Blaze take positives from Nottingham defeat
Genting Casino Coventry Blaze began their 2017/18 Elite League season with a hard-fought but narrow 4-3 defeat to the Nottingham Panthers at the Motorpoint Arena on Saturday night.
With the Panthers' confidence high following their Champions Hockey League exploits, topping the group after four games, many predicted a tough task for Blaze.
It was made all the more difficult for Danny Stewart's men with Danick Paquette and Garrett Ladd continuing in their pre-season absence through injury. Latvian forward Edgars Bebris, who was recently signed to a full-time contract following a successful trial period ensuring Coventry began just one import short.
On the wrap-around, Mark Derlago gave the home side a 1-0 lead at 10.50 in a first period littered with four minor penalties to Coventry by referee Stefan Hogarth.
Czech defenceman Vojtech Kloz registered the first Blaze goal of the Elite League season (21.02) to tie things at one before Nottingham took over in the second period.
Brett Perlini, a British forward who has been plying his trade in North America for a number of years scoring his first of two on the powerplay at 27.28 to give Panthers a 2-1 lead.
Just a couple of minutes later (29.57), whilst short-handed Tim Billingsley with a quick break and wrist-shot beat Kevin Nastiuk for 3-1 before Perlini made it four at 32.41.
Blaze came out reinvigorated in the final period, Bebris scoring his first Elite League goal on 44.37 for 4-2.
Evan Mosey, a returnee to Nottingham following an American Hockey League deal was then denied on a penalty-shot by Nastiuk as the clock ticked down to the final ten minutes.
With 2.37 to go and whilst 5-on-3, Blaze Captain Jordan Pietrus who had previously dropped the gloves with Raphael Bussieres ripped a shot past former NHL, AHL and KHL goalie Michael Garnett in the Panthers net to close the gap to one.
Despite the pulling of Nastiuk in favour of the extra skater, Coventry were unable to find the equaliser with numerous attempts dribbling inches wide as the final hooter sounded to end the game 4-3.
Head Coach Danny Stewart said, "I thought the guys played well tonight and battled to the end. We made things tough on ourselves running into penalty trouble and eventually it caught up to us. We switched off after their 3rd and gave up another which unfortunately was the difference. The boys did a great job turning it up a gear in the third but just fell short. There were lots of good things tonight and now we look ahead to a big conference game on home ice tomorrow!"