ICE HOCKEY: A FOUR-point-weekend for Dundee Stars dropped Coventry Blaze out of the playoff picture with just eight games remaining.
The top eight teams after the 52-game regular season go on to compete in the end of season playoff championship – with two-legged quarter finals taking place before finals weekend in Nottingham at the start of April.
Danny Stewart’s men find themselves a point behind Dundee with the Stars having a crucial game in hand.
And with away trips to Cardiff, Sheffield and Belfast still to come, fans of the Blaze were pleased to witness a crucial 5-1 win against Nottingham Panthers on Sunday night at the Skydome.
It proved to be a weekend of mixed fortunes for the Blaze who on Saturday night were beaten 4-1 by the East Midlands outfit, who took full advantage of the absense of three Blaze skaters – Liam Stewart, Kevin Noble and Ashley Tait.
Despite hitting the post on three occasions in the opening period, it was the Panthers who took the lead with a marker at 37.32 from Geoff Waugh.
Less than a minute later the Panthers doubled their lead as Robert Farmer lit the lamp to double the home side’s lead.
Hotshot TJ Syner scored Blaze’s only goal with 15 minutes to go – but from there the Panthers scored twice more, making Saturday’s trip home a tough one with news Dundee had leapfrogged the Blaze in the Elite League table.
Sunday night proved a different affair with Blaze putting five past Panthers netminder Pacl who played well in goal, though was left vulnerable on follow up attempts as Panthers failed to clear their lines.
Blaze did have to come from behind to win though as Panthers man Andy Sertich fired the visitors ahead just two minutes into the game as netminder Brian Stewart was left with little vision from a half-hearted blue line shot.
Three goals in the space of 14 minutes handed Blaze a two goal lead though as skipper Jordan Pietrus, Marc Cantin and then Matt Marquardt added markers to the home side’s tally.
Star forward Barry Almeida then skilfully slotted a shot past Pacl as the Panthers netminder was caught out of position following an initial save at 30.37.
Several crucial saves from Brian Stewart kept his team’s advantage healthy – the netminder’s efforts in goal later earned him Man of Match.
Nottingham’s night was summed up on 42 minutes as a powerplay opportunity wasn’t taken when Swede Robin Bergman scored shorthanded on the rush.
Stewart’s side were unfortunate not to score again as the game ended 5-1 – and the coach was full of praise for his side.
Stewart said: “Sunday was our best performance of the year, we defended well and looked dangerous when entering their zone.
“We played well in Braehead last week and in Nottingham on Saturday so the win was coming.
“Our penalty kill and powerplay was superb and Brian Stewart made the saves he had to, everyone did a great job.”