Stewart: "We must learn from early mistakes"
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze Head Coach Danny Stewart has had a full week to work his new-look Elite League squad for the first time, vowing that the group “must learn from its early mistakes.”
From the first players’ arrival back in late August, the schedule for Blaze has been a hectic one with seven pre-season games over the period of just over two weeks, before the season began for real this past weekend. Despite a fight-back from 4-1 down in Nottingham, Blaze fell 4-3 to the Panthers on Saturday, followed by a disappointing 1-4 home defeat on Sunday to Patton Conference rivals Manchester Storm.
Stewart said, “In particular on Sunday I felt that we lost too many puck battles for the first time this early season. We built this team to not get outworked and at times we did against Manchester. It was our 9th game in 18 days so maybe a bit of tiredness crept in. We did however miss a few great opportunities and we were unlucky to come out of the first period without a lead.”
With the Elite League’s top-scorer of last season Matt Beca putting the Storm one up early in the second period, Blaze Captain Jordan Pietrus and then seconds later his Assistant, Ryan Dingle thought they’d hit straight back just after the half-way mark. The pair though denied by referee Michael Hicks who ruled out both efforts leaving the two, and the Coventry bench frustrated.
“I felt after our two disallowed goals in the second, that we lost focus,” continued Stewart. “In low scoring games like that you have to keep your focus and we didn't. We let those calls affect us and that can't happen. We took undisciplined penalties at crucial times as well and it sinks the bench. The important thing is to learn from these early mistakes and hopefully it helps us in the long run.”
Despite not picking up any points from the first weekend, the Blaze coach wasn’t totally dissatisfied with his side’s efforts, particularly on the road Saturday night against the much fancied Panthers.
“I felt we played a good hockey game in a tough barn,” commented Stewart. “Penalties again caught up to us, but I loved our compete-level that night. We were resilient and there was a lot of good signs. In saying that, we need to be better over 60 minutes and avoid those lapses and individual mistakes.”
With Manchester Storm the opponents for Blaze again on Saturday, this time in Altrincham, Stewart’s fingers are tightly crossed for a return to action for Canadian Danick Paquette, a player well suited to the small ice and physical approach expected to come at Coventry in the Storm Shelter.
“We are hopeful on Danick for the weekend,” said Stewart. “At this time though it’s really 50/50.”
Another absent from the line-up has been Garrett Ladd, a top-scorer for his former team Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL last season. The news on the 27-year-old American is not quite so positive though.
“He definitely won’t feature this weekend and further tests are being carried out on him,” concluded the Blaze Coach.
After Saturday’s trip to Manchester, Stewart’s men will look to bring their pre-season home form, winning all four games, into competitive action as they take on Glasgow’s Braehead Clan at the Skydome Arena in Coventry on Sunday (5.15pm).
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