slip back a bit in the hunt for the table top. A pair of wins kept the stride up before a 6-3 defeat in Peterborough opened a 6 point gap which quickly moved the league title task to a much more challenging proposition. However, a gamey Flames side ensured, at the very least, the league title would not be given away. Surrey’s favourites charged to a 14 game winning run to close out the season, leaving the title winner in suspense until the very last evening of the season when a Flames win in Telford was matched with the win Manchester needed to secure the top of the table by a mere 2 point margin.
The early season success did leave the Flames in a great cup table position and in a semi final slot for the trophy they won a year earlier. They drew the usual suspects as far as opponents go in the semi final with a 2 leg aggregate meeting against local derby rival Slough Jets. Unfortunately, in contrast to a year ago, it was the Jets who took the initial advantage when they bombarded Spectrum’s men with 4 unanswered 3rd period goals in leg 1 to take an 8-4 lead into the closing leg, all but assuring themselves a spot in the final while denying the Flames a chance to repeat as Cup champions. Though the Flames managed a 5-4 win in leg 2, an all but inevitable competition exit could not be avoided.
The league shortfall, and an early withdrawal from the cup, left any hope for a trophy all in the hands of the one the club had not yet won; the EPL playoffs. The 2nd place league table finish drew the 7th place Swindon Wildcats in the home and away quarter final where the Flames secured a 15-5 aggregate win to advance, for the 6th consecutive season, to the finals weekend at Coventry. In the semi final against Peterborough, a 3 goal opening 10+ minutes staked Spectrum’s men to an enormous lead that they padded in the final 40 minutes to earn a 6-1 win and advancement to the championship game against the Milton Keynes Lightning who managed to slip past league champion Manchester Phoenix with a 3-2 OT semi final win.
In an eventful final, the Lightning opened the scoring but 3 replies by the Flames had them up by 2 at the break. Penalty trouble put a potent Lighting powerplay to work and it managed to cut the lead to 1 in the middle frame before pulling even with about 10 minutes to play in regulation time. A Matt Towe major penalty for high sticking looked to potentially hold the Flames out of the winner’s circle for yet another year, but in an ironic twist, in respect of exactly a year prior with the penalty shot overtime defeat, a thwarted shorthanded breakaway by Martin Masa with fewer than 8 minutes to go was awarded a penalty shot. The Czech forward, under incalculable pressure, deftly swooped in on the Lightning goal and tucked the puck home for a 4-3 lead. Nathan Rempel then tacked on a last minute empty netter to help the side finish the season with a 17 game winning streak while bringing the EPL playoff title, after 5 consecutive disappointments at the big weekend, back to Spectrum for a summer of celebration in anxious anticipation of the season ahead.