Blaze v Panthers
5 - 4
The Nottingham Panthers
Jon Rheault returned to The Nottingham Panthers' line-up, on Sunday night in Coventry, as they looked to bounce back from defeat in Sheffield 48 hours prior.
Patrick Munson got the start in goal for the Panthers, with Sam Gospel serving as his deputy, opposite Miroslav Kopriva for the Blaze.
The home side took the lead when former Panther Alex Nikiforuk broke in alone and beat Munson low (2.49) and before the Panthers new what had hit them Tim Crowder (4.03) doubled Coventry's lead in similar fashion.
It looked like things would get even better for the Blaze when Ben Lake got a step on the defence and drew a penalty shot after being hooked. Patrick Munson had other ideas though, going post-to-post to deny the Blaze's leading goalscorer.
Nottingham killed two Blaze powerplay's as a relentless Coventry side showed no sign of slowing down throughout the first period, reigning 17 shots on Munson's goal in the first 20 minutes, before the Panthers got a powerplay of their own as the period wound down. Blaze killed the penalty and took a two goal lead into the second period.
The Panthers built momentum off of a great mid-ice hit by Steve Lee early in the second period and Marek Tvrdon made it a one goal game (21.17) when he beat Kopriva on the blocker side. Nottingham pushed for an equaliser, Tvrdon & Lee going close, but it was the Blaze who scored against the run of play to restore their two goal lead. Shaun Pauly (25.49) tucking away the rebound from Tim Crowder's one-timer.
Just over two minutes later the Panthers answered back. Dylan Richard (27.53), from behind the goal line, banking the puck off of a Blaze defencman and into the goal to make it 3-2.
Nottingham spent six of the next ten minutes of the penalty kill, a combination of sterling defence and excellent netminding by Patrick Munson keeping the Blaze at bay. Jon Rheault drew the Panthers a powerplay of their own inside the final minute of the period (39.48) and just seven seconds later Brett Perlini had the puck in the back of the Blaze goal. Luke Pither showing great patience before shooting through a lane, although his shot was saved Alex Guptill knocked the rebound to Perlini who made no mistake firing it into a half empty cage and sending the teams into the second intermission tied at three.
There was to be no shortage of drama in the third period.
The teams exchanged powerplay opportunities through the first ten minutes, though neither side could forge a breakthrough.
A broken play down low saw the puck find it's way to the point and Luke Ferrara's wrist shot through traffic (52.08) eluded the grasp of Munson to put the home side back in the lead. A little over two minutes later the Panthers were back on level terms through Alex Guptill (54.09), Robert Farmer won the puck behind his own goal before skating the length of the ice. His backhand pass found Justin Kovacs who spotted Guptill all alone at the backdoor and the EIHL's leading goalscorer made it four a piece in front of the travelling Panthers Nation.
Dylan Olsen thought he'd given the Panthers the lead (56.01) only for it to washed out by referee Tom Pering due to the Coventry netminder having pushed the nets off of it's moorings. After a short review the call was confirmed and the game remained tied at four.
A miscommunication on the blue line saw Ross Venus break in down the right wing and his quick snap shot beat Munson on the blocker side (57.01) to put the Blaze back in front.
Munson was pulled inside the final minute and Dylan Olsen's one-timer would have beaten the buzzer but it skewed just wide and the Blaze skated out of the Skydome with the two points.
Photo credit: Andy Burnham