A MIRACLE save from netminder Brian Stewart during penalty shots earned Coventry Blaze an entertaining win against Nottingham Panthers at the Skydome on Sunday night.
After recording one of its highest attendance figures in several years just over a week ago, the Blaze once again welcomed another strong crowd to the Skydome – which included rock-star Rod Stewart, father of Blaze forward Liam Stewart.
The win came as an added boost after the Blaze defeated the Elite League’s top side – Cardiff – by four goals to three in the Welsh capital on Saturday.
Inspired by a vocal home crowd, Blaze took the lead through assistant coach Ashley Tait after just nine minutes as Danny Stewart’s men continued their scoring form from the previous night.
A hotly contested first period was followed by an equally tough second, and it was the Blaze that scored once more as Garrett Klotz in front of net lit the lamp from close range following a well-directed assist.
Nottingham immediately responded though and just ten seconds later were back to within a goal as Farmer opened the visiting side’s account.
Chris Lawrences’ cross ice pass then rebounded off Blaze defenceman Marc Cantin’s skate as the Panthers drew level with the Blaze at 27.19.
Netminders Stewart and Wiikman superbly kept their respective opposition at bay for the remaining 33 minutes as both teams were forced to overtime – Blaze’s second overtime period in just 24 hours.
Chances came and went for both teams during the intense five minutes of play – which this year has been switched to three on three in an attempt to make overtime more entertaining.
Jordan Pietrus’ one-on-one effort was saved, and then popular forward T.J Syner hit the post with an effort from inside the circle.
Panthers went close on three occasions towards the end of the period, but the game was forced to overtime as a sprawling Brian Stewart blocked out the late efforts.
A goal from Robin Bergman matched the Panthers one goal effort – and forced the penalty shots situation to sudden death, in which Bergman scored once more.
Brian Stewart then superbly saved Chris Lawrences’ do-or-die effort in response to Bergman, earning his side a huge two points in their quest to make the end of season playoffs.
Post-game, Blaze coach Danny Stewart said: “When we play our game and limit mistakes we can beat anyone.
“It was one hell of a weekend and the difference was belief.
“Last night in Cardiff we were 3-1 up and under pressure the game went to 3-3 – three weeks ago we might have let that slip but we rode the ship on both occasions.
“Robin’s (Bergman) penalties were superb, he’s a class player and Stewy’s (Brian Stewart) last three games have been his best stretch of games this season.
“We don’t look like an eighth placed team, I never believe we have – but it’s hard to convince people that as they see the results.”