COVENTRY Blaze tasted back-to-back home defeats in what proved to be a weekend to forget in the Challenge Cup.
Danny Stewart’s side began the weekend by hosting Sheffield Steelers on Saturday evening at the Skydome where they hosted Sheffield Steelers in a Group B encounter without the services of influential forward Matt Marquardt.
The visitors took a two-goal lead with ten minutes gone but Marc Cantin beat Ervins Mustukovs in the Sheffield goal to keep Blaze in the match at the end of the first period.
Sheffield regained their two-goal advantage early in the second period before the hosts battled back again with Liam Stewart scoring his first goal for the club and Russ Cowley was awarded his 700th Elite League assist.
Darcy Zajac got Blaze back on level terms five minutes into the final period but the night was to end in disappointment as Sheffield scored what proved to be the winner ten minutes from time
“We got overworked on the penalty-kill and gave them too many opportunities,” said head coach Stewart. “In saying that, we competed and clawed our way back into the game.”
Blaze had a chance to bounce back immediately the following evening as they hosted Manchester Storm and visiting goalkeeper Mike Clemente was the star of the show after stopping 39 out of 40 Blaze shots.
Once again Blaze fell behind early on as Cody Cartier converted the Storm’s first real big scoring opportunity in the fourth minute and in the 18th minute Mario Trabucco made it 2-0 to the visitors.
Clemente pulled off a magnificent save on Ashley Tait to end the opening period, denying the Blaze veteran his 250th goal in Elite League competitions.
British forward Jack Prince extended the Storm’s lead to three in the 28th minute before five German forward Bjorn Bombis gave Blaze a lifeline after finishing well from a speedy breakout.
The hosts pushed for a second in the final period but again Clemente stood strong in the Storm net and eventually earned himself a much deserved Man of the Match award.
“We didn’t come out of the gates the way we wanted to and essentially that first period cost us the game,” Stewart added.
“I thought in the second and third we played a lot more physical and direct and we put a lot of rubber on their goalie but credit to him he made some good saves.
“It’s a tough barn and you have to be direct here for three periods, we were only for two.”
Following two defeats, Blaze will look to get back to winning ways in the Challenge Cup as they travel to Cardiff this Saturday before welcoming the Nottingham Panthers to the Skydome for an Elite League fixture the following night.
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