Danny Stewart’s Coventry Blaze secured their first win of the Elite Series with a 3-1 win over the Nottingham Panthers on Sunday evening. The result saw the Blaze finish the first weekend of the Elite Series second in the standings behind the Manchester Storm.
Young American forward Tristan Keck opened the scoring for the Blaze within 94 seconds of the start, firing a loose puck over the pad of Nottingham goalie Jackson Whistle, assisted by compatriot Nick Jermain.
Coventry doubled their lead ten minutes later, with Nicolai Bryhnisveen finding twine with a wrist-shot from just inside the blueline, assisted by long-term Blaze duo Alex Forbes and Ross Venus.
With 3:24 remaining in the first period, Sam Duggan added a third goal to the scoresheet while Coventry attacked on the powerplay. As the Panthers sought to control space in the slot, Vanya Antonov received possession behind the goal-line before spraying the puck to Jermain by the right boards. The American quickly fired a shot towards the crease, with Duggan applying the finishing touch.
The Panthers’ railed in the second period, forcing Canadian goalie Shane Owen into action during an early powerplay opportunity. Despite allowing three goals in the first frame, Whistle’s performance between the pipes for Nottingham was the story of the game. The 25-year-old goalie came to his side’s rescue on a number of occasions, thwarting David Clements with a fantastic double save.
Nottingham reduced the deficit with six minutes remaining in the final period, with Kevin Domingue firing home at the back door.
For the first time, The Boar Sport is trialling a report card system to analyse Coventry Blaze games. Inspired by The Athletic, players are handed an individual score for their performances. In the event that a player isn’t particularly impactful, they are ranked as ‘NTS’ (nothing to see).
With my administrative tasks out of the way, here are your Coventry Blaze report cards.
1st – Vanya Antonov: Wow. If any player is befitting of Todd Kelman’s “good pick-up” seal of approval, it is Vanya Antonov. His role in Sam Duggan’s goal mustn’t slip under the radar, the 1997-born forward was incredibly composed on the puck behind the goal-line as Coventry exerted pressure on the powerplay.
Antonov’s play speaks for itself. Elite League clubs have been put on notice, he is a top-flight forward.
2nd – Shane Owen: Despite conceding three goals on his debut, Shane Owen will be pleased by his start to the Elite Series. A standout performer in the second period against the Panthers, Owen controlled the crease with the confidence befitting of a goalie of his experience. Unfortunate not to collect his first Blaze shutout, the former Fife Flyer has been tremendous to start the tournament.
3rd – Nicolai Bryhnisveen: A fan-favourite from his time in Coventry two season ago, Nicolai Bryhnisveen dazzled on both sides of centre ice. On Wednesday, I asked Danny Stewart about the Norwegian’s return, this is what he had to say:
“He’s an experienced guy, I think we’ll see a lot of the same of what we saw two years ago. He’s a very mobile defenceman, very active. You’ll see him up and down the ice and as an announcer you might get confused about whether he is a forward or a D-man sometimes.
“But he makes it work, and we’ll give him that freedom. I think we’ll see the same.”
Bryhnisveen, who is trying to break back into the Norway squad, proved his head coach right. A true 200-ft performance from the goal-scoring defenceman.
Tristan Keck: After a rocky debut, Tristan Keck showed that he has the skill to make a mark in the professional game. Flight-footed and skilful on the puck, the NCAA graduate scored the opening goal of the game for two reasons:
- He did everything to stay in the play, despite starting in the defensive zone;
- His finishing was immaculate.
An impressive performance from the American.
Mike Hammond followed up his Player of the Match performance on opening night with a similarly impressive display against Nottingham. The third-overall pick has looked the part of a player eager to stake his claim on top six minutes at the upcoming World Championships, Pete Russell will be impressed.
Nick Jermain: Another A-grade, this time for former NCAA captain Nick Jermain. Registering a brace of assists isn’t a bad way to introduce yourself to professional hockey, especially for a player that will be competing with Luke Ferrara for ice time upon his return. All in all, Coventry’s college graduates have passed with flying colours.
Sam Duggan, the scorer of Coventry’s third goal, had a busy night against the Panthers, featuring on the powerplay. The Cardiff Devil isn’t accustomed to featuring on the top line but he certainly didn’t look out of his depth. Pleasingly, Duggan’s performance on gameday two was a clear improvement on his debut. Progress deserves a B+.
Max Krogdahl: In the interests of not giving all of Coventry’s players an A-grade rating, Max Krogdahl slides in with a B for his performance against the Panthers. Paired with Bryhnisveen on the blueline, Krogdahl is asked to take on a lot of defensive responsibility for the Blaze. The 22-year-old played his role perfectly, a solid performance from the Norwegian.
David Clements: As noted above. David Clements was absolutely robbed by Whistle in the second period. Had Nottingham’s goalie not been standing on his head, Clements’ name would have appeared on the box score. As Stewart suggested prior to the tournament, the Coventry-born defenceman has proven to be a useful asset on the powerplay.
The Blaze veteran is handling his joint-captaincy extremely well. Top stuff.
Simen Andre Edvardsen has the look of a player who is about to take his game to another level. The Norwegian centre has had a lot of success in the face-off circle so far and used his body well against the Panthers. There’s room for improvement – and I expect Edvardsen to find fifth gear.
My main criticism of Edvardsen relates to the time he spent in the penalty box. Giving up a cheap penalty at the start of the second period is forgivable at 3-0, but Edvardsen will have to be more cautious tighter games.
Chris Pohlkamp: Like Krogdahl, Chris Pohlkamp is handed the bulk of Coventry’s defensive work while on the ice. The American was impressive alongside Clements, especially in the first period when he used smart play to allow Coventry to break out of the defensive zone.
Ross Venus: What can you say? Ross Venus has played commendably well at centre – a role he isn’t often asked to fulfil. Venus’ solidity was a big part of the reason why Antonov was able to shine. A veteran’s performance from the Solihull-born forward.
Alex Forbes: Much like Venus, Alex Forbes used every ounce of his frame and energy to make an impact on both sides of the neutral zone. The Scot battled impressively against the boards, making good use of his promotion to the third line. Like Krogdahl, Forbes executed his role to perfection.
Janne Laakkonen: Again, for the purposes of not giving everyone the same grade, I’m being harsh here.
Despite being a solider performer for the blaze, Janne Laakkonen just didn’t hit the heights that he is capable of. Overall, the Laakkonen – Edvardsen – Duggan line was outshone by Keck – Hammond – Jermain. For that, I hand Laakkonen a respectable C+.
Nothing to See:
Cole Shudra, Sam Russell, Austin Mitchell-King, Mac Howlett, Toms Rutkis