ICE HOCKEY: COVENTRY Blaze bounced back from defeat in Milton Keynes on Saturday night to earn two crucial league points against Lightning at the Skydome on Sunday.
Danny Stewart’s men had to score six to get the job done though as a rampant Lightning snuck four markers into Kevin Nastiuk’s net.
Blaze should’ve taken the lead on 12 minutes after Ross Venus collected the puck in the offensive zone during a penalty kill.
Venus’ smart pass found an unmarked Ryan Dingle in front of Lightning’s net. But Dingle’s effort was shot straight into Wiikman’s body.
It wasn’t long after Wiikman’s point blank save that Blaze took the lead though.
Jordan Pietrus’ cross ice pass from the right found an unmarked Adam Courchaine in the circle. The in-form forward made no mistake at the back door to put Blaze ahead on 14 minutes.
But Lightning equalised with 21 seconds left in the opening period when Denny Kearney lit the lamp from close range.
Blaze were quick to react once the second period started.
Adam Courchaine found Ryan Dingle to his right on the powerplay, Dingle made no mistake in rocketing a one-time effort past Wiikman to re-establish Blaze’s one-goal lead.
Ross Venus broke on the left after the restart and was bundled to the ice by Lightning’s Evan Stoflet, which prompted another Blaze powerplay.
But this was cancelled out and worse when Danick Paquette was penalised for unsportsmanlike conduct before David Clements sat for two minutes for roughing. Lightning’s Francis Verreault-Paul was also sent to the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct, ending a bizarre passage of play.
Carl Hudson should’ve levelled the game once more when a dangerous cross-ice pass was met by Lightning’s No.2 at the back door. But he scuffed his shot over Nastiuk’s net.
Hudson was made to pay for his error minutes later when a behind the net pass from Danick Paquette found Ryan Dingle in front of Wiikman.
Dingle’s effort beat the Lightning netminder’s right pad as Blaze extended their lead to two.
Kevin King considered himself unlucky not to pull a goal back for Lightning on 38 minutes when his one-time effort at the back door was denied by the crossbar.
But Milton Keynes repeated their efforts of the first period when scoring with 20 seconds left in the middle period through Christian Isackson to peg Blaze’s lead back to one.
Ross Venus made it four for Blaze on his 500th appearance for the club at 41.54 when tapping home from close range following an initial save by Wiikman.
Lightning responded for the third time when Carl Hudson’s one-timer from the blue line beat Nastiuk’s right blocker to make it 4-3.
Ryan Dingle continued the ‘topsy-turvy’ nature of the game when bagging his hat-trick at 50.45 on the powerplay following a scramble close to Wiikman’s net.
It was soon six when Danick Paquette broke away one-on-one on 54 minutes to extend Blaze’s lead to three.
Milton Keynes made Blaze sweat a little at the end with a fourth goal in the closing minutes.
But it wasn’t enough as Danny Stewart’s men record their first win since December 23.
Observer star man
Though Ryan Dingle must be applauded for his hat-trick, Danick Paquette proved a nuisance on ice for Blaze all night against Milton Keynes.
Paquette seems to have found his feet at Blaze after being troubled earlier in the season by suspensions.
We’ve seen the tough guy display his skills more in recent weeks, and his physical element to the game helped generate the space and time Blaze needed to fire six past Lightning.
Ross Venus must receive a mention for his efforts – and single goal – on his 500th Blaze appearance, a remarkable achievement at the age of just 23.