Manchester Storm 4 – 3 Nottingham Panthers
Manchester Storm performed a herculean effort to defeat the Nottingham Panthers 4-3 on Saturday night as they played the entire final period with only two lines after two of their star players with possible long-term injuries and had another thrown out in a controversial end to the second period.
For two periods Manchester seemed to be in control of the contest and had Taylor Dickin for the thanks for two goals for the hosts as they built up a 4-1 lead, but that was until controversy reared its head once again and saw chaos after the second period.
Early stages saw the sides pretty much even with no one really taking the advantage in the game and saw the defences on top starting out. Manchester then got fortunate with the opening goal of the game at 7:48, when a Mario Trubucco pass up ice for Matt Bissonette saw the Storm man forced to take a weak shot at Miika Wiikman in the Panthers net and had the puck rebounding in off Alex Nikiforuk for the leading goal.
Storm then doubled their lead minutes later, when a power play goal by Taylor Dickin saw him batting down a puck out of the air from a Cody Cartier shot and the redirecting it past the goalie at the front of the net to put the hosts 2-0 at 11:54. Shortly after that it saw Nottingham cutting the deficit in half through a Matt Carter strike, as defenseman Eric Lindhagen played a quick pass up the middle for Carter, who then found himself one on one with Mike Clemente and saw his initial shot saved by the Goalie but was quick enough to the puck in on the rebound to make it 2-1 at 13:11
Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography
Manchester took firm control of the first period and that shown with them outshooting their opponents 12 to 5. Play in the second period was a mixed bag for the home team, as the Storm continued their good play throughout the second stanza and had them not giving the visitors much of a sniff in truth. The home side were on top for virtually the whole period and looked to further increase their lead with some good attacks as they looked dangerous coming forward.
Nottingham then began to test Mike Clemente in the Manchester nets more, but had their shots not really troubling as such and was keeping the away side at bay. Cody Cartier then made it a 3-1 game with a tap home at 24:27 and that then saw the visitors starting to throw their weight around a lot more and upping their hitting too.
Prior to the game it had the Storm dealt a huge blow with the loss of arguably their best defenseman in Conor Varley missing from the line up due to illness, so that put the home side in as spot of bother and needed an all round team effort to be a more defensively sound than normal.
Things got a bit harder for the Manchester side as the period went on, as firstly they lost their joint points scorer in Darian Dziurzynski for the game, after the Canadian took a tumble and crashed heavily into the corner boards in the Panthers zone and saw him unable to return to the contest.
Taylor Dickin then made it four for the Altrincham side, after Matt Bissonnette had just got out of the box for serving a tripping penalty and saw him joining in on a play after Cartier had poked it in his direction and saw a three on one, with Dickin finishing off the move at the halfway point of the contest and saw Manchester punishing yet more sloppy Panthers play.
With the period coming to the end it saw another in a long line of disputed goals being given in the rink entrance end, as Nottingham attacked and saw the puck ending up in the back of the net but saw no light coming on. Referee Tom Pering then discussed whether it was a goal or not and whether the puck had gone under the net inside of the conventional way of between the pipes.
After small consultation between the linesmen and the match referee, it saw the official calling the captains over to discuss the result of his findings and gave the goal which drew anger from the home fans, as well as the players and had Paul Phillips handed a ten minute penalty for abuse of official and had the Storm bench irate with the call. That wasn’t the last of the action though in the second, as from the restart it saw tempers flaring and mini stand-off between the players.
However Mario Trubucco then had three Panthers surround him and pulling him all over, while Patrik Valcak and Jeff Brown then tangled and resulted in both men wrestling to the ground and saw the Nottingham man landing on top of Valcak, with the referee seemingly having lost control of the situation. Trubucco who did little if any anything at all during the stand-off, saw the Manchester man getting a game penalty for leaving the bench, when in fact the period had ended and saw him heading for the door before watching on what was going on.
What made matters worse for the hosts now, was that they were now down three players, as with Dziurzynski and Trubucco missing for the third period, Storm now had to do without the services of Czech Patrik Valcak who had sustained an injury from the aggro after the period with Brown. This meant that Paul Swindlehurst was now asked to play forward instead of defence and had the Storm coach Omar Pacha having to shake his lines up a bit, with only 6 forwards and 4 defenceman at his disposal, while Phillips sat in the penalty box for the first half of the period.
The third period was completely dominated by Nottingham as with them having their tails up after the second, it saw Storm basically just trying to hold onto what they had for the rest of the game. Manchester’s constantly icing of the puck up was a method that wasn’t helping the home side and the visible sight of the Manchester players trying their best to catch a second wind through tiredness was there for all to see, and would have been boost for the Panthers players too see.
Manchester had Mike Clemente in nets to thanks at times for the side in the game, as without his saves at key moments in the period then the away team really would have run away with the contest without doubt. Nottingham did add to their total with on the scoreboard, after a nice little pass from Matt Carter saw Alex Nikiforuk redeeming himself after the goal that he unfortunately conceded in the first to make it a goal game.
Play remained largely in the Manchester zone and saw Dickin at one point going to ground and spreading himself big to stop the puck going across goal and then saw Omar Pacha taking one for the team, as he took a blast to his body from a shot and had the home side were putting it all on the line in which to keep the Panthers side out. Nottingham Head Coach Corey Neilson then pulled his netminder with over a minute of play to go, but the Storm stood to their task and blocked shot after shot after shot from the Panthers shooters and nearly had Jack Prince sealing the win but for a last second invention by a visiting player diving to stop the puck going in.
As the last few seconds of the game ticked down, it saw Clemente coming under even more heavy fire and did enough to see the clock out and despite the angry protests of the visiting players wanting time to be added on to the clock, it saw David Clarke being the most vocal of the Nottingham side not happy with the game ending. The win was the most hard-earned two points that the home side have collected in just their second season back, but was also their first win over the Midlands side since the team entered the Elite League last year.
Victory moved the Storm to fifth in the Elite League table and have a tough few games with the uncertainty of a few of their players currently, as they faced Coventry on Sunday night before a Scottish home double-header against Dundee on Friday and then Braehead on Saturday.