ICE HOCKEY: DANNY Stewart labelled Sunday night’s heated win against Milton Keynes as the most ‘stressful’ he’s coached since joining the Blaze last season.
Stewart’s men started Sunday night’s home EIHL contest in positive style when in-form forward Marco Vallerand put the hosts a goal ahead after just three minutes of play.
Though the Lightning responded seconds later to level the game, Blaze stamped their authority on the match with three goals in less than ten minutes – courtesy of Jordan Pietrus, a second for Vallerand, and David Clements.
Milton Keynes pegged a goal back before the end of a dramatic opening period as Blaze entered the second with a comfortable two-goal lead.
That was soon reduced to just one, though, when Mele scored a simple back door tap-in mid-way through the middle period.
Then the drama unfolded. Milton Keynes had a goal early in the third period washed off following a review of the play leading up to the scratched marker after Nastiuk’s net was dislodged from its moorings.
The decision played to Blaze’s advantage, and though Milton Keynes enjoyed the better of the third period, Blaze held on as skipper Pietrus slammed home and empty net goal with seconds to play.
Drama unfolded after the game as Dax Lauwers and Matt Nickerson appeared to have words on the ice. No hand shakes took place after the game and Milton Keynes were promptly asked to leave the ice.
After the match, Stewart admitted his side didn’t play good hockey. Though he was pleased to secure a timely four-point-weekend.
He said: “That was the most stressful game I’ve coached.
“We found a way to win in the end but I don’t think we were great. We didn’t play good hockey in the second and third periods. We did the opposite to what I wanted the guys to do.
“Pucks were turned over, we didn’t play smart.
“Our penalty kill came up big, that was the difference.
“The disallowed goal was a huge turning point in the game. The net came off and the referee had to make a goal. Had that goal been allowed they would’ve tied and we would’ve been a nervous bunch.
“It took a long time for the decision to be made. We played well in the first four minutes but after we had to keep going. The decision was a blessing for us.”
An all round team performance appeared to please Stewart, who spoke highly of several players following the 5-3 win.
He said: “Vallerand played well this weekend. He could’ve had some more goals. He played a big part in our success.
“Kevin (Nastiuk) played well too, he was our best penalty kill man and made a couple of big saves. Then Noble blocked shots, Pietrus chipped in as did Dingle. Courchaine had his best weekend too.
“The effort was there against Milton Keynes but we didn’t make smart decisions. We lost a lot of momentum with turnovers.
Picture: Scott Wiggins.