Manchester Storm 2 – 3 Nottingham Panthers
Sunday night saw the Manchester Storm putting in a very much improved performance from their 7-0 drubbing up in Fife the night before as they were edged 3-2 in a shoot-out against the Nottingham Panthers at the Altrincham Ice Rink in a Challenge Cup group game.
Storm have been involved in a few tight games of late and this was no different as they battled a Nottingham side which featured former NHL enforcer Brian McGrattan in their line-up. Manchester was still missing Matt Bissonnette and long-term absentee Adam Harding for the game, but they did start the better of the two sides in the first period of play and had Mark Heatley getting them on the board with a deflected shot that went in over the shoulder of Jindrich Pacl in the visitors net and put Manchester one up with former Panther Paul Swindlehurst credited with an assist.
Manchester’s Mario Trubucco saw him having a chance that was stopped by Pacl as the home side remained on top in the game midway through the first period of period. Nottingham was finding it hard to find to breakthrough the Storm defence and when they did manage to create a good chance it saw Mike Clemente coming up big to make the stop and help preserve the hosts lead. As the period came to an end it wasn’t the end of the action however, as Dallas Erdhart was called for a cross-checking penalty and then saw Darian Dziurzynski and Robert Farmer having a short scrap, that saw the Storm man catching Farmer with a punch and saw him needing to get stitched up as he left the ice with blood needing to be scraped off the ice.
The start of the second period saw the Panthers tying the game up through Matt Carter, after some indecision near the Manchester net saw the puck finding its way somehow into the net and despite the home side protesting, the referee Steve Brown waved away the protests and saw East Midlands side making it a 1-1 game with 11 seconds gone in the middle frame. Nottingham clawed their way back in the contest and with the period being very stop start and upsetting the rhythm of the Storm, it worked to the Panthers advantage as they began to take the home crowd out of the game.
Manchester have been victims of their own downfall in recent games as penalty trouble was rearing it’s ugly head and saw Patrik Valcak sitting for a slashing call and he was soon joined by Cody Cartier who was adjudged to have boarded a Nottingham player on the boards and put the Panthers on a 5 on 3 powerplay. With the home side killing off both penalties, it soon saw Robert Farmer firing the Panthers into a lead with a low drive that beat Clemente at his near post and put the visitors 2-1 in front at the midway point in the game.
Manchester players then tried to appeal for a goal that saw the referee having no interest in it whatsoever and waved off their claims. Nottingham then ran into penalty trouble themselves late on with Waugh picking up a two minute call for holding, when Mario Trubucco was skating in on goal and saw the Panthers defenceman stopping him and pushing him into the net to get the whistle. Things then got worse for the Panthers when the home side squandered a great chance but saw Dimmen pushing the net off and earning himself a delay of game call and had the Storm on a Two-man advantage.
With 1:15 left in the second period, it had Storm back level through a Darian Dziurzynski powerplay goal to make it 2-2 after he put the puck into a gaping net with Paul Phillips and Jack Prince getting assisting before the break. Nottingham were the better side in the second and just couldn’t make their pressure count, with the home side going into the break all square.
Storm coach Omar Pacha then was forced to sit out the rest of the game after a hit to the head saw the player-coach in some discomfort from a mid-ice hit by Brown and saw the home side and fans not happy with the hit. The aftermath saw the coach icing for a shift, before he was forced to bench himself for the rest of the game. Manchester then had the puck in the net from Dziurzynski again, but the referee had blew prior to the puck going in. Both teams had chances to win in it the third period but the home side seemed to be the likeliest to score and with no further goals in regulation or the overtime period, it saw penalties needed to determine a winner.
In the third round of penalty shots it saw the Panthers netting what turned out to be the winning shot as Petr Kalus put it passed Clemente and then saw Pacl denying Trabucco, who seemed to take a bit to long on the puck and had the Nottingham goalie making the decisive save to see the visitors taking the extra point in the contest. Despite the loss though for Manchester it is still another point gained in their Challenge Cup group and sit third behind Sheffield and Nottingham by two points and with a similar deficit with Cardiff below them.