ICE HOCKEY: BLAZE coach Danny Stewart is confident his side will pick up Elite League points if they can perform as they did against Cardiff this weekend.
Despite losing twice in as many nights against the table topping Devils, Stewart’s men lost by one-goal in each game respectively – 2-1 at Ice Arena Wales before a 3-2 defeat at the Skydome on Sunday night.
The losses dropped Blaze to tenth in the EIHL table, three points short of ninth placed Dundee – who have two games in hand – and four points short of Braehead, who occupy the final playoff spot.
It means Blaze face an uphill battle in their concluding 17 league games if they are to challenge for a top eight spot, but Stewart believes his men have what it takes to reach the playoffs for the first time under his leadership.
Stewart said: “If we play how we did this weekend down the stretch we’re going to win a lot of games. That has to be our focus.
“We played a good hockey games on Saturday night in a tough building.
“On Sunday I thought we played well again, the difference was one goal.
“It’s a tough hill to climb when you give Cardiff a two-goal lead. I really liked our push-back but unfortunately we came up short in the end.”
Blaze were handed an additional blow after Sunday’s game when top scorer Marco Vallerand and Stewart himself were handed game misconduct penalties for abuse of an official.
It rounded off a frustrating night for Blaze which got off to the worst possible start when Devils took an early two-goal lead as goals from Jake Morrissette and Patrick Asselin put the visitors ahead.
Blaze fought back in the middle period as Vallerand batted home a mid-air puck on 23 minutes before Ryan Dingle scored on 30 minutes to level the game.
Both teams were left to rue powerplay opportunities as Devils found themselves stuck by the impressive Kevin Nastiuk on several occasions.
Nastiuk was eventually beat though by Morrissette, who bagged his brace, at 50.12 to re-establish Devils’ two-goal lead.
That lead remained intact for Cardiff, who now top the Elite League by seven points with a game in hand over second-placed Belfast.
Photo: Scott Wiggins.