ICE HOCKEY: HOPES of Coventry Blaze reaching the end of season playoffs were dealt another blow following a 3-7 loss to Patton Conference rivals Guildford.
It was Blaze’s seventh successive loss and means Danny Stewart’s men are without a win in three weeks.
Eighth placed Braehead Clan have consequently established a six-point lead between themselves and Blaze, who are now tenth on 32 points.
Ian Watters was first to go close when his breakaway effort crashed off the underside of Kevin Nastiuk’s crossbar.
Flames established a one-goal lead seconds later when John Dunbar’s shot at 5.36 from a tight angle found its way into the net.
The visitors’ lead was doubled three minutes later when Kruise Reddick capitalised on a loose puck, following Watters’ initial shot, at the backdoor.
Ben Lake missed a golden opportunity to pull a goal back at 13.11 when he created space to go one-on-one with Brian Stewart. But Stewart’s outstretched right leg denied the Canadian forward.
Jesse Craige’s marker on 13 minutes prompted Danny Stewart to call his time out early as Flames stretched their lead to three, which remained until the end of the period.
Geoff Walker’s wraparound effort at 23.35 added to Blaze’s woes as Kevin Nastiuk could only watch Flames add to their superior lead.
Home fans had something to cheer about when assistant coach Brett Robinson clocked Blaze’s first goal from close range at 24.15.
The goal sparked life into Blaze’s forward unit as Adam Courchaine was unlucky not to add a second goal moments later when his effort crashed off the post during a powerplay.
Dorian Peca ensured Blaze got that second goal at 26.17 when Alex Miner Barron’s effort from the circle received a timely deflection from the new Blaze recruit, making the score 2-4.
A transformed Blaze went close again through Brett Robinson’s restricted one-on-one effort before a goalmouth scramble was eventually cleared while Peca hit the post – all this within the space of a minute.
Blaze’s momentum was killed though after a shorthanded strike from John Dunbar at 28.54. Dunbar capitalised on a failed clearance to go one-on-one with Nastiuk, who was helpless but to see the puck find a way through his legs.
The topsy turvy nature of the second period continued when Jordan Pietrus slammed home a one-timer effort on 30 minutes to reduce Flames’ lead to two-goals.
Iron denied Blaze for a third time on 37 minutes after Danick Paquette dodged Guildford’s defence before his shot beat Brian Stewart’s right blocker – only for the puck to rebound back into play off the post.
Hopes of a first win since January 14 were dashed though when Dunbar confirmed his hat-trick at 47.20 to re-establish Flames’ three-goal lead.
It got worse for Blaze a minute later when Danick Paquette’s interference penalty led to Flames’ seventh goal courtesy of Rhett Rachinski.
There was little consolation when Gaelan Patterson recorded Blaze’s fourth goal as the final buzzer was met by boos from the crowd.
Blaze are next in action against Fife on Saturday before hosting Milton Keynes on Sunday.