The two EIHL teams lined-up with only two returning imports from the 2018/19 season, as Ryan Finnerty and Danny Stewart have both overseen significant changes in personnel this summer. The visiting Blaze replaced all five of their top points scoring skaters from last year: Ben Lake, Tim Crowder, Alex Nikiforuk, Shawn Pauly and Nicolai Bryhnisveen; although, the shrewd additions of Evan Bloodoff, Charles Corcoran, Drew Schiestel and Andrew Johnston are favourable replacements. The Storm were without Jacob Lutwyche and Mathieu Gagnon for this encounter, both players rested for precautionary reasons.
The opening phases of play were dominated by the Storm, with a barrage of shots on goal turned aside by Jordan Hedley.. A golden opportunity for Layne Ulmer came and went in the 3rd minute of the game, as a reverse pass left him open at the back post, unable to convert. It would take just over six minutes for the deadlock to be broken, as a hopeful Lawrence wristshot found its way through Matt Ginn handing the visitors the lead against the run of play. The next meaningful piece of action would be at 15:40 when a wonderful attacking move from Simmonds, Thompson and Fawcett culminated in the hosts drawing level through the latter. Although, the parity would be short-lived, when a couple of defensive errors cost the Storm dearly with two Blaze goals in under one-minute handing them a 3-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
The second period started slowly with nothing to note other than a penalty handed to Balmer. It would take until just after the halfway point of the game for the hosts to half the deficit courtesy of a classy Layne Ulmer finish, assists going to Aulin and Hope.
The Storm continued to press hard for the equalising goal and it looked like they had it until a stunning coast-to-coast save from Hedley repelled a well-directed Hope snapshot. Although, just a few minutes later and the hosts would draw level thanks to a Zach Sullivan wristshot. The British blueliner fired through traffic into the roof of the Blaze goal, with assists again to going Aulin and Hope. The scores would remain 3-3 when the second intermission buzzer would sound.
The final period started in the lost possible way for the Storm, as a poor defensive effort allowed Andrew Johnston to ghost in on goal and place the puck past Matt Ginn at 41:01. An interesting next couple of plays saw Ginn adjudged 10-minutes for misconduct (served by Morris) and Coventry’s Johnston sent to the box for a boarding minor penalty. This powerplay opportunity for the hosts would unexpectedly benefit the visitors, as an error from Ehrhardt turned over the puck along the half-boards. The turnover landed on the stick of Venus, fed to Alex Forbes to restore the visitors two-goal cushion at 45:07. Despite several setbacks, the Storm continued to attack and this pressure resulted in two minor penalties being called within the space of one minute, which naturally handed the hosts a precious 5on3 chance. This advantage was capitalised upon in under twenty seconds, as good puck rotation from the powerplay unit soon created an angle for Hughesman to squeeze one past Hedley and bring the scores within one goal.
Unfortunately for the Storm it would be one favourable bounce that broke the back of this game, a well positioned Broll tapping home on a pass from Venus. The final few minutes of the game, Storm threw everybody forward but the hosts stood firm. Veteran forward, Laakkonen forced a turnover deep in the Storm zone, the puck quickly found Broll who tapped in the puck with just 26 seconds remaining.
The Storm will now turn their attention to the first EIHL home game of the season vs Dundee Stars on September 7th at 7:30PM.
Man of the Match:
Jared Aulin (Storm)
Andrew Johnston (Blaze)