MATCH REPORT: Manchester Storm 2-3 Heilbronne Falken
Your Goodwin Group Manchester Storm are back on home ice on Wednesday 4th September in their final pre-season fixture against EIHL opposition, Coventry Blaze. Doors open 18:30 for a 19:30 start. Tickets are available online, at the Planet Ice Box Office & by calling 0161-926-8782!
The first day of September was welcomed in by a closely contested pre-season hockey game in Altrincham. The Storm played host to Heilbronner Falken (DEL2) of Germany, for the second successive night, and it would again be the visitors that ran out victorious.
The team changes were minimal from Saturday, with Heilbronner electing to rotate their starting netminder with youngster Mirko Pantkowski replacing Matthias Nemec, and the Storm remained without Jacob Lutwyche.
A feisty first encounter between the sides clearly impacted the opening moments of game two, as Mathieu Gagnon was called for roughing after only 39 seconds. The alternate captain appeared to have been looking for willing sparring partner; however, the Canadian blueliner was instead sent away to the penalty box. The ensuing penalty was killed comfortably by the hosts, but the Falken forward did not reliant and at 4:09 they would eventually take the lead through the mightily impressive Louis Brune (on loan from Adler Mannheim.) The concession of a goal appeared to kickstart the Storm and 27 seconds later, the experienced Brock Maschemyer was adjudged two minutes for tripping. After some excellent zone retention on the powerplay the Storm would draw level courtesy of a Cody Thompson tip-in. A well-directed John Negrin wristshot was deliberately deflected into the goal by rookie forward Thompson and at 6:07 the scores were locked at 1-1.
The Storm came close to taking the lead when Sullivan stepped into a shot from the point and rung the puck off the crossbar in the 17th minute. The second half of the first period was punctuated by two minor penalties, both assessed against Heilbronner, but the Storm were unable to capitalise and the teams went into the first intermission still tied.
The second period started in a more sedate manner than the first, with both netminders seeing little action in the first five minutes. It would take until 26:09 for the timekeepers to be troubled when physical forward Kyle Hope was harshly called for a late hit. The hosts PK unit stood firm as the German side were unable to generate any offensive pressure infront of Matt Ginn. Just 16 seconds after the Hope penalty was killed Cam Critchlow was called for holding and this time the visitors would convert. An outstanding display of passing stretched the Storm PK unit all over the zone before Yannik Valenti fired past a hapless Ginn, with the assists going to Derek Damon and Dylan Wruck at 29:50. The aggressive Storm forecheck nearly paid dividends when Hope and Fawcett forced a turnover behind the Falken goal, only for the latter to be denied by an excellent pad-save from Pantkowski.
Both teams would continue battling for the next crucial goal with checks being finished and shots blocked, not something you always see in a pre-season ‘friendly.’ However, at 36:03 Sebastian Hon would be sent to the box for crosschecking and this would hand the Storm another powerplay opportunity. This scoring chance would be taken, thanks to a finish from Critchlow, whose snipe from the point burst the twine at 37:41, the assists going to Layne Ulmer and Dallas Ehrhardt. No further scoring chances were created in the final two minutes as the score remained 2-2.
The final stanza started in the worst imaginable way for the Storm with Ehrhardt and Ulrick both called for minor penalties (high sticking and tripping) at 42:09. As a result, Heilbronner went gifted a 5on3 powerplay. However, some excellent passing lane interference from Negrin and Grewal prevented the Falken’s from creating any real scoring chances, until a fortuitous deflection handed the puck to Pierre Preto who found Tim Miller free to convert on the doorstep at 44:16. This goal would ultimately prove decisive, as the Storm were unable to convert on a handful of good chances. Ryan Finnerty pulled goaltender Matt Ginn at 58:40, for the extra skater, and this nearly worked as Aulin found Ulmer in the slot, only for his attempt to be blocked with only a few seconds left on the clock.
Overall, it was a solid effort from the Storm against a talented young Heilbronner Falken’s roster, which has eight skaters contracted to DEL franchises. It was also good to see rotation in the Storm forward lines with youngsters Liam Morris and Finlay Ulrick seeing plenty of ice-time. Manchester Storm’s Head Coach, Ryan Finnerty, had this to say about the performance:
“I am happy with the progress we are making. The results are secondary right now, the main objectives for pre-season is for the guys to get some minutes into the legs and apply what we have been doing in training. I was really happy with the support from our fans tonight, the building was rocking and that’s really nice to see this early in the season.
“I would like to thank Heilbronner for coming over to play us and kudos to their fans for making the journey. I wish them well for the rest of the season and I hope they have safe travels.”
Man of the Match:
#19 Cody Thompson (Storm)
#50 Louis Brune (Falken)