Nastiuk helps Blaze wrap-up 2 points
The Genting Casino Coventry Blaze made it 4 wins from 5 defeating Milton Keynes Lightning 5-3 in the final game before Christmas at the Skydome Arena.
With much help from netminder and Man of the Match Kevin Nastiuk, Blaze managed to survive what Head Coach Danny Stewart described as the "worst period of the season" in the second to gain the crucial victory.
In stark contrast to the middle twenty, the first saw Coventry in full control. Ben Lake opened the scoring (8.50), the second assist going to Brett Robinson, back in the line-up alongwith Gustav Ahnelov following injury.
Soon after, Marco Vallerand registered his 23rd of the Elite League season soon after to make it 2-0 (9.18).
British forward Lewis Hook got Milton Keynes on the board (10.39) but Adam Courchaine's powerplay marker, the first of his two on the night extended Coventry's lead to 3-1 (19.09) to end the opening stanza.
From Coventry's perspective, the second period was a real nightmare before Christmas. It began by conceding two within the opening minute. Tommy Mele beating Nastiuk (20.28) before the game was tied 3-3 through Ben Foster just 20 seconds later (20.48). With just 3 shots of their own, Blaze relied on the outstanding Nastiuk to keep them in the game. Making 15 saves in the middle twenty, a couple which defied belief saw the Skydome crowd rise to their feet to salute their keeper.
As the clocked ticked down towards the second period intermission, Captain Jordan Pietrus grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, ripping what turned out to be the game-winning goal past Miika Wiikman to grab back some momentum for his Blaze side (39.28). The strike was the Canadian's 14th of the Elite League campaign, already bettering his total for the whole of last season.
A solid defensive performance in the third gave Adam Courchaine the opportunity to wrap-up a 5-3 victory for Coventry in the third. The former DEL top-scorer scoring his second (46.15), added to his earlier assist, extending his hot streak to ten consecutive games with a point.
Head Coach Danny Stewart said, "Thank god Kevin Nastiuk showed up to play tonight. After that second period we were very lucky to be tied. But, then 'Piety' obviously picks off a big pass and goes down and scores a big goal and gave us a bit of momentum back as we'd lost that. But, five or six weeks ago we'd have found a way to lose that game. In the third I really liked how we played, we chipped pucks, got them deep and played in their end. We didn't force plays and we got the job done."