By Kris Smith
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Game 17: Nottingham Panthers V Manchester Storm
First up, Nottingham play hosts to Manchester and it is a game of third versus fourth, with only two points separating the sides and both within reach of the top two teams.
Monday 19 April, Face-off: 19:00
NP – 3-4-1
MS – 3-4-1
Christophe Boivin – 12 points in 8 games (6G, 6A)
Kevin Domingue – 9 points in 8 games (4G, 5A)
Austin Cangelosi – 9 points in 8 games (4G, 5A)
Scott Simmonds – 11 points in 8 games (4G, 7A)
Ciaran Long – 9 points in 8 games (6G, 3A)
Maxime Fortier – 8 points in 8 games (4G, 4A)
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Last weekend, the Panthers started Ben Bowns in both Friday night’s 4-3 win over Sheffield and Saturday night’s 4-3 loss to Coventry. The English keeper now has a 2W-3L record in his five starts for Nottingham and one of those victories was in their first win against Manchester earlier this season.
However, Jackson Whistle still remains an option for Tim Wallace and his only win in three starts has also came against the Storm this season.
Meanwhile, Manchester have consistently relied upon Sean Bonar this season, with the Canadian starting seven of eight games so far and he has been in the crease for all four of their wins.
Although, with Ryan Finnerty’s men playing in for the second night in a row, Bonar could be rested for a second time this season and Sam Gospel or Stephen Murphy could get the nod.
Both previous meetings between the two sides this season have ended in a win for the Panthers but on their latest outing against the Storm, Nottingham prevailed 4-3, scoring the winner in overtime.
Last Wednesday, Scott Simmonds, Martin Gran and Maxime Fortier had all put Manchester in the lead on three separate occasions but Nick Dineen, Johno May and Lewis Hook all found equalisers before Christophe Boivin won the extra point for the Panthers.
Game 18: Sheffield Steelers V Coventry Blaze
It is a top of the table clash on Tuesday as the two teams that are tied on 10 points meet for a third time to fight for a lead atop of the standings.
Tuesday 20 April, Face-off: 19:00
SS – 5-3-0
CB – 4-2-2
Tanner Eberle – 13 points in 8 games (6G, 7A)
Liam Kirk – 11 points in 8 games (6G, 5A)
Two Players – 10 points in 8 games
Tristan Keck – 14 points in 8 games (9G, 5A)
Mike Hammond – 13 points in 8 games (3G, 10A)
Nick Jermain – 8 points in 7 games (1G, 7A)
BETWEEN THE PIPES
Sheffield have become the first team to use all three of their signed goaltenders this season.
With Canadian John Muse still out after picking up an injury halfway through game one, Ben Churchfield has played the first seven games of the season but found himself subbed out on Saturday after giving up an early 3-0 lead to Nottingham.
In came, Curtis Warburton for his debut and he conceded only once in the 4-3 defeat and was started in their 3-2 loss to Manchester on Sunday, which has left Aaron Fox with a tough choice to make on Tuesday afternoon.
Whereas, Danny Stewart has found success in both of his netminders so far.
Canadian, Shane Owen has three wins in six games this season and when Stewart has turned to his second option, Jordan Hedley has came up big with one win in his two games this year and the Brit back-stopped his team to a 4-3 win on Saturday night over Nottingham.
In both previous meetings between these tow sides, Sheffield have came out winners and have scored 13 goals in the two games, whilst conceding only six.
Last Tuesday, the Steelers came back from 2-0 down to claim a 6-4 win against the Blaze, with Tanner Eberle, Jonathan Phillips, Sam Jones, Sondre Olden, Jason Hewitt and Brendan Connolly all finding the net for Sheffield.
Meanwhile, Tristan Keck (2), Luke Ferrara and Sam Duggan provided the goals that tested the Yorkshire outfit until the last minute.
The first two mid-week matches will provide great entertainment on Monday and Tuesday before doing so again on Wednesday and Thursday as both fixtures are reversed to make up the other two games of this week.
Game 19: Manchester Storm V Nottingham Panthers
Wednesday 21 April, Face-off: 19:00
Game 20: Coventry Blaze V Sheffield Steelers
Thursday 22 April, Face-off: 19:00
(Featured Image: Dean Wooley)