A LACK and focus and concentration has been blamed after Coventry Blaze failed to reach the end of season playoffs for the first time in the club’s history.
Blaze finished ninth in the Elite League after losing to Sheffield last night – a game in which a win would’ve secured the final playoff spot.
Danny Stewart’s men fell one win short of qualification after being locked in a relentless end of season battle with both Manchester Storm and Dundee Stars.
Storm pulled off a rare win on away ice in Nottingham during the week, meaning Blaze had to win last night while hoping Storm would either lose or draw in regular time against the European Club Champions.
While Manchester’s game ended in defeat, it made no difference on the overall outcome as Blaze suffered a crushing 4-1 loss to Sheffield.
A scoreless first period at the Sheffield Arena gave Blaze fans hope as Stewart’s forward lines appeared to be working well together with multiple efforts on goal.
However Robert Dowd opened the scoring for Sheffield after 22 minutes to hand the Steelers a one goal advantage.
Assistant Blaze coach Ashley Tait scored against his former club later in the second period though, bringing Blaze level and offering Stewart and his team hope.
However two goals in the space of 34 seconds ended any chances Blaze had of qualification as Sheffield went 3-1 ahead.
At the time, Manchester were level against the Panther – however the result from across the Peak District seemed irrelevant as Steelers soon added a fourth through Matthieu Roy.
After the game, head coach Danny Stewart said: “For the first two periods we played some of our best hockey of the year.
“They went 2-1 up half way through the third and from what I saw of the third goal a whistle was blown and it was allowed to stand – that doesn’t surprise me being in Sheffield Arena.
“We have no one to blame other than ourselves. We put ourselves in that position by finding no consistency throughout the year.
“It was a good game of hockey – for everyone playing and the crowd watching. Having outside influences made it tougher.”
Stewart, who joined the Blaze as head coach last year following spells with the club as a player, said focus and concentration has been the biggest issue of the season.
He added: “There’s a lot of pressure and these guys care. It’s frustrating and tough to keep your cool.
“I don’t think people realise how much pressure these guys feel.
“The fans have been fantastic, and I’m sure they feel gutted.
“But for me the most important thing are the guys in the locker room – everyone who goes through the grind each day.
“No one will take this harder than me, it falls onto my shoulders. We’ve got to learn from this as a club on the ice.
“We win and lose as a group. I’m not pointing fingers as it doesn’t set a good example to my guys, the guys I’m bringing back next season and bringing in next year.
“If people want to complain, I don’t care. They can rip me all they want.
“At the end of the day there was no consistency and we didn’t play well enough throughout the year.”