17th Jan, 2022

INTERVIEW: Stewart admits an extra day of rest may be needed following 'disappointing' Challenge Cup weekend

ICE HOCKEY: BLAZE coach Danny Stewart admitted he may allow his team an extra day off to recover following two ‘disappointing’ Challenge Cup defeats at the weekend.

Stewart’s men lost 5-1 at Milton Keynes on Saturday night before losing to defending champions Cardiff on Sunday night at the Skydome Arena 3-2.

Blaze’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stage of the tournament are now hanging by a thread.

The Blaze must win their remaining two fixtures to stand any chance of snatching third place in their group.

Even two wins could prove to be a case of too little too late as Stewart’s men must hope results in the tournament’s other groups go their way with only a limited number of third-placed qualification spots available.

Speaking to Observer sports editor Shaun Reynolds after Sunday night’s loss, Stewart said: “The guys are tired.

“We’ve played 19 games in the last seven weeks, that’s a lot of hockey. We’ll get them rested up and may consider an extra day off, that’d still leave us with three skates to prepare for the upcoming weekend.”

Though chances of Challenge Cup qualification look bleak, Stewart confirmed the club will not prioritise the Elite League.

He said: “We don’t like to sway our focus back and forth. We’ll prepare for all games in the same way.

“I don’t if our Challenge Cup results are coincidence or bad luck. We’ve had a lot of close games.

“We’re hanging on by a thread and need to win our last two games.”

Missed opportunities appeared to frustrate the Blaze boss following Sunday night’s loss.

The Devils proved particularly strong in taking advantage of Blaze’s ill-fortune – namely goals following a poor interception in Blaze’s own zone and a strike which rebounded off the post.

“Sunday was a good hockey game,” said Stewart.

“It’s unfortunate we came out on the wrong end of things.

“I liked a lot of things our guys did. Our fightback in the third was good. But, again, we had a couple of good looks in the first period.

“Dingle had a chance when the puck was laying in front of goal, they came back and scored. We then hit the post, they then scored. If you change those events it’s a different game.

“If we score early we gain confidence. We need to find a way to bury pucks.”

Picture: Scott Wiggins.


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