Another weekend passes us by, another piece of the process is out the way, and well, what a weekend.
Saturday, a great 2 points…
A gritty, never say die performance in Belfast. A classic example of a Chuck Weber team which reflected so much of what we are typically about and what we had become used to, post February last season.
Discipline, patience, and then a piece of magic from Drew Fisher at the end to secure us two very welcome Elite League points. Yes, another low scoring performance but some may say, the perfect road game in a tough, tough place to go and win a game of Hockey.
Sunday, a slightly different story!
An early flight home for the Blaze from Belfast on Sunday morning – Belfast Giants flew later that day into East Midlands Airport, is never easy on the body when its a game day. Add this to the fact that influential D Man Boris Valabik unfortunately managed to strain his back travelling home, and it wasn’t the best preparation for us. Valabik, tried to warm up on Sunday, but couldn’t skate, and therefore we were left to try to fill his considerable gap at the last-minute. Whether or not this was a contributing factor to us giving up a massive 50 shots on Sunday night is debatable, but it can surely be argued. To add to this, we conceded half of these 50 shots inside the first period, a statistic that would indicate and confirm we were all over the place initially whilst we were working out how to fill Boris’s considerable size and space on the ice. Something Belfast, to their credit exploited most of the night. Whilst he may have had his critics in these early games, Valabik looked the part in Belfast the night previous, playing hard, and looking more comfortable, another positive to take from the weekend.
There was only one netminder this weekend in the Elite League with a worse save per shot ratio than Brian Stewart on Sunday night, and that was Belfast’s Stephen Murphy in the same game. The best save per shot ratio over the weekend? Brian Stewart of course in Belfast on Saturday. Hockey can be a cruel game. As Weber commented post game on Sunday, Stewie has played so well, for so long, perhaps he is allowed a bad night at the office, I doubt many Blaze fans will argue with this.
Sport in general of course, throws up these quirky results be it high scoring or low scoring. Maybe some of you were at Trent Bridge this Summer to witness Stuart Broad run through Australia, ‘skittling’ them for 60 all out in 18 overs. That just doesn’t happen, but it did.
Maybe there is a Baggies fan reading this who will recall his side scoring three goals in the last ten minutes of Alex Ferguson’s final game in charge of Manchester United, and the game finishing 5-5.
Sunday night at the Skydome, gave us the opportunity to witness another of the these crazy sporting results. Not since January 15th 2011, has the Elite League witnessed a scoreline as big as this. That night Robert Dowd, Neil Clark and a guy by the name of Ashley Tait ripped the Edinburgh Capitals apart in Sheffield winning 18-1. Hockey hammerings such as the one I refer to above in the ‘Steel City’ are not unheard of – especially in the early days of British Hockey, when clubs were restricted to just the 3 imports.
Every club; until of course when David Simms and the Solihull Barons gambled on Wayne Cowley in 1991 (Cowley, Shudra, Dorian were the 3 imports signed) had British net minders between the pipes and the scores were often high, but the 10-8 we witnessed on Sunday was certainly unusual / bizarre in this day and age, and I guess it was entertaining. Although a very frustrated Blaze player did tell me afterwards, “That wasn’t hockey out there, that was just crazy”
So two points for the guys, which isn’t the end of the world, and probably what most would have hoped for before these two fixtures. We move forward to this weekend with a trip to Manchester, and then we host our friends from Nottingham. The Panthers face a tough game on Saturday night in Nottingham against Sheffield so we can hope they have a tough physical night against Thommo and his orangemen.
On the “plus” side…
I spoke to two EIHL Coaches this week about the importance of the plus / minus statistic and the importance of this entity. Both told me told me virtually identical things, “It’s very important, and tells a good story after 10-15 games” another added “Yeah, its pretty important, it doesn’t paint the whole picture, as its pretty black and white, but it gives me a good indication on who to put out there at certain times”
James Griffin (3 goals in his first 12 games at Milton Keynes) won the Blaze Plus / Minus award at the Awards night last season, and I am fairly sure I am correct in saying that another one of the Blaze Brit Pack are top of the list currently this season, which is a fantastic achievement for him.
Hey you up in the Sky…
I spent most of the game on Sunday, watching the madness unfold from the Crowngate Sky Lounge, it really is a superb place to watch a game from, with a private bar (always handy) and private toilets (even handier!), whether you are an away fan travelling to Coventry, or a Blaze fan you should really try it out. The Lounge is now adorned with huge wall pictures displaying the Blaze’s proud history, and those that helped make it. There is also a TV up there where you can catch the webcast replays if you want to check again what happened out there. It’s a great piece of work from the guys at Crowngate Construction, they should be very proud. Treat yourselves and give it a go.
Until next time, thanks for reading, and good luck to whoever you are following this week.