Manchester Storm 2 – 3 Dundee Stars
(After Penalty Shots)
This past weekend proved to be hard one for the Manchester Storm on many fronts with the Altrincham based side suffering a triple-whammy of defeats to Dundee, Braehead and finally Cardiff, as they took advantage of a depleted Storm squad. After the stunning win over Nottingham last weekend, that win came at a price and had the Storm losing two of their star players through injuries and led to Omar Pacha signing Dutch International Nardo Nagtzaam and made his home debut against Dundee.
Friday saw the first visit of the Dundee Stars to the ‘Storm Shelter’ this season and had the Stars as one of two Scottish sides that would be making the trip over the border to face Manchester over the weekend. The meeting saw the return of Storm favourite from last year in Vinny Scarsella and he certainly came in for plenty of attention by the home side, as Scarsella found himself having to get off the deck pretty early from a couple of good Trevor Johnson checks. The two would battle all night long and made for an entertaining subplot to the game.
Manchester and Dundee found attacks hard to come by in truth in the opening period of play, as the best chance fell to the home side when Cody Cartier took a shot on goal and saw a rebound coming out to Jack Prince and the Storm was unable to capitalise and had the teams scoreless after first. In the second it saw the visitors taking the lead at 23:32, when Stars Kevin Hart tipped in a Vinny Scarsella shot after Mario Trubucco was caught napping near in the neutral zone and that allowed Dundee to gain possession of the puck and ended up with the visitors a goal up.
Manchester quickly got back on level terms over a minute later, after Jack Prince had time to fire in a shot past the Joe Fallon in the Dundee goals and have have assists going to Taylor Dickin and Paul Phillips. The home side then took the lead a bit later on through a marvellous bit of stick handling by Matt Bissonette, as a break up ice saw a little back hand feed from Mark Heatley setting up Bissonette to skate around the Stars last man and then put the puck in one handed for a 2-1 lead.
It seemed that with the Storm on top and things going to plan for the home side that it would be a case of Manchester holding on for victory. New signing Nardo Nagtzaam was making a good impression on his home league debut, as Nagtzaam was flying up and down the ice for the home side and was causing the Stars problem with his speed. Dundee were there for the taking, but the visitors just wouldn’t go away and saw the Stars tying the game up with just under six minutes of play to go in the third, after Scott Brannon saw his effort fly past Mike Clemente for a 2-2 hockey game.
Late on in the period it saw Cody Cartier being assessed a 2+10 by match referee Tom Pering, as he was called for a check to the head on Scarsella and had the Canadian heading for an early shower
With the game tied up at 2-2 it saw the closing stages being even and had the game move to an overtime period, to which the home side almost netted the game winner through Trevor Johnson, when his one time shot was saved by Fallon in the Stars goal. Dundee for the final minute of the overtime period, saw them having a couple of late efforts in the game and had their attacks coming to nothing and needs penalties to determine the winner.
With a shootout forthcoming it saw pretty much the same old story for the Manchester Storm and especially when it comes down to penalty taking. Since Manchester joined the league last season, it has saw them involved in seven shoot-outs and winning only one of those and failing to score during any overtime period too.
Mikael Lidhammar got the shootout underway, as he tucked his shot past Clemente for first blood to the Stars and saw Manchester’s shooters all trying to make an extra move on their shots and made it so predictable for the goalie that in truth, he didn’t really need to do much at all. As a result Dundee took the extra point and saw the Storm’s woes in extra play continue on, while letting a great chance get away from them.
Manchester Storm 2 – 5 Braehead Clan
The next night saw the Braehead Clan roll into town and have the Purple Army hoping to make it two straight road victories over the Storm in Altrincham, after Manchester had earlier beaten their opponents up in Scotland earlier in the season. In all honesty it was perhaps the worst performance by the Storm this season at home and saw the host unable to really find anything in their locker.
Braehead came out strong and that was exactly how they played throughout the entire game, as they always seemed to have an extra gear to up in if they so needed too. Manchester were guilty of leaving big gaps at the back of their defence and saw the Clan nearly exposing those gaps whenever they found themselves able to. With Storm not making the most of their chances they did create, it had their misses coming back to bite them when the visitors took the lead through a Kyle Wharton goal. The goal all came from the Braehead man literally stepping back onto the ice surface after serving a penalty, but Manchester were not aware of this and led to Wharton scoring.
Storm struck back through player-coach Omar Pacha soon after though, when the Quebec native fired in a low shot on Gary Russell during a power play and made it a 1-1 game. That pretty much was as good as it got for the home side in the game with the Clan just out working and out playing the hosts on every facet of the contest. Braehead went 2-1 in the second period with a carbon copy of their first goal, as the home side were caught out by the returning man to the ice from the penalty box, as Trevor Hendrikx played a feather pass to Matt Haywood and Haywood finished it off nicely to put the Scottish side back ahead.
With Manchester looking very much a side without any ideas and unable to get going at all, with tiredness catching up to them while still being short benched. That said though, a lot of credit had to go to Ryan Finnerity and his men for a great game plan and putting it into action. Third period was bossed fully by the Braehead Clan and was met with a wall of silence by the home fans, while all the noise came from the noisy Braehead fans who made their voices heard and had the Storm fans watching their side implode at times with sloppy plays.
One of those sloppy plays came right at the start of the third when a Manchester player tried to make a pass and fell over, but saw the puck coming onto the tape of Alex Leavitt and he calmly fired the puck home to make it 3-1. Things got worse for the home side, when a scary moment saw fan favourite Eric Neilson taking a nasty hit to the face from a Matt Beca shot that saw the Canadian forward heading straight off and needing to go to hospital for a horrific injury.
Braehead made their possession count and had the visitors adding to their lead after Scott Pitt chipped a little pass ahead for Leavitt to chase and saw there being only one winner and he made it four for the Clan, with over ten minutes to play in the contest. Pitt then made it 5-1 and it was getting to be far to easy now for Braehead after he pounced on a rebound from a Wharton shot and that was pretty much game over.
Dallas Erhardt then shown some fighting spirit quite literally, when he stuck up for his young team-mate after former Toronto Maple Leafs player Jay Rosehill went for a huge check on Tom Ratcliffe and that brought the Storm man over and had the two players dropping the gloves and having a good scrap.
As with every Storm game at home this season their was the obligatory controversial goal added as an extra bonus, but for once it was in the favour of the home side and not the visiting side. Replays didn’t suggest that the puck had gone over the line, but after the referee consulted with the goal judge who was adamant that it had gone over saw Taylor Dickin being credited with the goal and made it a 5-2 game.
In the end it was a disappointing night for the home side and saw them dropping more points to their rivals in the Gardiner Conference after their loss to Dundee the night before.
Cardiff Devils 5 – 3 Manchester Storm
Sunday night saw the Storm playing their third game in three days, as they travelled to South Wales to face the Cardiff Devils in their final Challenge Cup group game and was pretty much a dead rubber match, with both sides having already qualified.
It saw the Storm missing Eric Neilson after he sustained a torn retina in 2 places and also had the visitors drafting in Cardiff Fire duo Jordan Baber and Sam Bryant due to a very short bench. Phil Spanswick was given the nod to start the game and was his first start for the Storm this season in a competitive game. Despite losing 5-3 it saw the Warrington-born goalie collecting a maiden man of the match awards for his trouble.
Two powerplay goals by Mark Heatley saw the away side trailing by one after the second, and that then saw the Devils moving 4-2 ahead before Jack Prince scored to make it a 4-3 game and Cardiff’s Gleason Fournier sealed the win for the home side with a goal late on at the IAW.
It means now that Manchester will be playing the Belfast Giants again in the quarter-final stages, after both sides met last season at the same stage and saw the Northern Ireland side coming out on top over the the two legs.