COVENTRY Blaze have been warned by head coach Danny Stewart to lift their performance levels in the weeks approaching the end-of-season play-offs – despite rising to third in the Elite League.
Saturday’s 4-1 drubbing of Manchester Storm and Sunday’s late 3-2 victory over Dundee Stars have taken Blaze to within three points of leaders Cardiff Devils, although Coventry have played two games more than their rivals.
With just six more games remaining before April’s play-offs get underway, Stewart has been clear in his assessment of the current standing of his side.
“Going down the stretch, we’re certainly going to have to play better hockey than we did against Dundee,” he said.
“At this time of year, I know people say it’s all about results but performances are still important.
“I try to keep an even keel, it’s not that I’m not thrilled with what’s going on here. To be in third place and to go toe-to-toe with the big clubs in our league after almost 50 games is a massive achievement for us.
“By no means is anyone going to take their foot off the gas. We want to keep pushing and we’ve got six games left.
“Anything is possible, we’ve just got to keep putting in the performances and keep picking up points and see where it puts us.”
Coventry needed a Luke Ferrara goal six seconds from time to win Sunday’s meeting with Dundee at the Skydome Arena.
The visitors took a deserved lead on 6.15 when Shawn Boutin, formerly of the Blaze, smashed home a loose puck after a bright start.
Two goals in less than a minute quickly turned the tie on its head though, as Coventry’s Charles Corcoran (18.48) and Dillon Eichstadt (19.38) completed a quickfire comeback.
A goalless second period meant the tie was still very much in the balance heading into the final 20 minutes, much in part to Stars’ Alex Leclerc proving an impenetrable force between the Dundee pipes.
Dundee capitalised on Coventry’s inability to finish off the game when levelling the scores through Matt Carter at 41.17.
The goal appeared to force overtime, until a swift breakaway launched by Andrew Johnston led to Ferrara’s emphatic winner (59.54) to send the Skydome into raptures.
Johnston, who provided the crucial assist, was on fire the previous night with a man-of-the-match showing against Manchester Storm.
The forward got the scoring underway at Planet Ice in Altrincham after just two minutes and 33 seconds played, finding the net against the Storm for the fourth-successive game.
Dillon Lawrence then doubled the lead at 15.48 to put the visitors in prime position.
While Mathieu Gagnon halved the deficit at 24.30, Matt Pohlkamp’s strike towards the end of the second period to restore the two-goal cushion (37.41).
Appearing in the right place at the right time, Ferrara confirmed the points with a simple tap-in at 47.58.
Fife Flyers are the visitors on Friday (7.30pm), before Coventry travel to Cardiff Devils next Wednesday (7pm).