The Benson & Hedges Cup is the ice hockey equivalent of the FA Cup, although not every team is invited to play in it. The twelve clubs in this year's competition are split into Group A and Group B. Each team plays each other home and away with the top four qualifying for the quarter finals. The group games take place before the Superleague season begins. The quarter finals and semi finals are played over two legs in October. The final will then takes place at Sheffield Arena on Saturday 6 December 1997.
The group games score 2 points for a win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss. There is no sudden-death overtime - if the result is drawn after 60 mins, the draw stands.
Manchester Storm's Group A opponents are from the Superleague and the British League.
Sheffield Steelers are the Superleague play-off winners for 1997 after the previous season having won all three domestic trophies. They finished the first Superleague season in second place behind Cardiff Devils. Their record against Storm is pretty good but from three games at the Nynex Arena against Storm, they have won one, drawn one and lost one. They went out of last season's B&H Cup against Nottingham Panthers at the semi-final stage.
Storm's last game against Telford was a resounding 9-1 victory for Storm. Although the game was just a friendly arranged as part of Mark Pallister's move (despite the fact he's actually moved back to Telford by the time the game was played!), there is little reason why the result shouldn't be similar. Telford last season played in the Premier League, but didn't do particularly well. They seem to have a similar standard team this season.
Paisley Pirates finished second to Fife Flyers in the Northern Premier League last season and should be of similar standard this year. The Pirates won the Scottish Cup last season.
Ayr Scottish Eagles finished 3rd in the Superleague last season - their first season of existance. The games with Storm were always tense affairs - the infamous Ruggles-Kummu fight was only the tip of the iceberg! Eagles should be up there again next season and this will be a tough match for Storm.
Newcastle Cobras finished 5th in last season's Superleague, despite looking like finishing in second place for a time. Their squad looks pretty impressive once again this season, and so should be a tough opponent for Storm in the B&H games, particularly away in Newcastle.
Storm have qualified for the quarter finals and face Bracknell Bees in a home and away series. The first leg was in Bracknell on 11 October with the return a week later. Bracknell are expected to be one of the weaker teams in the league this season, but they could cause an upset in the B&H Cup and Storm should be wary. However, if all goes according to plan Storm should be in the semi finals. Storm drew the away leg 2-2 and won the home leg at the Nynex 5-4 to progress to the semi finals.
The semi final ties against Ayr Scottish Eagles were scheduled for Friday 31 October at the Nynex Arena and Saturday 8 November at the Centrum Arena. Ayr had a great two-legged win over Nottingham Panthers winning both ties. This would be a tough test for Storm if they wanted to get to their first ever B&H Cup Final. The first leg in Manchester finished 4-4. The second leg finished 3-2 to Ayr and so Ayr met Cardiff in the Final on 6 December. Ayr Scottish Eagles beat Cardiff Devils 2-1 and so won the Cup for the first time.
The results of the B&H Cup matches can be found on the Results Page.