The Manchester Storm claimed a hard-fought win over the Coventry Blaze in a 9-goal thriller, winning 5-4 in overtime following a last-minute equaliser for Coventry in the period.
Luke Ferrara made his much-anticipated return for the Blaze, having just been allowed to return to the UK, and he turned in a strong first performance here, though it wasn’t enough to give his side the victory.
Manchester Storm raced into the lead, with Craig Peacock’s shot taking a lucky deflection after he was played in by Josh Batch.
Coventry set the tone for the match by responding with a goal of their own just under two minutes later, with the returning Luke Ferrara scoring from a rebound off Storm goalie, Sean Bonar.
The remainder of the first period largely saw the Storm dictate the game’s rhythm, but it was Chris Pohlkamp’s visit to the penalty box that gave the ‘visitors’ the chance to score on the powerplay. It was an opportunity Manchester took with both hands, with some strong attacking play resulting in a rebound goal from Ciaran Long.
Manchester scored another goal quickly after the restart, with the unmarked Joe Hazeldine rifling in a third for the Storm from the right-wing on 22 minutes.
Both teams had looks on the powerplay in the second period
Danny Stewart’s side seemed to be losing their grip on the game rapidly, but a 2-minute powerplay gave them the chance to claw some control back, with Dugan pulling the score back to 3-2 in the 27th minute.
Manchester refused to relinquish their hold of the game, however, and struck back just a minute later through Noer, with Hazeldine turning provider as the Storm extended their lead to 4-2, with just over half of the second period remaining.
Both teams had looks on the powerplay in the second period, with neither capitalising on their man advantage to change the scoreline, though Tristan Keck missed two great chances to drag Coventry back into the game.
The final period began with a powerplay apiece, and some outstanding work from Manchester’s Bonar in goal, who made two saves in quick succession to keep the score as it was.
His opposite number, Jordan Hedley, also did his best to ensure there was no way for Manchester to extend their lead. Keck broke his duck for the night on 42 minutes, scoring a goal after missing numerous opportunities up until that point.
With the score at 4-3 and the clock ticking down rapidly, David Clements followed an outstanding save from Jordan Hedley by firing a laser-guided puck into the top right of the Storm net. His shot found its way through the majority of the players on the ice before nestling into the corner of the goal with just 30 seconds to go in the match, forcing overtime.
Clements had the chance to be the hero again in overtime, his shot being saved by Bonar, before Simmonds went up the other end a minute later to drive a dagger into Blaze fans hearts, scoring the winner for the Storm three minutes into OT.
This was a thrilling game to take in. Moments of brilliance and fortune in equal measure made this contest what it was, and it would be fair to say both teams benefitted from a fair bit of luck throughout the game.
On the balance of things, the Storm probably deserved to take the win here, though not discredit to Coventry, who put up an outstanding fight and showed great resolve to fight back from 4-2 down to take the game to overtime.
Both teams made good use of the powerplay, taking advantage of their numerical situation to put pressure on the other team, and from a Coventry standpoint, Danny Stewart will certainly take lots of positives from this game, despite the result.
Although they couldn’t get the win in the end, the Blaze shouldn’t be disheartened by this, as they showed admirable desire as they fought back to force overtime from a seemingly irrecoverable position. Luke Ferrara’s return is also a huge positive, as he was a great outlet for the team throughout.
A great game, and some great individual performances to go with it.
First Star: Joseph Hazeldine (MAN) – (1G+1A)
Second Star: Scott Simmonds (MAN) – (1G)
Third Star: Luke Ferrara (COV) – (1G)