By Kris Smith
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Game 11: Coventry Blaze 4 Sheffield Steelers 6
The first mid-week match took place on Tuesday night with the Blaze looking to crank up the heat on the in-form Steelers and the home side got the start they needed.
Coventry were leading inside the first five minutes as Tristan Keck jammed home the rebound of Mike Hammond’s shot, beating Ben Churchfield at his near post.
Danny Stewart’s side then doubled their advantage eight minutes later, whilst on a powerplay and the goal came through Sam Duggan, who tucked home the loose puck during a net-front scramble.
However, after going into the first break 2-0 down, Sheffield came out for the second period with powerplay time carrying over and used that to instantly cut the lead to one goal.
As Max Krogdhal sat in the Blaze penalty box on a tripping call, the Steelers worked the puck around the Coventry zone before Tanner Eberle rifled a shot past Shane Owen from the right circle.
In the 37th minute, Aaron Fox’s men drew level through Jonathan Phillips, who was waiting in front of goal and he redirected his own brother’s shot past Owen.
Although, 35 seconds later, everything had changed as Sam Jones fired a quick shot through traffic and sent the Yorkshire side ahead 3-2.
The Blaze went from leading by two goals after one period to be down by one after two periods but that did not stop them from coming out hard in the final session.
It took the West Midlands club just over two minutes to equalise and this time it was Keck assisting Hammond, as the British forward burst down the right flank and beat Churchfield into his far top corner.
However, the Steelers would not be behind for long, as on 46 minutes Sondre Olden’s shot slipped through the grasp of Owen and across the goalline.
Six minutes after Sheffield took the lead, Jason Hewitt tapped home a loose rebound at the backdoor to double their advantage but Coventry would keep the pressure on their opponents until the very last minute.
Keck and Hammond combined for a third time in the 57th minute and brought the score to 5-4 Sheffield, this time Keck turning home the cross-goal pass of Hammond.
Stewart gambled his goaltender for an extra attacker but they failed to breakdown the Steelers for a fifth time but there was a very late goal that extended Sheffield’s cushion.
With the time running out, Brendan Connolly and Olden burst down the ice and Connolly was teed up to smash home into the empty Blaze net with just one second left on the clock.
Game 12: Nottingham Panthers 4 Manchester Storm 3 OT
On Wednesday, the Panthers faced the Storm and were searching for a big win to get their season back on track but they did not get off to the best start.
After a quick goal for the Storm in the opening minutes of the first period, the game settled down until the first break, with neither side finding another breakthrough in the opening 20 minutes.
Scott Simmonds opened the scoring after 89 seconds, as he drifted towards the front of goal and was in the perfect place to turn home the pass of Maxime Fortier.
The Panthers would grab the next goal but it would be disallowed for a high-stick but moments later, Nick Dineen deflected the slapshot of Mark Matheson past Sean Bonar, in the 28th minute.
However, the equaliser was cancelled out within minutes, as Martin Gran was denied by Jackson Whistle once before tucking in his own rebound to restore Manchester’s lead on 32 minutes.
Again, Tim Wallace’s men were down by one goal at the end of the period and heading into the third, they managed to find another equaliser.
With Storm captain, Dallas Ehrhardt’s delay of game penalty carrying over into the third period, Johno May found himself positioned in the right spot next to Sean Bonar’s goal and easily pushed home a loose puck, with only 35 seconds gone into the period.
Although, Manchester would take the lead for a third time that night as Fortier turned from provider to scorer in the 48th minute.
Just as the Panthers seemed to be staring at another loss, up stepped Lewis Hook on 55 minutes.
The young brit was positioned behind and diagonally to the right of Jordan Kelsall as he went in for the face-off in the Storm endzone.
Kelsall won the puck, sent it back to Hook and he instantly flung the puck goalward, catching Bonar off guard.
Just before the end of regulation time, with the game still undecided at 3-3, tensions boiled over between Dineen and Manchester’s Ben Lake with the pair going toe-to-toe.
Once in overtime, both teams showed just how much they wanted the extra point but in the end, it was the Panthers who prevailed.
After 63 minutes of play, Nottingham moved forward with speed and Austin Cangelosi sent a pass from the left wing toward the Storm net, which Christophe Boivin got a strong enough touch on, to send it past Bonar and to win the game.
Game 13: Manchester Storm 3 Coventry Blaze 4
The final mid-week match of the week marked the beginning of the second half of the season, with every side now six games into the 12-game series.
With two previous overtime defeats to the Storm, Coventry were out to prove a point on Thursday night.
The Blaze showed their desire to win, right from the off, with Mike Hammond putting them 1-0 ahead inside four minutes and by the ninth minute, Cole Shudra had doubled their lead.
However, Ryan Finnerty’s Storm finally got on the board with a powerplay goal in the second period.
In the 29th minute, Jacob Lundell Noer converted past Shane Owen, while Coventry’s Janne Laakkonen was serving his two-minute minor penalty for holding.
Although, six minutes later, Coventry reclaimed their two goal advantage with a powerplay goal of their own and it was Tristan Keck, who capitalised on Josh Batch’s ill-discipline.
Once in the third period, Danny Stewart’s side went three goals clear as Sam Duggan beat Sam Gospel in the Manchester goal on 49 minutes. Duggan.
However, that did not stop the Storm from setting up a nail-biting finish, with Dallas Ehrhardt scoring on the powerplay on 50 minutes and Maxime Fortier making it a one-goal game with 72 seconds left to play.
Despite their late push to force a third-straight overtime between the sides, Manchester came up just short, losing out 4-3.
(Featured Picture: Mark Ferris)