After five years at the Skydome Arena, David Clements is well-versed in the realities of life with the Coventry Blaze. Speaking candidly to The Boar about the Blaze’s season so far, Clements told a compelling story of a club on the rise:
It’s nice to be higher up in the table, playing well and winning games. It builds a good bond with your teammates, and the fans get excited; so, it’s definitely nice this year. – David Clements
“Nice” is perhaps an understatement. On Remembrance Sunday, Clements’ teammates stormed to a resounding 9-2 victory over Glasgow Clan, the league leaders, sealing the Blaze’s best result of the 2019/20 season so far. In the wake of a narrow shootout loss to Guildford Flames on Saturday, the formbook suggested that the Blaze faithful could be in for a long evening with the visit of the Clan; instead, it would become a famous night at the Skydome.
Buoyed by vocal support during the early exchanges, the home side set the game’s tone during the opening five minutes of play. Testing Patrick Killeen in the Clan net five times in as many minutes, confidence flowed throughout Danny Stewart’s side, culminating in Johnny Curran’s long-range effort from outside the blueline on seven minutes.
The Blaze’s fine start to the match soon told. Frustrated by Glasgow’s slow start in Coventry, Matt Pufahl was sent to the sin-bin on 13:54 for roughing, a transgression that he would rue just moments later. After only twenty seconds on the powerplay, Evan Bloodoff – a summer signing from Fife Flyers – was on hand to slot home for the hosts.
Team GB star, Luke Ferrara doubled the Blaze’s lead on 16:57, benefiting from a scrumptious Janne Laakkonen assist with three minutes left in the first period. Jamie Philips, who enjoyed a quiet evening in the Blaze net for the most part, was forced into a smart pad save in the final minute of the first period, holding firm just long enough to allow Charles Corcoran the opportunity to tee-up Justin Hache to give the Blaze a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
Whatever Danny Stewart told his side during the break had the desired effect. Within 11 minutes of puck drop in the second period, Coventry had assembled an insurmountable 6-0 lead, courtesy of goals from Corcoran, and a Matt Pohlkamp brace. Nolan LaPorte reduced the deficit for the visitors on 35:10; however, Glasgow were never able to establish a foothold in the game, falling 7-1 behind courtesy of Ferrara just 50 seconds later.
Since I’ve been here in the last five years, we haven’t got through to the quarter finals; so, if we win that it will be really big for all of us – David Clements
With a comeback in the third period already unlikely for the Clan, Ferrara ended any hopes of a contest in the final twenty minutes of the game by completing his hat-trick on 41:54. A speculative effort from Linden Springer did bring the Clan back within six goals with fifteen minutes remaining, but Zach Fitzgerald’s side were unable to exert further pressure on Philips.
Instead, David Broll was Johnny-on-the-spot to place the cherry on top for Stewart’s side, sealing an emphatic 9-2 victory as the clock ticked down in the final period. As an incredulous Skydome Arena crowd chanted “we want ten”, The Boar spoke to David Clements about what the rest of the season could hold for the Coventry Blaze.
After securing a vital point in the Challenge Cup against Guildford Flames on Saturday, Clements stressed that the players are “looking forward to” their meeting with the Manchester Storm on home ice later this month for a place in the quarter-finals, adding “Since I’ve been here in the last five years we haven’t got through to the quarter finals, so if we win that it will be really big for all of us and the fans as well.”
Looking further ahead, Clements revealed his keenness to avoid a similarly nail-biting end to the regular season as the Blaze battled through in 2019. “It’s not nice going into the last couple of games of the season knowing that you’ve got to get a point or two in those games”, Clements told The Boar, adding: “if we can do it earlier, it should ease some of the nerves earlier and prepare us more for the playoffs.”
When contrasted to the mood that rippled around the Skydome just twelve months ago, it is clear that Coventry Blaze are a club on an upward trajectory. Just how far Danny Stewart’s side will rise remains to be seen.