MANCHESTER STORM 5 EDINBURGH CAPITALS 2
A couple of braces for Matt Caria and man of the match Matt Sisca helped the Manchester Storm snap their four-game losing streak as they defeated the in form Edinburgh Capitals at the Altrincham Ice rink to leapfrog above the Coventry Blaze prior to the sides meeting on Sunday evening.
Manchester with their short bench drafted in Scott McKenzie from the NIHL side Widnes Wild and also brought up Jared Dickinson from their sister team the Altrincham Aces for the encounter.
The home side took the lead after a quick break up ice saw Luke Salazar poking the puck into the path of Matt Sisca and his pass across ice saw Matt Caria back from suspension giving them an early goal after 33 seconds gone in the game.
Caria then turned from goal scorer to provider, with the Canadian dazzling with some quick hands before then backhanding across the face of goal for Paul Phillips to lift over Carsen Chubak for a 2-0 lead at 12.37.
Edinburgh was playing their third game in four nights and arguably the effects were starting to show on their side, while Manchester were the aggressors in the game and unlike Wednesday night against Sheffield, the Storm were able to getting that insurance marker to take a 2-0 lead going into the first break.
In the second period and there was a bit controversy over the Capitals first goal of the game, after Kyle Bigos drove to the net and looked to Interfere with Zane Kalemba in the Manchester goals as the tall American forward fell on top of him and that allowed Taylor Dickin to quickly collect the puck and jam the puck home at 23:43 with Storm players not happy with the goal standing.
Manchester dominated the opening two periods of play and despite the pressure that they were exerting on their opponents, they could only manage a one goal lead as they headed into the third period 2-1 up and were looking good for their lead too.
With the third under way some thoughts may have lingered around the rink of whether the Storm had a positive mentality going into the period, having watched the Altrincham side on many occasions this early on in the season giving up leads in the final period and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in many games so far.
Those worries looked to have dispersed when Matt Sisca was first to a loose puck and saw his quick release finding the back of the net which saw him finally picking up a deserved goal in the game, after assisting on the two previous efforts to give the Storm a 3-1 lead at 44.59.
However the Capitals pulled one back straight away through Jacob Johnston effort less than a minute later at 45.27, as a shot from Taylor Dickin got blocked by a Storm defenceman and seen the puck come straight to Ryan Hayes who in turn passed to the free Johnston and he fired by the netminder at the near post to see a 3-2 hockey game.
With the game getting tense and both sides going close for different reasons, it saw the home side finally getting the fourth goal and decisive one at that, to kill off the Scottish side in the contest.
New signing Latvian Ricards Birzins set off Matt Sisca and Luke Salazar in attack and after Salazar’s little chip pass behind the Caps’ back line, it saw the forward collect the puck and Sisca slipped it home for a 4-2 score and all but gave the Storm victory in this Gardiner Conference match-up.
Edinburgh pulled the goalie for the extra attacker as they looked to try and find some way back in the contest, but after a few failed efforts by the hosts to score it was left to Matt Caria to score the empty net goal and see Storm moving off the bottom of the table with a 5-2 win as he shot it into the unguarded net and saw him finish off a good night’s work for him.
COVENTRY BLAZE 1 MANCHESTER STORM 3
Sunday night saw the Storm travelling down the M6 to Coventry and where their meeting with the Blaze in the Challenge Cup became a winner takes all contest in reality with the victors advancing through to the Quarter-Finals of the Challenge Cup.
Coventry had a good chunk of the play in the first period but the Storm and Zane Kalemba made sure to keep the Blaze out with some good blocks and defending. Ricards Birzins should have made it 1-0 for the visitors, but he managed to somehow lift the puck over the net and out of play with an open goal to aim at.
In the second and Manchester were making it difficult on themselves with the side unable to convert their chances that they were creating in the Blaze end and saw Sisca missing a sitter.
Eventually they finally managed to get the puck in the net through Matt Caria at 36:16 as the forward was quick to react to the loose puck on the Blaze doorstep and and it saw him putting in at close range.
Early in the third period the player-coach of the Storm in Omar Pacha fired in a second for his side as Manchester was looking comfortable in the game. That was until Brett Robinson scored at 57:51 for the Blaze to set up a tense finale and had Coventry not yet giving up hope of tying the game.
With the home side having cutting the lead in half from pulling their goalie for the extra man and scoring, it then saw Luke Salazar skating on goal and neatly guide it home for an empty netter after Coventry tried to pull the same trick twice and failed.
The win for Manchester not only saw them picking up a 4 point weekend, with two in the league and two in the Challenge cup group. But it also saw them recording their first road win in 12 years since the Storm name came back to British Ice Hockey.