ICE HOCKEY: Giants and Stars WEATHER the Storm

Ice Hockey

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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.  

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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.

 

 

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FOOTBALL: City Women Give Liverpool The ‘BLUES’

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MANCHESTER CITY  WOMEN    2     0   LIVERPOOL LADIES 


Manchester City Women kept the pressure on Chelsea Ladies with a battling 2-0 win at the Academy Stadium on Thursday night, with a stunning strike by Izzy Christiansen before half time and Natasha Harding in the second half.

Nick Cushing’s side knew that no less than a win would do for the Citizens, with City five points behind the leaders prior to kick off. Liverpool had previously beaten the hosts early on in the season and were beaten only a few weeks ago in the Continental Cup, where Toni Duggan picked up an ankle injury that that since ruled the striker out for the remainder of the season.

City dominated the possession game from first to final minute, but the home side weren’t able make use of the ball in the opening quarter of an hour. Liverpool defended very well and kept the hosts to the flanks, with crosses coming in and not causing Libby Stout any trouble at all in the visitors goal.

Some chances then began to fall the way of the home side, with Jill Scott heading just over the bar and then Nikita Parris went close too, but Stout denying her. Jennifer Beattie then saw her header come back off the bar for the home side and cleared away from danger, as the hosts were getting closer to breaking the deadlock in the game.

Eventually the pressure told and when City Captain Steph Houghton sent a ball down the Liverpool left, it set Lucy Bronze away and her pass towards the edge of the penalty box saw Izzy Christiansen celebrating her recent England call up, with a beautiful curling away goal that found the far corner for a City lead. Liverpool however were left fuming, as they felt a foul should have been given on their player in the build up to the goal for the home side.

Liverpool were unable to get much play going at all in this match, with the home side bossing the game and breaking up any threatening plays that the Reds had when in attack. Nikita Parris nearly made it 2-0 for the home side, when the on loan striker tricked her opponent and then then tried to bend a ball in and saw Libby Stout having to tip it over for a corner.

Jill Scott then produced a great charging run at the Liverpool defence and had them in trouble, Scott though tried to be unselfish and laid a pass off for Christansen and her shot on target was well saved by Stout once again.

Scott was in the thick of it once more, when the England midfielder dispossessed Katrin Omarsdottir in the middle of the park and then slid in a lovely ball for Natasha Harding, but once again Libby Stout made herself big to deny the Welsh international from doubling the lead and then had Gemma Bonner making a save on the line from Parris rebound.

Finally the traveling away supporters saw their side creating a rare opportunity in the game, when Ingrid Ryland’s shot went wide of the target and that was pretty much as good as it got for the league champions. City then eased the worries of the home fans in the 75th minute, with Georgia Stanway low cross into the area and Harding was on hand to finish it with a little flick at the front of the net.

The Citizens were rarely threatened in the game in truth by their opponents, as Liverpool lacked a cutting edge to their play and some indecisiveness at times too. Victory for the Sky Blues puts them two points behind Chelsea with two games to go, but you can be sure that they will be more than ready to make the most of a slip up by the South-West London club.


SPEEDWAY: Aces Trump the Robins in First Leg

Speedway

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BELLE VUE ACES   50            SWINDON ROBINS   36


Belle Vue gave themselves a great chance of making the Elite League Play-offs Grand Final this past Monday night, after a 50-36 win over the Swindon Robins at Kirkmanshulme Lane and will take a 14 points lead down to Wiltshire next Monday for the second leg.  It saw the home side putting in a solid performance at home, as they look to make their first appearance in a grand final since 2005 when on that occasion, the Aces were pipped right at the end of the season by the Coventry Bees.

Both teams entered this semi final as the two form sides in the Elite League, with the Aces having to battle their way through to make these end of season play-offs with a tough run in. A bumper crowd packed the Belle Vue Stadium for this first leg of the tie and it saw the Aces fans well and truly up for the meeting.  There was also a bit of media drummed up by the visiting side, as Swindon team manager Alun Rossiter, came in for lot of stick from the home faithful, after his incorrect comments on Matej Zagar fitness.

The Swindon boss had accused Belle Vue’s Slovenian GP star of not being as injured as he said he was and this then led to Zagar posting some unpleasant photographic evidence on social media of his after effects of racing on Saturday in the Slovenian GP. In truth he shouldn’t have ridden in his home country’s Grand Prix with his injuries, but this led to Rossiter then apologising later on for the earlier comments that he had made.

With everything in place for a good semi final against two evenly matched sides in this particular tie, it saw the home side getting off to the best possible start in the opening heat. Swede Andreas Jonsson who came in to guest for Matej Zagar, saw him and Max Fricke grabbing a 5-1 maximum for the Aces after Troy Batchelor had fell on the first run of the race.

Steve Worrall kept his good form up of late, with the Aces reserve swooping round both the Robins riders and into first place on the second bend and saw a shared heat. The Aces then got out on a 5-1 in Heat 3, that was until Nick Morris cleaned out his team-mate Grzegorz Zengota and caused a halt to the proceedings.  In the re-run it saw the hosts picking up a 4-2, with Zengota making the gate this time round and then had saw Belle Vue’s Josh Grajczonek getting by the Pole to pick up the three points while Craig Cook tried everything to get into second place, but just couldn’t find a way.

Heat 4 saw more early drama, with Peter Kildemand trying to make a move and seen him clipping Steve Worrall on the back straight and as they entered the third bend Worrall hit the deck and saw Kildemand himself bounce off the air fence.  The referee after viewing the replay excluded the Dane and saw a rerun to take place to which Scott Nicholls and Steve Worrall rode to an easy 5-1 for the hosts and has Lewis Rose a long way behind as the Aces opened up a 10 point lead after four races leading 17-7.

Swindon responded though in Heat 5 through Aaron Summers and Charles Wright, with the Robins pair getting the better of Worrall and Max Fricke to see the Robins back in the match with a 5-1 maximum.  Troy Batchelor then looked to have jumped the start in Heat 6, but the referee let them continue on and saw him lead from start to finish with Nicholls and Grajczonek packing the minor places for a 3-3.

The Aces then picked up two consecutive race maximums in Heats 7 and 8, with Jonsson and Cook firstly collecting an easy 5-1 for the hosts and then a brilliant ride by Stefan Nielsen saw the youngster getting round Arron Summers and then cutting up the inside of Charles Wright, to join Scott Nicholls at the front for another 5-1 for the rampant Belle Vue side.

Swindon then a enjoyed a bit of a purple patch in the middle, with the Robins Peter Kildemand finally completing a race and also picking up three vital points for the visitors, while Max Fricke and Steve Worrall finish behind.  Alun Rossiter then put the double points on Australian Troy Batchelor in Heat 10 and saw the Swindon Number One getting out alongside Belle Vue’s Josh Grajczonek, but the Aces man just moved Batchelor out and that allowed Craig Cook through momentarily into second, before the Swindon man passed him back on the outside.

With Grajczonek keeping first place and shutting the door on Batchelor it saw a shared 4-4 heat score and effectively saw no damage to the scoreline. Heat 11 saw arguably a jump at the start by Nick Morris, and saw him then joined up front with teammate Grzegory Zengota as they were on a 5-1.  The Pole didn’t look very comfortable on a very slick track and had Andreas Jonsson pressing him for three laps, until the Swede came up the inside of the Swindon man and saw a 4-2 going to the travelling side instead and their first heat advantage since Heat 5.

Heat 12 saw Stefan Nielsen blowing away the competition with the British rider flying away from the tapes and seen teammate Steve Worrall cut off by Charles Wright on the second bend and relegating him to the back.  Worrall then found a lot of drive off the bend and passed Lewis Rose and nearly Wright in one move too, but a brilliant move saw him cutting across his rival into second place with Wright then retaking him and saw Worrall having the speed but unfortunately clipped Wright’s front wheel with his dirt deflector and brought the Swindon man down and led to his exclusion.

The race was awarded and brought the score to 43-31 after 12 heats gone. Belle Vue then stretched their advantage a bit more in Heat 13, after Jonsson and Cook gated better than Batchelor and Zengota as they lead increased to sixteen points with just two races to go.  In what turned out to be the final race of the evening in heat 14, Scott Nicholls got excluded as he picked up a lot of speed on the back straight and had him lifting up and doing a wheelie before hitting the dirt and was narrowly missed by Peter Kildemand, who did remarkably well to avoid what would have been an extremely nasty incident.

Prior to the race the heavens had began to open and made the track become akin to an ice rink with all the dirt by the fence and made for extremely tough conditions.  As the rerun took place the riders had great difficulty in just trying to slide the bikes round the circuit and became a bit of a non-event in truth, with the Robins picking up what maybe a valuable 4-2 advantage with Kildemand and Morris sandwiching Grajczonek in the race.  

Both sides agreed to try and leave it ten minutes to see if the rain would pass over, but sadly it didn’t and got heavier and heavier which led to the meeting being abandoned and sees Belle Vue taking a very healthy 14 point lead down to Wiltshire, in what will be a fascinating second leg at the Abbey Stadium next Monday night.  

Belle Vue boss Mark Lemon, told Sky after the meeting “ I`d take that every day a 14 point lead in a playoff first leg, definitely happy with that. But we won’t be resting on our laurels and we know Swindon are quite capable of pulling it back.”

Swindon boss Alun Rossiter on his thoughts said “Some of our guys will need to have a bit of a wake up call in time for next Monday. If not then we may as well just give up now then, but we’ll have to ride a lot better than tonight if we are going to stand a chance over turning the deficit“. 


Belle Vue Aces = 50

1. Andreas Jonsson (G) 3, 3, 2, 3 = 11
2. Max Fricke 2*, 0, 2, 0 = 4+1
3. Josh Grajczonek 3, 1*, 3, 2 = 9+1
4. Scott Nicholls 3, 2, 3, FX = 8
5. Craig Cook 1, 2*, 1, 2* = 6+2
6. Steve Worrall 3, 2*, 1, 1*, X = 7+2
7. Stefan Nielsen 0, 2*, 3 = 5+1

Swindon Robins = 36

1. Troy Batchelor FX, 3, 4^, 1 = 8
2. Aaron Summers 1, 3, R, 0 = 4
3. Nick Morris FX, 1, 3, 1 = 5
4. Peter Kildemand FX, F, 3, 3 = 6
5. Grzegorz Zengota 2, 0, 1, 0 = 3
6. Charles Wright 2, 2*, 1, 2 = 7+1
7. Lewis Rose 1*, 1, 0, 1* = 3+2

ICE HOCKEY: Salazar & Storm hands out ‘CAPITAL’ punishment to Edinburgh

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MANCHESTER STORM   8    EDINBURGH CAPITALS   1

Manchester Storm thundered their way to the top of the Elite League table Sunday night, with a stunning 8-1 victory over the Edinburgh Capitals at the Altrincham ice dome. The Storm were looking to bounce back from their opening league match in 13 years, after the Cardiff Devils welcomed the Storm back with a thumping 5-1 win.

Storm welcomed the Edinburgh Capitals to Altrincham and saw the home side come out strong in the first period with the forwards testing the Capitals netminder in Carsen Chubak, and saw Chubak proving to be difficult to break down at first.

Mathew Paton then broke away for the home side and with a one on one saw the Storm man being robbed by Chubak. Mathew Sisca then went close for the Storm with his effort, but once again the visiting netminder made another good stop from the home forwards.

Edinburgh had a few attacks on the Storm net, but they came up against an in-form Zane Kalemba in between the pipes for Manchester.  Manchester then took the lead in the 11th minute of the game through Matt Sisca, as the forward forced home the puck with Vinny Scarsella and Matty Davies getting assists.

The Capitals then stepped up their physical play and had the Storm very disciplined in not retaliating back to some of the heavy hits and some plays that strayed over the line.  Minutes later and another chance for the Storm went begging, after Mathew Sisca got by the last line of defence with a dash up ice and had his shot deflect off the crossbar and go high into the netting.

Storm went into the first intermission a goal up, but should have been out of sight in all honesty and had it not been for Chubak they would have been. Edinburgh then against the run of play tied the game up at 25.59, after the Caps had just killed off a penalty and saw Kyle Bigos rejoining the play on a 3 on 1 counter attack. Paul Zanette then skated down the left wing and with one defenceman back in support, Zanette played a pass across goal and was lifted over Kalemba by Trevor Gering for the Edinburgh goal.

Storm then retook the lead minutes later, when Riley Emmerson was in the box serving a Hooking call and the power play saw Grant Toulmin making a pass from behind the net to the side of the net for Luke Salazar to put home for a 2-1 score.

Goal 3 for the Storm came courtesy of the ‘blueline’, as Mathew Sisca and Matty Davies both combined for Vinny Scarsella to finish off a beautifully constructed move.  Slovakian defenseman Igor Bobcek then made it 4-1 just before the break, after Matt Paton sent a pass into the path of Bobcek and his shot went right through Chubak into the Caps goals.

In the third period, the home side fired 4 goals into the Capitals net, with Luke Salazar ripping a one timer from the blue line to see the Storm 5-1 to the good. Tempers frayed a bit when a hit off Callum Boyd on Gal Koran, drew Omar Pacha over to vent his displeasure and saw a scrum develop over the incident.

Mathew Sisca made it 6-1 at 54.51, after some very precise and lovely puck movement  saw David Philips and Matty Davies combine to find Luke Salazar, and his pass towards the front of the net was diverted in by Sisca for a good team goal.

The Storm rumbled on with Grant Toulmin making it 7-1 with a neat little flick past Carsen Chubak for another goal, then Luke Salazar completed his hat trick at 57.02 to make it 8-1 with Paul Phillips and Patrick Valcak picking up the assists on the goal.

That wasn’t quite the end of the action though, as Storm Player-Coach Omar Pacha and Riley Emmerson had a disagreement and saw both picking up penalties on the play, with Emmerson deciding to release his frustration out on the Storm man and had both picking up five minutes Major penalties for Fighting and also cross checking and slashing calls respectively.

With their crushing victory over the Capitals, it means the Storm occupy top spot in the Elite League after the first weekend of the season and will be pleasing for the ‘new’ franchise to have the early bragging rights in the league. Manchester coach Omar Pacha will certainly know that his 

Speedway: Worrall leads the ACES to Play-offs

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WOLVERHAMPTON WOLVES  36          BELLE VUE ACES   57

Belle Vue recorded one of their best ever victories in 10 years on Monday, with a thrashing of the Wolverhampton Wolves on their opponents own patch at Monmore Green.  The Aces won 57-36 to secure the final spot in the end of season play-off’s, thanks mainly to a brilliant performance by Steve Worrall as the St Helens rider scored a 15 point maximum to help his side.

Talk surrounding this must win match for the Aces had riders and the Belle Vue Team Manager Mark Lemon, describing it as a ‘Crunch’ meeting. The riders knew actions would speak louder than words and those actions of Belle Vue reverberated loudly.

Belle Vue led 9-3 after two heats gone in the match, with guest Chris Harris covering for an injured Matej Zagar, had him follow Max Fricke round for a 5-1 heat advantage. Steve Worrall then took the first of his five race victories in the meeting on route to a maximum, with Stefan Nielsen picking up third in a 4-2 in Heat 3.

Wolves responded in the next race though, as the home pairing of Ricky Wells and Peter Karlsson took a 5-1 heat win to narrow the gap down to two points. However the Aces in Scott Nicholls and Steve Worrall struck immediately for the away side with a 5-1 of their own, to lead 15-9.

Two successive 4-2’s for the Manchester club put them 10 points up after Six races gone, and that saw Peter Karlsson in Heat 7 donning the black white helmet colours for double points.  After a couple of failed attempts to run the heat, it saw the race eventually run and had Scott Nicholls limiting the full damage for the Aces, with the Captain finishing second and had the Wolves picking up a 7-2 heat advantage for the hosts.

Heat 8 saw the Aces moving 9 points clear of their hosts, with the youthful duo of Max Fricke and Steve Worrall combining for a 5-1 and had the visitors follow that up with a couple of easy 4-2 victories for Belle Vue.

The hosts had a brief respite from the visitors storming to victory in Heat 11, that despite the Belle Vue pairing of Craig Cook and Josh Grajczonek getting out ahead of the Wolves duo, but saw Grajczonek losing a couple of places and was relegated to the back.

Steve Worrall then completed his five ride maximum with a win in Heat 12, that effectively gave the Aces the meeting and all but booked their place in the playoffs, as he and Nielsen claimed a 4-2.  Worrall’s performance in the match was flawless, and was a great contributor to the Aces cause.

Heat 13 saw Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris and Josh Grajczonek then making a brilliant gate together for the away side from Peter Karlsson and Freddie Lindgren, with the Aces getting out on a 5-1.  Karlsson managed to get by the Australian rider and then gave it good go at chasing hard for Harris, but even the master of Monmore Green couldn’t deny the guest from Coventry the race win.

Belle Vue looked certain to claim another 5-1 advantage in the penultimate race of the meeting through Cook and Nichols, that was till Tobiasz Musielak fell off under pressure from his team Rick Wells and a re-run was ordered.

Wells in the re-run got a huge stroke of luck, and the only bit of luck Wolverhampton had in the whole meeting, as the rider jumped massively at the start and had Cook stopping, but the referee let it go on and saw a shared race of 3-3.

In the final heat of match seen the Aces picking up another 5-1 and eleventh Heat advantage of the night. The former Coventry pairing of Scott Nicholls and Chris Harris out trumped Karlsson and Wells, to pick up the four league points and qualify for the end of season playoffs.

The end result was a thrashing for Wolverhampton and sees the Belle Vue Aces meeting the Swindon Robins in one of the semi finals this coming Monday in the first leg at Kirkmanshulme Lane.  Belle Vue will hope to have Slovenian GP rider in Matej Zagar back in their side for the important match, as Zagar has been out with internal bleeding after a few crashes of late and Andreas Jonson has been put on standby if needed. 

For the home side this will be their first time reaching the Elite League play-offs since 2005, when the Aces fell to the Coventry Bees in the grand final, despite finishing top of the table.  It also the best ever season for this current promotion too, since David Gordon and Chris Morton took over the reigns at Belle Vue back in 2007 and have been helped a lot with another valuable member in Dr George Carswell adding his input too.

Ice Hockey: Sheffield Weather A ‘Storm’ in Comeback

Ice Hockey

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Manchester Storm   2 – 3  Sheffield Steelers

New boys Manchester Storm tasted defeat for the first time since their comeback to the sport, as the Elite League champions the Sheffield Steelers inflicted a 4-2 loss on the Altrincham club despite the Storm being the better side for most parts of the match, but saw the South Yorkshire team punishing the home side.

Manchester started the much better of the two sides, with the Steelers seemingly having their eye on the weekend game against the Frolunda Indians in the Champions Hockey League.  Storm came into this final pre season match on the back of two wins, after picking up victories against the Nottingham Panthers and then beat the Peterborough Phantoms the following night.

With the Storm carving out some good chances and just not able to convert on their early plays, it saw them eventually taking the lead at 4-25 gone in the game, after a Matty Davies pass to player coach Omar Pacha, saw the player-coach shot redirected in off a Mathew Sisca stick and bounced in off the Sheffield netminder Brad Day for a fortunate 1-0 lead.

Sheffield tried to create things in the Storm zone, but the home side defence was resolute and cut out any attacks that the visitors had and was on top for most of the game.  Manchester welcomed to the fold three players for the game, as the players in question in Luke Salazar, Patrick Valcek and Paul Phillips, had all arrived that morning of the game and were thrown into the deep end.

The hosts had the best of the play up until the goal, before the Steelers then began to get a foot in the door and testing Zane Kalemba in the Storm goals, with the netminder making a string of superb saves to deny them.  The pressure from the visitors saw them equalising through Russ Moyer’s strike, as his rising one time shot from the slot flew by Kalemba to see Sheffield back on level terms at 16.13.

Old rivalries then looked to be renewed, when a scrum in the corner saw a couple of players on both sides drawn into handbags and sitting for roughing calls on the stroke of the end of the period.  Paul Phillips on debut for the Storm saw him picking up a two minute call for a Delay of game, as the defenceman lofted the puck over the glass and out of play.  

The home side then caught a break at 35-35, when Manchester countered quickly while short-handed and saw the puck come straight to Matty Davies from Omar Pacha across to the right wing and with the penalty expiring on Phillips, it led to a three-on-one attack and saw Davies playing the puck across goal for Vinny Scarsella and he netted the go ahead goal for 2-1 lead for the hosts.

Manchester found themselves a bit ill disciplined at times in the second, with the hosts having to go on the penalty kill a few times and did remarkably well to snuff out any hint of a goal for the Steelers, as defensive-wise they played extremely well throughout.  Sheffield weren’t on it for the first 40 minutes of the contest, and saw Manchester looking the more dangerous in attack and had the hosts frustrating their opponents with some good stick work.

In the third period it had the visitors beginning to turn the game round, as the home side showed signs of tiredness with the three players making passing and the team overall becoming a bit more sloppy.  Colton Fretter then made it all square at 46-31, with a nice move that saw him releasing a quick shot off that clipped off Mike Folkes that deceived the netminder to go in for 2-2.

Minutes later and the Steelers went 3-2 up, after Storm player coach Omar Pacha was caught in possession of the puck down by the side boards, as Mattieu Roy took the puck off the defenceman and skated in over the Storm zone, which then saw Pacha poking it over his team mates stick right into the path of Fredrik Vestberg and the forward netted for the opponents to give them a lead.

With the game inside the final minute, Storm pulled the netminder for the extra attacker and saw a couple of late efforts on Brad Day and had the goalie making a couple of good stops from the Manchester forwards. The home side tried one last rush to tie the game and when a poor pass was intercepted by Tyler Mosienko, the Sheffield man flipped it on net and sealed the win with an empty net goal for 4-2 at 59-46.

The Storm now have a few days to regroup and get those new players up to speed for the start of the new Elite League Season this weekend. Where Manchester open up their campaign with a road trip down in South Wales against the Cardiff Devils on Saturday evening and that is then followed the night after at home,  with the visit of the Edinburgh Capitals to the Altrincham Silver Blades on Sunday.