Spirited fight back not enough for Blaze
Despite a spirited fight back in the third period, the Genting Casino Coventry Blaze were defeated three goals to five by the Elite League leading Cardiff Devils at the Skydome Arena on Boxing Day.
Canadian defenceman Marc Cantin returned to the Blaze line-up following illness putting Danny Stewart's side at full strength. Player/coach of the Devils Andrew Lord chose to take the bench with a full quota of imports at his disposal.
Both netminders impressed in the early going with the two sides creating early chances in a back-and-forth opening ten minutes. Devils’ top goal-scorer, Gui Doucet made the breakthrough, with his 14th of the Elite League season at 13.40, assisted by Mark Richardson.
Blaze responded though, Cardiff born Ben Davies making a play from behind the net, Matt Marquardt showing good strength to force the puck home for 1-1 (18.44).
The scores were level for just 46 seconds, Sean Bentivoglio shooting past Brian Stewart for 1-2 as the net came away from its moorings. Referee Mike Hicks awarding the goal as the puck would have found the target regardless (19.31). Mark Richardson with his second assist for the away side.
A Coventry turnover following an extended 5-on-3 led to a third Cardiff goal at 29.20, Joey Haddad the scorer.
On the powerplay at 35.20, Layne Ulmer re-directed a Scott Hotham blue-line shot to give the Welsh side a convincing 1-4 advantage going into the second break.
Blaze though fought back in front of the large Skydome crowd. Swede Robin Bergman first cutting the deficit to two with a wrap-around at 45.26 (2-4).
T.J Syner then finished following strong play by Marquardt for 3-4 (51.03), Barry Almeida registering a second assist of the night on the goal, the American's 18th point in just 12 games for the club.
The home side, looking for an equaliser, then went on the powerplay. Despite much pressure, Bowns who stopped 28 of Blaze’s 31 shots, and the Devils penalty killers stood strong.
As Cardiff returned to full strength they took full advantage, Layne Ulmer finding space in front of the Coventry goal for 3-5 (54.29), his second of the night.
Despite Danny Stewart calling a late time-out and pulling netminder Stewart for the additional out-skater there was to be no way back for Blaze.
Head Coach Danny Stewart said, “We made too many mistakes against a good hockey team. Momentum shifters happen all over the ice. We get one back, tie the game with a couple of minutes left in the first period and they get one right back. Just sloppy hockey in our zone. We had a great penalty-kill in the second period and we go out the next shift, throw one through the middle and it’s in the back of our net, 3-1. Then you’re chasing the game. At times we just refuse to play simple and direct hockey. We did in the third and we played better hockey but you can’t play one period against a good team... Teams aren’t coming in here and out-shooting us 45-50 shots, the mistakes are just killing us and I can’t stress that enough.”