Nobody could have foreseen the transpiration of events that comprised the club’s 25th anniversary season. Spectrum’s men opened 2016-2017 on the back of a pair of trophies after capturing the Cup and Playoff jewels the season prior. Retaining most of the team that brought silver back to Guildford put expectations on high. Though the off season saw the club lose the services of British forwards Matt Towe and Lee Esders, each to short-lived retirements, the bulk of the “Double” winning side was in tact including Finnish netminder Richard Ullberg, who joined a roster featuring returnees Marcus Kristoffersson, Jens Eriksson, and Matic Kralj, as well as the only newcomer to the non-British mix, Slovak forward Marek Maslonka. They joined a star returning British contingent that included Kevin Phillips, Danny Meyers, Tom Duggan, Ben Campbell, Andy McKinney and Jez Lundin. Ullberg was partnered with former Cardiff Devil Mike Will who joined Maslonka as the only two new members of a side expecting a run at every trophy on offer.
Unfortunately, familiarity did not impact effectiveness as the Flames stumbled out of the gate with just a pair of wins in their opening 6 outings throughout September. Though they opened October with a 4 point weekend haul, it was not a sign of things to come for the next couple of months as Surrey’s side picked up just 6 wins from 16 attempts for the rest of the month and through November. Across that run, change was the name of the game as the club worked to steady the ship. When all was said and done, Slovak forward Jakub Kubis came and went, Kristoffersson moved on to retirement, Joonas Kuusela and Dean Skinns replaced Ullberg before Kuusela himself was also moved aside. Rupert Quiney was released and Finnish forward Tuomas Santavuori joined the ranks. In early December, with season ending injuries to Kralj and British skater Andrew Melachrino really highlighting a tough luck campaign, Slovak sniper Michal Satek signed on from financially troubled Telford Tigers and, finally, so began a better show of results.
In the final month of the calendar year Spectrum’s tenants won 6 of 9, a run that included a season high 4 game winning streak, and had points in 7 of those starts to gain stability around the league’s mid table region. In early January, Finnish veteran Kari Sihvonen came aboard and completed the final roster setting. Improved results continued throughout the month with 11 of 16 possible points secured.
With the league out of reach, and a repeat of Cup success no longer an option, a look ahead to the playoffs was where the sights were set. Though February was a struggle that included a 3 game skid, performance was on the up, and finally in March, and particularly with the playoff group round, things came together. After failing to capture a win all season against Telford Tigers, the Flames rolled up in Shropshire to begin the group schedule with a 3-0 shock of the newly minted League Champions. The Flames followed that with wins over Sheffield at home and a road success at Peterborough where they had struck out on all 3 tries across the regular season. In the end, with 11 of a possible 12 points to top the group A playoff gang, the club, against the odds, had secured a berth in the Coventry final 4 weekend with their only group blemish an overtime defeat to the Tigers. Unfortunately for Spectrum’s team, the eventual Playoff champion Milton Keynes Lightning dashed the hopes for a playoff repeat. In the elimination semi-final, the Flames suffered their only regulation defeat in the competition where 5 unanswered Bolts goals in the last 10 minutes blew open a 3-3 tie and ended in an 8-3 loss.
Despite a strong playoff showing ending abruptly with no trophy, the biggest prize to Flames fans had already been announced in February. With the announcement to beat all announcements, the club declared it would ice, for the first time in its quarter century history, at the top level of UK pro hockey beginning in 2017-2018 as a member of the Elite ice hockey league; a reality that fully took shape in that bitter sweet moment when playoff elimination put 12 seasons of EPL membership in the history books, and simultaneously brought the sun up on a brand new and exciting era of Flames hockey.