Hackett the hero as Blaze bag 4-point weekend
A man-of-the-match performance by netminder Matt Hackett helped the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze beat the Sheffield Steelers 2-1 after penalty shots at the Skydome Arena and secure a vital four-point weekend in the push for the play-offs.
The Blaze went into the game without injured Canadian forward Dillon Lawrence as well as long-term injury victim Jake Hansen. The Steelers were missing forward Tanner Eberle and defenceman Mark Matheson.
The game was a feisty affair from the start, with Blaze defenceman Kevin Noble and Steelers forward Robert Dowd both getting two minutes penalties for roughing at 2.42, before the Steelers’ former NHL defenceman Aaron Johnson was given two plus ten minutes for boarding at 3.14. Despite the intensity neither side managed to break the deadlock in the first period.
The middle 20 began with the Blaze on the penalty kill after captain Kevin Morris was given two minutes for slashing at 19.09 but, despite both sides having chances, neither team could find the back of the net as Hackett and Steelers netminder Jackson Whistle both stood tall between the pipes.
The Steelers eventually broke the deadlock in the middle of the second period when a mis-judged Blaze line change left Croatian forward Tom Zanoski one-on-one with Hackett and his shot found the net at 30.56. The Blaze were lucky not to fall further behind almost immediately, when Anthony Deluca missed a gilt-edged chance to extend the lead with the net at his mercy at 32.50.
As the period wound down the Blaze found themselves on a five-on-three penalty kill after British defenceman David Clements was given two minutes for slashing at 37.57 and then Norwegian defenceman Nicolai Bryhnisveen was given a two-minute penalty for holding at 39.08. But the Steelers failed to capitalise on the two-man advantage.
The third period saw the Blaze get on level terms when Bryhnisveen finally beat Steelers’ man-of-the-match Whistle at 48.43.
With both sides trying to find a winner in regulation time the two netminders continued to hold them at bay and the game went to overtime.
Despite the Blaze getting a powerplay opportunity early in the extra frame, when Johnson was given two minutes for interference, neither side could find a winner and the game went to penalty shots.
With the Steelers’ Deluca, Evan McGrath, John Armstrong and Josh Pitt all failing to beat Hackett, who saved 30 of 31 shots during the game, Alex Nikiforuk – whose streak of consecutive home games with at least a point ended at 13 – and Thom Flodqvist found the net for the Blaze to ensure a four-point weekend.