COVENTRY Blaze dropped out of then Elite Ice Hockey League play-offs after successive defeats to Cardiff Devils and Dundee Stars last weekend.
Sunday’s fixture away in Dundee was a masterclass from Fabrizio Ricci, who slotted a hat-trick to help his side to a 4-3 victory over Blaze.
Alex Nikiforuk returned to the visitor’s starting line-up after a single game suspension kept him out of Saturday’s 2-0 loss to Cardiff Devils, but were missing Justin Hache, Jake Hansen and Ross Venus through injury.
Both sides went into the game chasing the play-offs, so it was no surprise to see the game be an open one of many chances.
Ricci struck his first of the night on 10.55, when Jordan Cownie flicked the ball to him to power home.
He then got himself involved in fisticuffs with Blaze’s Ben Lake – the pair receiving five minute penalties.
Coventry took control of the game when they scored three unanswered goals to silence the home crowd.
Alex Forbes levelled (24.52), before Shawn Pauly (32.23 and 39.01) netted a double to complete a dramatic second-period turnaround.
Dundee though looked a different side in the third period, helped by an early goal to kick-start their revival.
Ricci’s second on 42.59 during a powerplay was followed less than five minutes later by Brian Hart to level the game (47.21), before Ricci sealed his hat-trick and the match winner on 49.06.
Head coach Danny Stewart was left outraged by a number of penalty calls were denied to his side, eventually being sounded out as 4-3 losers on the Dundee ice.
The previous night’s loss to Cardiff Devils was a tough one to take – having had a goal chalked off mid-way through the third period.
New signing, Edward Knaggs, a defenceman from the Bracknell Bees, was available to Stewart as part of his roster for the match at the Skydome Arena.
Blaze were short-benched and often went 0-7 on the powerplay, having a number of spells of five-on-three play which failed to reap any rewards.
Both sides created chances throughout a scoreless opening period, largely thanks to netminders Matt Hackett and Ben Bowns remaining astute between the pipes.
The second period also remained deadlocked, setting up for an entertaining final period in which Blaze went on the penalty kill.
Their defence remained solid throughout as the game crept over the 50-minute mark, but Bryce Reddick broke the deadlock on 51.01 despite a review on the goal.
As soon as one had arrived, another followed suit.
Stephen Dixon doubled the visitor’s lead on 52.26, which forced Blaze to throw Hackett forward as an extra attacker.
They were still unable to pull a goal back, and suffered their first shutout since October.
Stewart bemoaned the luck of his side and agreed that his side had enjoyed some good play during the match.
“I thought we battled all night and deserved better.
“We had some good looks, and in the end, bad puck luck was the difference.”
Blaze face a double header against bottom-side Milton Keynes Lightning this weekend, heading to Planet Ice Milton Keynes on Saturday (7pm) before returning to the Skydome on Sunday (5:15pm).