MANCHESTER STORM 5 – 4 (AFTER PENS) NOTTINGHAM PANTHERS
This past Saturday evening witnessed the Manchester Storm hitting the ice after a long 13 year absence from the game, and saw the new franchise picking up a opening night win for their troubles against a tough Nottingham Panthers side, taking a 5-4 victory in a shoot-out. A healthy crowd at the Altrincham Ice rink watched on from the stands, with a large contingent of the ‘Panthers Nation’ making the trip up North from M1 in Nottingham to come and support their side.
Both sides were still missing some key imports towards their rosters ahead of the game, and had them calling up players from the Nottingham Lions NIHL side for the visitors and had the home side drafting in four players from their affiliate side the Altrincham Aces.
After all the pre-game festivities were all out the way, it saw the opening puck drop to start the brand new era for the Storm, and It didn’t take to long for the opening goal of the game to come either. As just 33 seconds gone in the contest, it saw the visitors taking the lead from a Steve Lee rebound after David Clarke blast from in slot fell to the Panthers man and he put them one up.
Manchester’s defending in the opening period left a lot to be desired, though with only one training session with the team, it was always going to be a case of trying to hit the ground running for this pre season game. Nottingham then went 2-0 up at 3.36, as a short-handed goal was put away by debutant for the Panthers in Juraj Kolnik, as the Slovakian capitalised on a slip by a Storm defenseman down the wing and that gifted the Panthers man a one-on-one and had him slip the puck under the goalie for a two goal lead.
Manchester cut the deficit in halve mid way through the period with a lovely goal by Vinny Scarsella, after a quick break up ice saw the American forward latch on the pass up ice and had time to compose himself and fire it over the blocker of Miika Wiikman for a 2-1 score. In the 15th minute of this challenge game, we then saw the first ‘fight’ of the season, though to be honest it was more a cuddle with Robert Farmer taking exception to the Storm’s Mike Folkes hit on his team mate on the blue line and had them had just holding on.
Panthers then made 3-1 towards the end of first period, with the Storm being caught out on a bad line change and that gave Evan Mosey the opportunity to beat Zane Kalemba in the Storm goals and see the hosts opening night not getting off to the best of starts.
The Second period and it saw a much better one for the Storm, as they battled their way into the game and were far more defensively sound than compared to their opening period display. Nottingham had the majority of the puck and just couldn`t find many shooting lanes in the hosts defences, despite having a couple of powerplays their way. Manchester nearly made it a 2-3 game, when Matt Paton’s effort just didn’t have enough on it and saw a good save from Wiikman to still keep it out.
Storm’s netminder Zane Kalemba was then called upon to make a good stop from an oncoming Panthers man and gave him some confidence moving on in the game, after a shaky first period. The players from the Altrincham Aces in John Murray, Joe Greaves, Andy Dunn and former Phoenix man Jared Dickinson, all saw them all getting decent ice time in the game and none of them looked look out of place either on the ice.
Nottingham changed goalies with Dan Green replacing Miika Wiikman in the third period, and saw the first action that Green was forced into doing, was to get the puck from the back of his net. After a Matt Paton wrist shot flew in over the shoulder of the netminder, with Mathew Sisca assisting on the goal. Storm then tied the game up at 45.44, with a shot fired in by Omar Pacha near the blue line and despite the puck being stopped by Green, the rebound was turned in by Matty Davies and had the fans in the Altrincham Ice rink celebrating the tying goal.
The hosts then had a great chance falling their way minutes later, when the Panthers were caught on a line change and forced Dan Green into making a big save and denying the hosts a lead. With the home side getting the better of play and looking very dangerous and in the ascendency, it saw the Panthers retaking the lead at 55.30 through a David Clarke effort on the blue line and that looked like it maybe the winner.
However as Omar Pacha said about how he wanted his team to play, in which speed and lots of grit and battling qualities would be the make up of his side and his words rang true. It saw the hosts equalising in the 57th minute of the contest, after they ploughed forwards on a quick break and had Mathew Sisca forcing in a rebound at the second attempt for a 4-4 game.
With the game all tied up after an entertaining sixty minute game, it led to a penalty shoot out to deciding the outcome of the match. Nottingham failed to find the twine with any of their three efforts on Kalemba in the Manchester goals and had the home side picking up the victory, with Grant Toulmin and a beautiful move by Gal Koren giving the Storm their first win back on the ice and an impressive one too.
Sunday evening saw the Storm travelling down the A1 to the home of the EPL Play-off champions the Peterborough Phantoms, and saw the Manchester side making it two wins from two in a 7-3 game. Goals went to Matt Paton, Davey Philips, two for Mathew Sisca and hat trick by the very impressive Vinny Scarsella on his opening weekend in a Storm shirt, to complete a fantastic opening weekend for the new team.