Blaze suffer playoff final heartache
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze saw their hopes of retaining the Elite League play-off crown ended after a 2-0 defeat to Nottingham Panthers in the final at the National Ice Centre.
Goaltender Brian Stewart, who backstopped Blaze to victory in the final against Sheffield Steelers a year ago, was in sensational form throughout the game to keep his side in it.
He made an exceptional save to deny Evan Mosey on a breakaway but he could do nothing to prevent Stephen Schultz grabbing the go-ahead goal at 14.53.
Blaze captain Ashley Tait, who netted the overtime winner in the 2005 final against Panthers which clinched the Grand Slam, was twice foiled by Miika Wiikman and he also kept out Mike Quesnele's effort.
Stewart performed more heroics to blunt Brad Moran and Mosey as Panthers killed three penalties in quick succession, with Drew Fisher going close for Blaze.
Two unbelievable stops by Stewart from Juraj Kolnik and Mosey gave Blaze hope but Kevin Quick added the insurance marker at 53.07.
Blaze lost leading point-scorer Brett Robinson to a wrist injury in the opening minutes as they failed to break Panthers down.
Wiikman made two fine saves from Russ Cowley late on to post a 30-save shut-out, with Blaze also finishing the game without the injured Boris Valabik.
Head Coach, Chuck Weber said, "The guys gave us everything that we could ask for tonight. We fought some adversity with Robinson getting hurt on the second or third shift. We got our feet underneath us in the first but the guys emptied the tank in the second and third period. We had a number of scoring chances but the puck just didn't drop for us tonight. Credit to Corey (Neilson), he had his guys prepared. I tip my hat to them but even more so I couldn't be more proud of our players and the effort that they gave tonight."
Highlights: With thanks to the Elite League:
Video: Chuck Weber interview with Ed Kimberley:
Audio: Chuck Weber interview with Rob Plaister:
Head of Hockey Operations, James Pease:
"I am devastated for the boys, they threw absolutely everything at it tonight and we came away empty handed. We're disappointed, it hurts but it just wasn't to be.... We are going to build on this. We have some key pieces to the puzzle and we're going to fit the rest around that and we're going to come back bigger and better and be hunting for silverware next year."