Panthers v Blaze
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The Nottingham Panthers welcomed Midlands rivals Coventry to the Motorpoint Arena on Wednesday night in a game with potential playoff implications.
Coventry began the night ten points behind the Panthers with five games in hand, so a win for either side would be crucial in the stretch run of the 18/19 season.
Patrick Munson got the start in goal for the Panthers opposite Matt Hackett for the Blaze.
Just 28 seconds into his return from a six game suspension Jaynen Rissling was sent to the penalty box for interference. Despite former Panther Alex Nikiforuk’s best efforts the Blaze could not breach the home sides penalty kill and they returned to full strength.
Gui Lepine laid a big hit along the boards as the Panthers tried to build some momentum in the game but that was cut short when Tommy Hughes (8.02) was sent to the box for slashing, once again the Panthers penalty killers, and netminder Patrick Munson, were up to the task and Tommy Hughes retuned to the ice with Nottingham unscathed.
With the teams skating at even strength the home side had the better of the chances. Alex Guptill denied not once but twice, firstly as he re-directed Chris Stewart’s feed on goal and secondly on a partial breakaway, by the Blaze netminder and the first period ended with the teams tied at zero.
Justin Kovacs forced Matt Hackett into a good pad save early in the second period, with the rebound just avoiding the trailing Robert Farmer.
Nottingham then found themselves in the familiar position of being short-handed, Alex Bolduc sent to the box, after a long conversation between the officiating crew, for interference (25.42). The penalty was quickly negated when Shaun Pauly (25.55) was caught holding the stick of Jaynen Rissling and the chances came in abundance for both sides.
Steve Lee crunched a Blaze forward along the boards before Alex Guptill was once again denied by Hackett on the Panthers best chance, Munson then had to be alert to keep the Blaze at bay as both sides returned to full strength.
The Panthers netminder had to be at the top of his game as the Blaze broke in two-on-one, going east-to-west to deny Crowder at the back door.
Nottingham killed a penalty to Josh Tetlow (31.56) but with neither team able to breach the opposition netminder the second period ended much like the first, with the teams tied at zero.
Justin Kovacs received a penalty in the final two minutes of the second period (38.57) and the Panthers began the third period by successfully killing off the Blaze’s powerplay once again.
Robert Farmer cut inside from the right wing wall and whilst his shot was saved Justin Kovacs showed incredible hand-eye coordination to bat the puck out of the air and past Matt Hackett (45.48) to put the Panthers into the lead.
Ten seconds after the home side killed a penalty to Tim Billingsley (46.37) the Blaze equalised, Luke Ferrara beating Patrick Munson to make it 1-1.
Coventry used their time-out when Luke Pither was called for cross-checking (53.49) but to avail as the Panthers once again killed the penalty and returned to full strength.
A turnover behind the Blaze goal saw the away side take the lead. Luke Ferrara getting his second of the night as he beat Patrick Munson on the blocker side (56.58).
Nottingham pulled Munson in favour of the extra attacker in the final minute of the game but could only hit the post and the Blaze scored into the empty net to skate out of the Motorpoint Arena with a crucial two Elite League points.