By Kris Smith
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Game 17: Nottingham Panthers 4 Manchester Storm 3
Monday night saw the Panthers win a vital scrap to ensure they could still move off the bottom of the standings.
Nottingham opened the scoring after six minutes through Oliver Betteridge’s low shot on Sean Bonar, before Nick Dineen made it 2-0 in the 18th minute, with a first-time finish at the back post.
In the second period, the Panthers then moved into a 3-0 lead, as a Kevin Domingue capitalised on a defensive error by the Storm.
However, Manchester finally clawed on goal back with a powerplay marker just before the end of the second period, as Jacob Lundell Noer squeezed his shot past Jackson Whistle at his near post.
The Storm tried to continue building momentum in the third period and continue to mount a comeback but Domingue beat Bonar for a second time to restore Nottingham’s three goal advantage after 43 minutes.
Although, five minutes later and with Manchester on a powerplay, Cameron Critchlow turned home the pass of Ciaran Long.
Tim Wallace’s side then had their two-goal cushion taken away as Scott Simmonds jammed home a loose puck on 53 minutes, making it a one-goal game but Nottingham held on to claim two valuable points.
Game 18: Sheffield Steelers 5 Coventry Blaze 3
Tuesday night brough the turn of the Blaze and the Steelers to face-off, with the ever dominant Sheffield side securing their sixth win of the season.
The first goal of the game went to Coventry and it was scored on the powerplay by Tristan Keck in the third minute, before Brendan Connolly drew Sheffield level on 10 minutes, also on the powerplay.
It would be a full 20 minutes before someone re-took the lead and in the 33rd minute, Matthew Myers tipped a puck past Shane Owen to send the Steelers into the lead.
Then 90 seconds later, Connolly converted a Blaze defensive error to make it 3-1 and Aaron Fox’s men held that advantage going into the final period.
Although, Coventry came out firing and pulled one back, just 32 seconds after the restart, with Janne Laakkonen beating Curtis Warburton at his near post, while on the man advantage.
Sheffield responded to that early blow with a fourth goal in 48th minute as Liam Kirk finishing off Connolly’s chance and they then made it 5-2 through Robert Dowd on 52 minutes.
Keck then bagged his brace with another powerplay goal inside the final two minutes to bring the Blaze with two goals, but they could not find anymore late goals to trouble the Steelers.
Game 19: Manchester Storm 4 Nottingham Panthers 2
Wednesday night brought the first reverse fixture of the week, with the Storm now hosting the Panthers and Ryan Finnerty’s side were hungry for revenge.
And that’s exactly what they got and Manchester made the perfect start through Ben Lake’s redirected shot inside the opening two minutes.
However, the Panthers hit back with an equaliser on 12 minutes, as Brett Perlini netted on a breakaway but 90 seconds later, Maxime Fortier had the Storm back in front, as he flicked home the loose rebound.
Although, the end-to-end action did not stop after that and in the 17th minute, Nottingham broke down the ice, with Perlini in possession and the Brit snuck his shot past Bonar and just in off the far post to tie the game once again.
After a hectic first period, the second was much quieter and there was only one goal scored, as Manchester went ahead for the third time that evening.
The Storm’s third goal came on the powerplay and was scored by Cameron Critchlow, as he blasted a slapshot from the blueline, through traffic and into the back of Ben Bowns’ net.
Martin Gran then sealed the win for Manchester with a fourth goal in the 56th minute and he beat Bowns with a quick and low shot under the netminder, to make it 4-2.
Game 20: Coventry Blaze 5 Sheffield Steelers 7
The final mid-week match of the round-robin phase took place on Thursday and it was another high-scoring, back and forth encounter between Sheffield and Coventry.
This time there would only be one goal in the opening 20 minutes and it came via Brendan Connolly in the 15th minute, to put the Steelers ahead.
Tanner Eberle then quickly doubled his side’s lead with a goal inside the opening two minutes of the second period, but the Blaze then began their fightback as Mike Hammond got them on the board in the 27th minute.
However, Jeremy Beaudry swiftly restored the Yorkshire club’s two-goal lead, as he beat Jordan Hedley 24 seconds after the restart.
The fourth goal of the game came just two minutes after the third and Joshua Waller was on the end of this Sheffield move to make it 4-1.
Eberle then chipped in on the powerplay to bag his second of the night and eighth of the season on 36 minutes.
In the third period, Liam Kirk scored on 43 minutes to extend the lead to 6-1 and the game seemed out of reach for Coventry.
That was until they smashed home three goals in just over three minutes, with Mac Howlett, Tristan Keck and Sam Duggan all beating Curtis Warburton, to pull it back to 6-4.
Hammond then netted his brace, with a goal on the man advantage and with just 87 seconds left to play, but despite losing four goals in 13 minutes, the Steelers found a way to keep the Blaze from scoring the equaliser.
Although, Connolly still managed to give his side an extra degree of comfort by scoring into an empty net and that rounded off the scoring at 7-5.
(Featured Picture: Dean Wooley)