Blaze begin with home point
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze began their 2016/17 Elite League campaign with a home point against the Belfast Giants.
Blaze twice fell behind in regulation time, fighting back both times on the powerplay before DJ Rutherford’s second goal for the Giants won the game in 3-on-3 overtime by a score of 2-3.
Danny Stewart went into his first Elite League game as Blaze head coach with a full line-up, whilst former NHL defenceman Jim Vandermeer and goalie Jackson Whistle were absent from the Belfast team list.
The first period was a scrappy affair with few open scoring opportunities, Belfast’s Mark Garside coming the closest hitting Brian Stewart’s right post.
Giants’ Brandon Benedict again hit iron to start the second period before DJ Rutherford with his first of two finally found a way past Stewart at 30.57, following a tired turn-over in the Blaze end.
Defenceman and Blaze Man of the Match, Josh Godfrey then tied things up with a huge slap-shot past Stephen Murphy on the powerplay, assisted by Darcy Zajac at 33.28 to send the large Skydome crowd into a frenzy.
As the second period entered its final stages, referee Liam Sewell called back-to-back minor penalties on the Blaze with the dangerous Mike Forney taking advantage for Belfast on the second attempt at 38.58.
Blaze Captain Jordan Pietrus then tied the game again on the powerplay at 46.04, finding space to rifle the puck past Murphy, eventually earning his side a valuable point to open the season.
The final ten minutes saw both teams come close to a winner, Murphy and the stand-out Stewart particularly in the closing seconds pulling off remarkable saves to keep the scores tied at two to end regulation time.
With both clubs taking home a point, 3-on-3 overtime commenced for the first time at the Skydome Arena.
Blaze controlled the opening stages but a broken play saw Belfast grab both points, Desmarais finding Rutherford for the second time to conclude the game 2-3.
Head Coach Danny Stewart said, “The guys battled but I felt it was just one of those nights where we just didn’t seem to be clicking. We got a big point and you get into 3-on-3 overtime, it was disappointing as we had the puck for the whole time and then just bang. That’s how quick it can happen in 3-on-3. We’ll touch on that in practice next week as it’s a new thing for many of the guys. It’s frustrating to be on the losing end but I like that format, it’s great for the guys, the fans and the league.”