ICE HOCKEY: THE RACE to secure the final Elite Ice Hockey League playoff spot will go down to the wire this weekend after Coventry Blaze suffered an overtime loss to Braehead Clan on Sunday.
Danny Stewart’s side led on two occasions at the Skydome on Sunday night, though it was Matt Beca’s overtime strike which ensured Blaze suffered a second loss in as many nights after going down 5-2 to Belfast on Saturday night.
Both results now leave Blaze in a precious position in the Elite League table.
The top eight teams qualify for the end of season playoffs – and Blaze are currently 8th, two points ahead of Manchester who have a game in hand.
Storm will play Nottingham away on Wednesday night and will play the Panthers at home on Sunday.
Blaze meanwhile have just one game remaining – an away tie at Sheffield, a team they’ve only beaten once this season.
Sunday’s game was played with plenty of physicality, in front of another 2,700 plus Skydome crowd.
Matt Marquardt put the home side ahead after just 99 seconds when one on one with Braehead netminder Zajkowski – the 29-year-old made no errors and comfortably opened Blaze’s account.
Clan equalised minutes later though and former NHL skater Jay Rosehill put the visitors ahead after 16 minutes.
A relentless opening period soon boiled over when Marquardt and Cody Carlson dropped the gloves – Marquardt using his bodyweight to force the opposition skater to the ice.
With just 28 seconds left in the opening period, Josh Godfrey levelled the game at two apiece.
Matt Keith was then boxed for abuse of an official shortly into the second period – that was before Ross Venus registered two goals at 36.52 and 42.11 to put Blaze 4-2 ahead.
Leavitt made it 4-3 just ten seconds later though before Rosehill was thrown from the game after being called for headbutting – his frustration at the call led to a match penalty.
Top Elite League goalscorer Scott Pitt levelled the game with two minutes remaining, forcing the clash to overtime.
Despite having chances of their own, it was Braehead who proved the stronger side as Matt Beca scored the winning goal with 2.24 of overtime played.
Blaze head coach Danny Stewart said: “I feel gutted for the guys because the effort was there.
“Maybe the pressure of the situation got to us.
“We had so many chances and opportunities.
“But when you leave a team like Braehead Clan hanging around they end up burning you.”