Danny Stewart’s Coventry Blaze fell to a 4-3 overtime defeat to the Nottingham Panthers, though still did enough to avoid the Sheffield Steelers in the semi-finals.
After a very quiet start to the game, it was Nottingham who seemed the brighter of the two teams, with two early powerplays and a few good chances, including Nick Dineen hitting the bar, and Lewis Hook forcing a good save out of Shane Owen.
The game remained lowkey for most of the opening period, but on 14 minutes, against the run of play, Luke Ferrara scored for Coventry to put the Blaze one up.
And just like that, the game kicked into life, with the Panthers responding almost immediately, scoring through Christophe Boivin, who had a strong game going forward today.
Tim Wallace’s team kept up their intense pressing play for the remainder of the first period, but with the Nottingham outfit being penalised with just a minute remaining, Mike Hammond took advantage and scored on the powerplay for the Blaze from a ridiculously tight angle.
The period finished 2-1 to Coventry Blaze, who simply made more of their chances in this first half than the Panthers did.
The Panthers started the second period much the same, pressing high up the ice and penning the Blaze lines in their own half of the rink.
With Nicolai Bryhnisveen firing a shot off the bar of Jackson Whistle’s net, the Panthers broke on the counter down the other end of the ice, with Oliver Betteridge’s pass to Lewis Hook deflecting into the goal off the doubly unlucky Bryhnivsven’s stick as he raced back to defend.
Stewart’s side worked their way into the game as the period wore on, and in the 36th minute, Hammond floated the puck over the Panthers defence for David Clements to fire in, putting the Blaze 3-2 up, with the second period ending with advantage to Coventry.
This set up a tense third period, with both teams knowing that they needed a win to secure second place in the table.
Coventry withstood the Panthers’ pressing for the majority of the third period, difficult though it was, and on 52 minutes, they had a great chance to secure the victory, with the puck bouncing over Jackson Whistle following a save.
However, a combination of luck and miraculous precision from the Panthers’ netminder allowed him to clear the goal-bound puck with his stick in mid-air, sparing his blushes and keeping his team in the game.
With just three minutes remaining on the clock, and Coventry still leading 3-2, Kevin Domingue raced through the Blaze’s defence, shrugging off Pohlkamp’s challenge and picking his spot above Shane Owen’s right shoulder, making it 3-3 and forcing overtime.
A nervy opening minute to the deciding period was followed by great chances at both ends, with Mark Matheson winning it for Nottingham Panthers, as he found himself unmarked and with all the time in the world to bring the puck under his control and lash it into the net.
First: Mike Hammond (COV) – 1G, 2A – He was on the losing side, but Hammond played extremely well today, and was unfortunate not to come away with more from the game. He had a hand in all three of his team’s goals, and was Danny Stewart’s primary orchestrator out on the ice.
Second: Kevin Domingue (NOT) – 1G, 2A – Matching Hammond’s goal contribution record in this game, the Panthers entire front line played excellently, but it’s Domingue who takes my silver medal here, as he linked up excellently with his teammates, and scored the crucial equalising goal to bring about overtime. As Tim Wallace said ahead of the game, the Panthers had to put pressure on Shane Owen and get as many attempts as possible, and Domingue helped them do exactly that.
Third: Brett Perlini (NOT) – 2A – It’s one of Domingue’s offensive partners that takes bronze in my rankings, as he also linked up well with his teammates and helped string together a series of brilliant moves, two of which resulted in goals.
One of Coventry’s many danger men, Ferrara put in a strong shift here, and although his goal and assist weren’t enough to get his team the win, he can be proud of his contribution today.
An ever-present for Coventry in this tournament, the defender once again put forward a strong showing, popping up on the scoresheet, and doing his best at the other end to keep the Panthers out, though with far less success than he has had previously against the Nottingham team.
Conceded four today but it could have been a lot more. His goal was constantly under threat by the Panthers’ pressing game, but he made some typically brilliant saves that kept his team in the lead for the majority of the game.
Was a good outlet for the Blaze throughout, and worked tirelessly to keep the Panthers at bay, though no telling goal contributions for him today.
Played well on the counter for Coventry and strung some good moves together. No goals or assists for him today, but he made a strong contribution.
Defended well today, with his shove on Brett Perlini a real show of desire and strength. Another decent showing for this man today, but just couldn’t hold back the onslaught of the Panthers.
Howlett was quite active for the Blaze today, and though he doesn’t have a goal or assist to show for it, he contributed effectively going forward, getting involved in a few good build-up movements with his teammates.
How to rank this man’s game? He did well going forward, and did get an assist to his name for the first goal of the day, but missed a great chance to extend his team’s lead, and then turned the puck into his own net a moment later.
Joining his Norwegian partner in the B- category, Krogdahl held out defensively, but couldn’t do much about the Panthers’ goals. Strong as always, but he’s played much better in previous games.
I didn’t think this man would be here before the game. Uncharacteristically quiet today and, although he did get an assist, Keck barely had a look in all game and when a chance did fall to him, he was unable to make them count. He’ll be hoping to bounce back in the semi-final.
Didn’t see much of the puck today but was alert and got a few shots on goal off, troubling Whistle on occasion.
Nothing to see
Alex Forbes, Nick Jermain, Cole Shudra, Simen Andre Edvardsen, Toms Rutkis, Sam Russell, Janne Laakkonen.