Manchester Storm 3 – 1 Coventry Blaze
Manchester Storm put in a sterling performance this weekend with wins over the Coventry Blaze and Braehead Clan, as the Storm moved to second in the Challenge Cup standings with their win on Sunday and also recorded an opening win in the Elite League with victory in Scotland.
The Blaze was making their second trip to the the Altrincham Ice Rink in less than month, after the sides played a couple of preseason games before the season got under way and saw the Blaze taking the honours in Storm’s first game back on the ice with a 7-6 overtime win, in what by all accounts a thrilling game to watch. Things this time around different, and that was evident from the opening face-off as the Storm buoyed by their win up in Glasgow the night before, saw the home side in firm control and dominated their opponents in their first period. Coventry who had lost the night before at home to the Sheffield Steelers, saw the Blaze looking disjointed with misplaced passes all over the ice and leaving huge gaps at the back for the home side to exploit.
Manchester struck early in the First period through a Cody Cartier strike, after the Canadian forward saw his first effort stopped by Brian Stewart in the Blaze goals and then followed up on his own rebound to slip the puck between the legs of the goalie at 3:21 and see the Storm a goal up with assists credited to Mark Heatley and Trevor Johnson. Storm dominated their opponents in the opening period of play, as the visitors seemingly not left the locker room the way they were playing. For a majority of the opening twenty minutes of play it saw the home side on top and almost saw Mark Heatley doubling the lead for the Manchester, when he skated in on goal and looked like for all the world it was going in, but a stunning save by Stewart kept it out.
The Storm were soon celebrating a second goal coming their way, as the lead up to the goal started from behind their net and with some quick passing which was easy on the eye, it saw the line of Darian Dziurzynski and Matt Bissonnette both linking up well, before setting up Mario-Valery Trabucco to then hammer home the puck by the goalie and left him with no chance of stopping it. Manchester was in clear control and had the sense almost that the hosts were starting to get again from the Blaze so early in the contest. Both teams had a player sent to the box at in the final strains of the opening period when Connor Varley and Brett Robinson tangled out in front of Mike Clemente’s goal and saw the Blaze trying to be more physical and get under the skin of the Storm players as they looked to find a way back in the game.
When the teams restarted the second frame, it saw the home side carrying on from where they left off and created a few early chanced for themselves but Stewart yet again came up big when Coventry needed him too. Jack Prince made it 3-0 for Manchester, after the puck was knocked loose from a Paul Swindlehurst drive at the front of the net and Prince was first to it to tap home for his first professional goal in his career. Coventry’s Ross Venus was given a 2+10 penalty for checking from behind and it seemed like things were all going the way of the Storm. The continuous attempts of trying to draw Manchester players into penalty trouble was as frustrating for the Blaze as it was for them trying to score passed Clemente in the Manchester goals, However Patrik Valcak lost his rag with Josh Godfrey from the Blaze and that gave the visitors a rare powerplay.
With Coventry disrupting the flow of the home side with their frustrating play, it causing the home side to lose their way a bit and in doing so handed the visitors a way back into the game through a Bjorn Bombis goal to make it a 3-1 game. With the third period seeing the homes side holding a two-goal advantage in the game, it felt almost like the game was played in a slightly cautious manner by both sides with the next goal being a pivotal one in the scheme of things in the game.
Coventry pushed hard a second goal but the Storm weren’t in the mood to allow that happen, especially Clemente in the Manchester goal’s as he was proving to be a brick wall for the home side with a stunning game again. Both sides battled hard for the puck and with not too much in the way of chances at either end in truth, it saw the only incident of note being Manchester’s Jack Prince getting called for a checking from behind on Liam Stewart, with mini scuffle involving the players on the ice tangling. Prince left the game with less than ten minutes to play and saw the Storm holding out for the win and moving into 2nd position in the Challenge Cup group, with Manchester just two points off the leaders Sheffield.
Braehead Clan 1 – 2 Manchester Storm
As previously mentioned, the Manchester Storm travelled up North of the Border to Scotland and in Glasgow in particular on the Saturday night, as they opened up their Elite League programme with a clash against the Braehead Clan. The Scottish side took the lead in the First period through a Matt Keith goal, before Darian Dziurzynski jumped out of the penalty box and put it past the Clan netminder to tie the game. Dziurzyski was back at it in the Third period as he grabbed his second goal in the contest and helped seal a come from behind victory for the Storm on the road.