Short-benched Blaze enjoy four-point weekend

cardiff devils host the coventry blaze
photo courtsey of Dave Williams

A short-benched Coventry Blaze side produced a sensational four-point weekend to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup and improve their Elite League start to 4-1-1. 

On Saturday in their final Challenge Cup group game, Coventry travelled to Cardiff without Captain Justin Hamonic and associate Captain David Broll through suspension, plus forward pair Mathew Thompson and Janne Laakkonen who were both injured.

Despite also losing defenceman Nate Halbet to a game boarding penalty, the Blaze were able to pick up a huge two points with a 2-1 victory through a pair of goals from Finnish forward Janne Kivilahti.

His first came at 5.19, then he doubled the Blaze lead at 18.35 capitalising on a Devils turnover before finishing neatly in tight.

The Devils were finally able to beat Blaze netminder C.J. Motte through Trevor Cox at 58.39, but the battling away side were able to hold on to a result which later saw them qualify for the next stage of the competition. 

The Manchester Storm had to beat the Nottingham Panthers both home and away to qualify for the quarter-finals ahead of Blaze, but on Sunday, lost 5-4 in penalty-shots to see Coventry go through. 

Meanwhile, the Blaze took on the Dundee Stars at the Skydome on Sunday, and again were without Broll, Hamonic, Thompson and Halbert who was assessed a one game ban following the boarding penalty in Cardiff. Laakkonen did, though, return to the line-up. 

Ryan Penny scored twice against the Stars (23.03 and 40.36) and the Blaze were also able to score two in quick succcession whilst short-handed through Dane Gibson (29.53) and Laakkonen (30.13).

Luke Ferrara wrapped up the scoring at 43.51. Charlie Combs had the sole reply for the Stars at 31.16.

Netminder Motte made an astonishing 99 saves on 101 shots over the two games.

Head Coach Danny Stewart said on Saturday: “We showed pure character. We knew coming in that we would have to scrape this one out if we had any opportunity and tried to simplify our game. I’m so proud of these guys, I’ll tell you that.”

On Sunday, he commented: “It was another scrappy performance. Just character. We had key guys step up this weekend. Everyone was at their best and bought into what we had to do.” 

Neil Tucker

Neil has written on ice hockey for many websites concentrating on British ice hockey mostly. Neil also covers ice hockey in other countries and organises his Blueliner Hockey Tour. A graduate of the Manchester Metropolitan University Neil turned his hand to hockey writing in 2009. As well as contributing on Blueliner Hockey Neil has contributed to Get Real Hockey and Slapshot Magasine.

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