BELFAST GIANTS 6 – 2 MANCHESTER STORM
Manchester Storm suffered two heavy defeats this past weekend as they came up against the Belfast Giants in Belfast and the Dundee Stars in Altrincham and proved to be real forgettable weekend for the Altrincham based club, with second and third period meltdowns in both games.
Storm had started the weekend on top of the pile coming into the second weekend of the new Elite League season, having thrashed the Edinburgh Capitals the previous week at home. Prior to the weekend’s games Manchester welcomed Matt Caria to their ranks after a delay with the Canadian forward visa that caused him to join up late with his new side.
Early embers of the game saw the Giants testing out Zane Kalemba in the Manchester goals to which force him into making a couple of early stop for the Storm.
Both sides demonstrated their speed in attacks and that led to Omar Pacha picking up the first penalty call of the game, with the Storm player-coach getting a tripping penalty in stopping a Belfast play and gave the hosts a power play opportunity.
From that power play it saw Belfast taking the lead at 2.33 into the contest, with Giants forward James Desmarais cutting in from the right side of goal and had his backhanded shot saved by Kalemba, but his rebound fell near the goal line and Craig Peacock was there in a flash to push it over the line and despite the Storm protests over whether it had crossed the line, Dean Smith gave the goal.
Giants captain Adam Keefe then picked up an Interference call and gave the Storm a chance to strike back (pardon the pun). Manchester whose power play unit has worked very well in their pre-season games and the two league matches so far in the league to up this point, saw them adding to their powerplay total with Matt Sisca making it 1-1 at 4.01, with Patrik Valcak passing to Matt Davies and the former Hull Stingray captain found Sisca at back post to tap in.
The home side had much the better of the play and just couldn’t break down the Storm defences and had the netminder making good saves off the Belfast forwards to keep his side in it. Manchester in these early days as a new team, have become a very counter attacking side under coach Omar Pacha, and this was evident again in this game.
The Storm scored very much against the run of play for a 2-1 lead on the power play again, with Matty Davies passing down low to Patrik Valcak and the Slovakian pass to the front of goal was quickly met by Vinny Scarsella and saw the forward having his shot blocked by Giants netminder Stephen Murphy, then Scarsella was quick to hack in the rebound at 16.23.
Belfast must have thought heading to the locker room after the first period, how on earth they were trailing in the game after they seemed to be peppering the Storm nets for the majority of the period. Manchester seemed to be controlling the early part of the second period and caused some mistakes from the Giants back line and were unable to capitalise on their errors by the home side.
Belfast came very close to making it 2-2 after a scramble at the front of the Manchester net saw the puck bounce across the face of goal, and when a poor backhanded clearance from Valcak came straight onto the stick of Michael Forney at the side of the Storm net, Kalemba was once more called upon to quickly react to and make a last second stop on the puck from going over the line.
Former Giants D man from last year in David Phillips, saw him sitting in the penalty box for two minutes with an Interference call against his name and this gave the Giants an opportunity on the powerplay.
From it the Giants levelled things up at two apiece and had the Storm players fuming with the goal given, as they felt the shot from Derrick Walser was knocked down unfairly with a high stick and led to Johan Ejdepalm smashing home the rebound.
This lead to the start of the Storm meltdown in the game, with players losing their focus , concentration and at times their head too in the remaining 8 minutes of the period.
The crowd in the SSE Arena, Belfast sensed the momentum had swung their way now and at 16.24 a pass round the boards from Mike Wilson saw Chris Higgins playing a little delicate pass to Brandon Benedict at the front of the net and the Giants retook the lead at 3-2.
Thirty seconds later and the Storm had been undone once more, as the goal did a touch of bad fortune about it too. The visitors failed to clear the danger in their zone and saw Craig Peacock picking the loose puck up in middle of the Manchester zone and then backhanded towards goals and had poor old Jamie Chilcott seeing the puck bounce in off his skates for a 4-2 lead to the home side.
In the third period and the Giants just had their way with the away side, as the Storm looking tired and were making more mistakes now. Goal number Five for the hosts saw Colin Shields effort on goal tipped in at the front of the net from an unmarked Jonathan Boxill and saw the men in Teal leading 5-2 and pretty much made it game, set and match at 44.22.
Storm hardly created anything of a threat in the final period and it felt very much like Belfast was just holding back a bit in their play and saving themselves. Manchester when they did come forwards saw passing eluding the forwards or they just opted to pass instead of shooting at the crucial moment.
Kalemba then made a very good save off player-coach of the Belfast Giants in Derrick Walser and the rebound from it caused a scrum near the Manchester goals and led to Adam Keefe and Matt Paton both serving roughing minors for their handbags.
Chris Higgins then made another highlight reel play with his assist on the final goal of the game as the puck bounced around in the middle of the Storm zone and saw Higgins managed to get some control of the puck, before quickly playing a blind pass across goal to Michael Forney and the forward put it high over the blocker into the net for 6-2 victory and have Irish eyes smiling in the SSE Arena in Belfast on Saturday night.
MANCHESTER STORM 2 7 DUNDEE STARS
With a heavy 6-2 defeat in Northern Ireland on the Saturday night, the Storm flew back to Manchester hoping to put their loss out of their minds with the visit of the Dundee Stars, as the Stars made their first ever visit to Manchester. The home side welcomed the TV cameras to the Altrincham ice rink for this encounter and it made for X-rated viewing for the Storm and their supporters.
Both sides cancelled each other out in the first half of the opening period as neither was many decent attacks in the game. Things then picked up at 11.34 into the contest, with the Storm battling hard for the puck in the Dundee zone and saw Matt Paton firing a shot from a angle and has his effort just finding room to beat Vlastimil Lakosil in the Stars goal for a 1-0 lead to the home side.
Manchester used their speed and kept the puck inside the Stars zone, before a shot from Jamie Chilcott and a deflection by Grant Toulmin saw Paul Phillips fire in his first goal for the club and it looked like the Storm was heading back to winning ways.
That was until Dundee got a huge boost at the end of the period, with Riley Wetmore putting in a rebound 12 seconds from the end and was a very soft goal to concede so late on.
Much like the night before, Manchester seemed to just implode in the first 12 minutes of the second period. Dundee’s 2nd goal was another extremely soft to concede as Wetmore and John Dolan sent big Doug Clarkson up down the wing and his shot looked to have be saved by Zane Kalemba, but the netminder then looked behind and spilled the puck and Clarkson was first to react and poke it home for a 2-2 score.
Manchester seemed to lose all concentration and focus into their game and left big holes at the back for the home side and allowed the Stars not for the first time in this game to easily exploit them.
Lou Dickenson picked up the puck from a clearance by Martins Porejs just outside his zone and Dickenson skated unchallenged up ice and fired far corner over the netminder for the Stars first lead in the game at 30-24.
Over two minutes later and then the Scottish outfit went 4-2 up through Bobby Chaumont, Chaumont’s goal came about after some more terrible defending by the home side and led to Dickenson finding Chaumont and he backhanded the puck into the back of the net and saw home side being pulled apart with ease.
Dundee in the third carried on from their second period play and had Storm with no answer to their opponents and seen Doug Clarkson diverting a pass into the net on the power play for a 5-2 score, with Chaumont and Dickenson credited with assists.
Less than a minute later and a carbon copy of the fifth goal saw the Stars just adding insult to the Storm now, as the defence was nowhere to be seen when Clarkson claimed his hat trick goal at 46.22, with him diverting the puck in at the front of the goal for another Stars goal.
Manchester then had a bit of purple patch in the third, when they seemed to have the puck a little bit more and had the Stars allowing the Storm to come at them, but the home team tended to shoot down the middle far too much and became very predictable to defend against.
They had three great chances to make the score line a bit closer and infuriated the locals in attendance with their constant decision to pass the puck instead of shooting it, especially when they had more than half an empty net to aim at.
A miserable weekend was completed when some half hearted defending went punished by Riley Wetmore as the forward skated through the home side and fired a shot that went five-hole through the legs of the Manchester netminder and made it Seven and see the Storm more like a gentle breeze after this weekend.
Things don’t get any easier for the Manchester Storm, as they travel down the M1 to face the Panthers in Nottingham and then look to get revenge at home against the Cardiff Devils on the Sunday.