2nd Dec, 2021

ICE HOCKEY - Blaze beaten by Devils after nightmare first period

COVENTRY Blaze were beaten 5-2 at home by the Cardiff Devils in the Challenge Cup after enduring a nightmare first period on Halloween night.

 

Stephen Dixon opened the scoring before two goals from Cole Sanford and a further strike from Josh Waller put the Devils four-nil up at the end of the first period.

 

Justin Crandall added a fifth for the Devils before the Blaze responded through goals from Janne Kivilahti and Ryan Penny.

 

However, those goals proved too little too late as Coventry were blown away by their opponents in the opening 15 minutes to remain bottom of their group.

 

The Blaze were given a warning sign when Cardiff’s Sam Duggan had a goal wiped out after he was deemed to have collided with Blaze netminder CJ Motte behind the net.

 

And that warning was not heeded when Crandall fed Dixon who finished well past Motte at 5.17 to give Cardiff the lead.

 

It was soon two-nil and then three-nil as Sanford grabbed a quickfire brace – striking at 8.39 and 9.10 – both assisted by Great Britain defenceman Ben O’Connor.

 

Even a Blaze time-out could not stop the Devils as Waller made it four-nil at 14.37 to all but put the game to bed before the end of the first period.

 

Coventry captain Justin Hamonic was ejected from the game at 19.39 following a mid-ice hit (interference) which started a large scuffle in the corner.

 

Cardiff’s Brendan Mikkelson also received a 2+2+10 penalty for his involvement in the scrap.

 

The ill-discipline carried over into the second period when Devils defenceman Mark Louis was also chucked from the game for boarding Blaze forward Mathew Thompson who did not return.

 

Much to the Blaze’s frustration – Devils netminder Taran Kozun stood strong to keep them out during the five-minute powerplay period.

 

And to rub salt in the wounds, Crandall made it five-nil on 36.04 with goaltender Motte replaced by Jordan Hedley for the remainder of the night.

 

Coventry eventually found a way through at the beginning of the third period when Finnish forward Kivilahti scored from Johnny Curran’s saucer pass at 41.19 on the powerplay.

 

Blaze man of the match Penny then further reduced the deficit when he turned home a rebound at 53.46 on the man-advantage.

 

To qualify for the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup – the Blaze must now better the record of the Manchester Storm.

 

The Storm currently have no points in the competition and face the Nottingham Panthers home and away to end their cup campaign.

 

The Blaze have one more chance to add to their current two points against the Devils away from home this coming weekend.

 

Head Coach Danny Stewart said: “For whatever reason we seemed a bit puck-focussed from the start. I don’t know if guys were a bit nervous due to importance of the game and needing the points.

 

“I felt we played relatively well after the fourth goal, but it was just too much to come back from.”

 

Coventry play the Devils again in their final Challenge Cup fixture on Saturday, November 6 with the face-off at 7pm at the Cardiff Ice Arena.

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