COVENTRY Blaze were involved in two thrilling fixtures with Guildford Flames over the weekend, winning the opener at the Guildford Spectrum Arena 8-7 before losing the home leg 6-5 on Sunday at the Skydome Arena.
New signing Matt Hackett made his debut in the opener on Saturday, tending goal for the Blaze, but could do nothing to prevent an opening eight-minute salvo from Flames who struck four times – Kruise Reddick, Ian Watters, Brett Ferguson and Ben Davies all striking to put the Blaze in for a long-night at the Spectrum.
A time-out was clearly needed, and as soon as Hackett had been between the pipes for Blaze, he was made to watch as Jordan Hedley tended goal, at which point Blaze came back into it.
Alex Nikiforuk scored the first of an eventual hat-trick on 13.18, Tim Crowder netting a second from Nicolai Bryhnisveen’s pass to end the first period with a sense of revival.
The second period saw the deficit reduced to a single goal, Shawn Pauly netting on 21.49, before Calle Ackered restored Flames lead by two after 23:31.
But four unanswered strikes in seven minutes turned the scoreline on it’s head completely.
Chris Joyaux’s fourth for the campaign got Coventry’s revival underway, Nikiforuk adding his second, Ben Lake putting Blaze in front on 28.41 before Thom Flodqvist scored a seventh of the night for his side.
Ackered scored a powerplay goal for the hosts to make it 7-6 at the end of the second period, and for all the scoring up to this point, it would be a subdued third period, which saw a Guildford leveller from Kevin King to send the game into overtime.
Nikiforuk would seal a hat-trick and win the game in the extra period for the Blaze, as they made history in making the steepest comeback in the club’s history from four goals down to win.
The reverse fixture at Sunday would not go the same way for Coventry however, as another early deficit this time would prove to be a sign of the outcome of the game.
Ackered again found the net, whilst Jamie Crooks on 4.57 made it 2-0 early on, Shawn Pauly and Crowder tied the scorelines before Pauly’s second made it 3-2 after just over 16 minutes played.
A quickfire leveller from T.J Foster destroyed any momentum built from the early comeback to end the first period, before Ferguson (31.46) and Davies (43.53) on the powerplay put the hosts into a solid lead.
Coventry just would not relent though, and Dillon Lawrence (49.51) and Luke Ferrara brought the sides level once more (54.40) to force over-time, at which point neither could still be separated.
Watters and Nikiforuk were the only scorers for Coventry after five shots, Guildford’s Crooks made the Blaze pay with his winner in sudden death.
Head coach Danny Stewart was frustrated to have lost the game, but was clearly positive about the fighting spirit present in his squad’s ranks after securing three points over the weekend.
“It was another sloppy game where we were a bit loose defensively, but these guys have showed a lot of character to keep coming back these last three games,” he said.
“It’s no excuse, but like most teams in this league, the Christmas period has caught up with us and these guys are exhausted.
“I felt sorry for all four goalies who played this weekend for both teams. It was shinny hockey, and although it’s good to see us scoring for gun, long term we won’t find success playing that way.”
Seventh-placed Blaze next face the Manchester Storm this Saturday at the Skydome Arena (7pm), before the return leg the next day at the Altrincham Ice Dome (5:30pm).