By Kris Smith
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Game 5: Manchester Storm 1 Nottingham Panthers 3
The Panthers needed a big performance on Tuesday night to make-up for their failings in the opening weekend and they got the perfect start that they were hoping for.
Inside the opening minute, a long pass forward gave Nottingham the first attacking chance and after Kevin Domingue’s shot was saved, Christophe Boivin dived on to the rebound and turned it back into Sean Bonar’s net.
However, the visitors lead did not last long as the league’s leading point scorer, Ciaran Long, notched his fourth goal of the season to tie the game on six minutes.
Long turned home the pass of Cameron Critchlow to convert the Storm’s five-on-three powerplay after Nottingham’s Mark Matheson and Domingue both picked up minor penalties.
The first period concluded with both teams still tied but after five minutes of play in the second session and with Manchester on the penalty kill, Oliver Betteridge deflected the shot of Brendan Ellis past Bonar to make it 2-1.
The next goal was crucial, as for Nottingham it created a cushion but for Manchester swung the momentum once again.
However, that decisive goal would not come until the third period, although it did come very early as Lewis Hook was given space on the left wing and buried his shot into the top corner, just 11 seconds into the period.
Manchester could not break down Tim Wallace’s men again and therefore saw their winning-streak halted, as the Panthers claimed their much-needed first win of the season.
Game 6: Coventry Blaze 2 Sheffield Steelers 7
On Wednesday night, both teams had a chance to capitalise on Manchester’s first defeat of the year and claim their place at the top of the standings heading into this weekend’s matches.
Fans watching from home only had to wait six minutes for the first goal of the night as Tanner Eberle beat Shane Owen to give Sheffield the first advantage, but that lead would never disappear.
In the 12th minute, Robert Dowd swept home a loose puck in the Coventry crease to make it 2-0 but just before the period would end, Tristan Keck got the Blaze off the mark by finishing off Mike Hammond’s late cutback pass.
However, before the home team could find an equaliser in the second period, Aaron Fox’s men restored their two goal cushion through Sondre Olden after 22 minutes.
Nonetheless, the Blaze kept fighting and were rewarded with a second goal, this time coming from Nick Jermain in the 29th minute but once again Sheffield pounced on another chance to make it 4-2.
Steelers youth product, Liam Kirk was the next goalscorer and bagged his fourth of the campaign with a swift finish on a cross-goal pass from Olden on 33 minutes.
The visitors held their two-goal lead into the final break but once more came out firing after the restart with Eberle netting his second of the night after 42 minutes.
Danny Stewart’s side failed to close the gap again and after a small phase of physical and heated play, the Steelers wrapped up the two points with two goals in less than a minute.
The first goal came in the 55th minute and was a first for Jason Hewitt in his return to the club before Eberle completed his hat-trick.
(Feature Picture: Karl Denham)