Manchester STORM 4 – 3 Coventry BLAZE
Manchester Storm made it seven wins on the bounce following a hard-fought 4-3 win over Patton Conference rivals Coventry Blaze on Wednesday night, as Luke Moffatt yet again came up big to lead his side to victory as the stand-in captain twice netted to help seal the win with further strikes by Mike Hammond and Scott Pitt.
Following huge scalps against the ‘Arena’ sides in Sheffield and Belfast in recent games, it saw the Storm coming into their Valentine’s Day clash with Coventry on a huge high. The last time the two sides met it saw Manchester demolishing the Blaze with a thumping 9-1 win in Altrincham. This time around it saw a more determined Coventry team looking to make sure that lightning wouldn’t strike twice. The Blaze came out the more dangerous of the two sides, with the home side looking very disjointed in their play at both ends of the ice, to begin with.
Neither side really troubled their opponents netminders much in the early stages, yet Manchester struck first through a Mike Hammond goal at 5.32 after the Storm broke up the other end with the visitors caught short and had Hammond blasting home for the opening goal. Less than a minute later, it saw the game all square once again, after the Coventry forward punished the Storm’s weak defence and saw a pass back out towards goal from Ross Venus and was neatly finished off by Gaelan Patterson for a 1-1 game. Manchester really found it difficult to get into the game and put a string of passes together, while their opponents did well to stifle their play and saw the Storm being very sloppy too in possession.
Coventry took advantage of a poor period from the home side, with the visitors netting through a Jordan Pietrus strike to take the lead and then saw a nice team move that ended up with Marc-Olivier Vallerand scoring the Blaze’s third goal, with a Luke Moffatt goal sandwiched in between for the Storm. The game was very scrappy and had no-one really dominating play in the opening twenty minute of play, but towards the backend of the period, it saw the start of what would be a theme for the rest of the game, with some poor officiating as the night went on.
Firstly, Manchester’s Dane Byers was boarded hard by Coventry’s Kevin Noble in front of referee Matt Rose, who took no action much to the astonishment of those in attendance. As the horn sounded on the first, it saw Byers looking for Noble as the teams were heading off and had Byers giving him an upwards shoulder barge and had the Blaze man milking it enough to see the Storm man handed a 2+10 by the same officiate that didn’t make the call against Noble in the first place.
In the second period, it saw Danick Paquette being ejected from the game at 29.49 with the match officials deeming it bad enough to see the Coventry man kicked out for a slashing call and gave the home side a five-minute power play. Stand-In captain Luke Moffatt, then scored his second of the game to tie the game up at 3-3 at 35.09 after a mad scramble around the Blaze nets saw the puck ending up in the back of the net.
Ciaran Long then took a hit against the boards that saw the British forward hitting the ice and staying down, and after some treatment, the former Phoenix and Basingstoke man eventually left the ice under his own power and looked shaky as he stepped off the ice and didn’t return to the game. From then on, the match officials seemed to lose control of the game and missed clear calls on both sides and penalised the lesser calls and let the bad ones go.
As the game entered the third period, it saw more poor calls coming and made the game more bad-tempered than it really should have been. Scott Pitt then put the Storm back in front with a powerplay goal at 46.06, with the Canadian Left-winger firing home his shot for a 4-3 lead. Shane Bakker then got a charging call when the Coventry man just avoided taking a hit and saw the chain of poor calls starting to begin.
It saw hooking calls that weren’t hooking calls and then saw the weirdest cross-checking call being made when Trenz lost an edge and clipped an opponent on the way down and saw the penalties feeling like they were being made up as it went on. Manchester then had a player brought down when in on goal, yet the second match official Tom Pering deemed it only worthy of a hooking call and not a penalty shot
Both benches vented their fury towards the match referees, on what was poor nights officiating. Brett Robinson then came charging into the back of Luke Moffatt on the blue line and saw a scrum with the Blaze man picking up a deserved 2+10 for a check from behind. Meanwhile, the string of strange calls saw Ryan Trenz picking up the same penalty too, after he pushed Robinson in the chest and had the two referees deeming it unbelievably as a check from behind also.
As the game ticked down it saw the home side trying to take the sting out of the game and saw Marc Olivier Vallerand sitting for a slashing call. In the dying seconds, Coventry pulled their goalie and pushed for a tying goal but was to be denied in the final seconds by Mike Clemente, as he prevented the away side from scoring and secured Manchester the points and made it a magnificent seven wins in a row and move them to within a point of Belfast in second place.
This weekend sees Manchester travelling down south to take on two conference opponents, where they have a chance to strengthen their grip on the conference, with trips down to Milton Keynes on Saturday night and then Guildford on the Sunday night.