ICE HOCKEY: DANNY Stewart slammed his side’s Challenge Cup performance against Milton Keynes as ‘unacceptable’ after Blaze lost 7-4 at the Skydome Arena.
Blaze made the worst possible start to their Challenge Cup campaign – a competition the club has failed to qualify from the group stage phase for a number of years – on Sunday as four first period goals killed off any chance Blaze had of grasping points.
Stewart admitted his side are in for a heavy week of training following a lack of urgency and direct play against Lightning, a team that features Coventry Blaze legend Ashley Tait after he was released by the club during the off-season.
The 38-year-old coach said: “I’ll do my best to protect my team, but I can’t protect them after tonight (Sunday).
“We were too soft and too easy to play against.
“We switched off for 12 minutes in the first period after getting the first goal and feeling good about ourselves. That’s how we lost the game.
“I made my emotions clear. It’s unacceptable.
“I can handle a team playing better than us. But not a team outworking us. The goals in the first period were positional mistakes.”
The former Blaze skater was quick to quash any rumour his side struggled with the heavy weekend schedule, which saw Blaze spend 14 hours on the road to play Fife on Saturday before Sunday’s home clash.
He said: “Spending 14 hours on a bus isn’t easy. But every team in this league has to do it. So why can’t we?
“I’m not using that as an excuse. Our problems are more mental than physical.
“Four goals is a positive. But to go from conceding four goals in three games to seven goals in one is concerning. We’ve got to be better.
“This team is based on grit and I didn’t see that.”
Blaze’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. This weekend they face fierce rivals Sheffield Steelers in two EIHL matches – away on Saturday and at home on Sunday.
Despite a tough weekend, Stewart revealed his side are in for a heavy week of training.
“I’ll spend Monday breaking down every aspect of our game and seeing what we need to focus on. There’s lots of areas after tonight.
“I won’t get over the performance anytime quick. We need to learn from these mistakes.
“Individual mistakes crept in and I didn’t see any urgency.”
Picture: Scott Wiggins.