ICE HOCKEY: A DRAW against Belfast coupled with a 3-1 loss in Sheffield ensured Coventry Blaze crashed down to tenth in the EIHL standings, dropping them out of the playoff frame.
Danny Stewart’s men sit on 19 points from as many games, one point short of eighth placed Fife Flyers.
Blaze first faced Belfast at home on Saturday night, a game in which Stewart revealed afterwards he was ‘proud’ of his short-benched side after scoring a third period powerplay goal to force the game to overtime.
Giants made the best start when Brendan Connolly scored on the powerplay at 3.15 before top scorer Marco Vallerand responded with a marker of his own just five minutes later.
Gaelan Patterson then put the Blaze ahead on ten minutes before Jonathan Ferland brought the game level at 14.50 in an eventful opening period.
The goalscoring continued at the start of the second period when Brett Robinson made it 3-2 at 20.36.
But two markers from from John Kurtz – at 32.52 and 35.15 – ensured Belfast led 3-4.
Already missing Ryan Dingle, Blaze then lost Gustav Ahnelov before skipper Jordan Pietrus and defenceman Kevin Noble returned to the ice.
Brett Robinson levelled the game on the powerplay at 48.37 to force the game to overtime, but Belfast had the last laugh when Brendan Connolly grabbed his second marker from a two-on-one breakaway in the opening seconds of overtime.
Meanwhile three goals in as many minutes proved enough for title chasing Sheffield Steelers as Blaze lost 3-1 in the Steel City.
Missing Ryan Dingle and Gustav Ahnelov, Blaze were up against it from the start.
The game made an explosive start when Dax Lauwers and Zack Fitzgerald dropped the gloves – both receiving 2 + 10 penalties and five minutes for fighting.
Shortly after, Robert Down registered Steelers’ first goal following Andreas Valdix’s cross-ice pass at 6.37.
Steelers’ lead was doubled at 8.28 courtesy of Valdix before Colton Fretter made it 3-0 from close range less than a minute later.
An early Blaze timeout paid dividends when Marco Vallerand brought Blaze within two goals at 17.14.
Though no more goals were scored, Blaze weren’t helped by the actions of Danick Paquette – who picked up a 10-minute misconduct penalty for abuse of an official.
The game ended on a sour note when Steelers defenceman Zack Fitzgerald was helped off the ice by teammates after taking a shot to the face.
Head coach Danny Stewart wasn’t too disheartened by the weekend’s defeats.
He said: “We came out strong in the first few shifts and did some good things.
“Even though it (the second goal) was a bad non-call, we must re-set there. And unfortunately, we gave up another.
“From then we battled and competed with what we had left.
“Our defence particularly were gassed after double shifting in the first, and a physical game last night.
“Although the results didn’t go our way, the guys gave me everything this week.
“Hopefully we can get healthy and take that through to next week.”