Banners On The Road – Coventry Blaze vs Sheffield Steelers 30/10/11Posted: 01/11/2011 | |
Coventry Blaze 0-2 Sheffield Steelers
Sunday saw yours truly back at an EIHL game for the first time since January 2011 when I watched Coventry decimate Edinburgh 15-0. That game was, to be frank, an embarrassment but was entertaining in parts.
This game promised lots; Coventry had won away at Belfast and home to Nottingham the previous weekend but were coming in off of the back of a 6-1 kicking in the challenge cup the night before in Cardiff. Sheffield came into the game with a record of 10-1 so was looking forward to seeing what would be produced by what are supposed to be two of the top sides in the country.
The game: to borrow a few Yorkshireisms, “that game were reet dire it were”. The standard of player on display was obviously higher than you get at an EPL game but the game failed to live up to much in terms of its expectations. Even the fight (which we’ll touch on in greater detail later) was particularly lack lustre.
For a neutral (albeit one who admittedly has a soft spot for the Blaze) this wasn’t a game jam packed with super excitement and lots of daring do. It wasn’t boring by any stretch and both sides at times played decent hockey but the game lacked any real bit to it.
What I did enjoy was the usual antics from my friends in block 2 as well as the guest appearance of Steel Night Live’s David Grant and Helen Bolton along with The Cat’s Whiskers’ founder/chief writer/match night live runner/candlestick maker Jono Bullard. Jono was researching a piece he is doing on officials in the EIHL he told me and will no doubt be a cracking read once it appears.
For a Coventry Blaze slant on the game, check out Block 2 dweller Stuart Coles over at Sky Blue Hockey.
We were also celebrating the wedding of Paul and Becky Shipman. For those who remember, Paul wrote the very awesome tribute to Wade Belak on the blog over the summer. Many congratulations to the Shipmans on their European tour honeymoon. The wedding cake was delicious as Mr Grant will attest to.
The Blaze: As it was the day before Halloween, the Blaze were donning specially designed jerseys. The myth in the Skydome goes that when the Blaze wear special event jerseys they a) look hideous and b) they play like poop. One was right…
The jerseys themselves weren’t utterly terrible. The usual blaze colours had been kept with seasonal motifs on the front and back. They did look ugly as all sin and that people parted with their money for one baffled me but they weren’t as bad as they could have been.
Sadly the Blaze looked toothless. Missing Shea Guthrie, who I am informed is one of the better players this season, through a knee injury the Blaze’s attacks just seemed to have all sizzle and no steak. Blaze very much had the better of the first period of play but in the second the Steelers put them down and kept them at bay.
The Blaze had a 1:55 5 on 3 powerplay which was one of the worst executed powerplays I’ve seen for a long while and I’ve watched ENL hockey this season. There was no cohesion between the Blaze players and they seemed to conspire to give Sheffield chances to clear the zone. The Steelers fans stood up and applauded their PK unit at the end of the 5 on 3, they should have been clapping for the Blaze who did all the hard work for them.
Former Danish international netminder Peter Hirsch looked solid enough in net, making an array of decent saves. Some in fact looked so easy it was almost like he was doing them in his sleep. As good as his glove was it had no chance against Jason Hewitt’s rocket shot.
Russ Cowley picked up man of the match for a commendable effort centring the second line. Sadly his wingers just didn’t seem to have a scoring touch of any sort. One who performed poorly for me was Mike McLean, anonymous being the appropriate word for his performance. I’m told he’s been very good recently so we can perhaps chalk it up to a bad night at the office.
Also having a bad night was GB international Jonathan Weaver who looked like he’d forgotten how to defend. There have been a few critics of Weaver’s play over the season so far so it’ll be interesting to see if he picks up in form or whether this is a worrying trend that will continue.
The one Blaze player who stands out above the rest is Dustin Wood. The Scarborough, Ontario native who recently joined from Anyang Halla in Korea was head and shoulders above most players on the ice. Positionally sound, does the simple things well and has a good shot to go with it. Paul Thompson should find a way to lock him in the cupboard as soon as the off season starts so the Blaze can keep him for 2012/13.
A night of few highlights for the Blaze really and Paul Thompson needs to go back to the drawing board this week to try and fix the mistakes.
The Steelers: A perfect road game from last season’s EIHL champions, it’s the only way to describe it. Whilst the Blaze didn’t help their own cause, they successfully snuffed out all half decent attacks the Blaze threw at them. They did what needed to be done to get the win and they went home.
John DeCaro earned the shutout and man of the match but somehow I didn’t find myself overly impressed with him. He seemed to give up an astronomical amount of rebounds which the Blaze should have buried into the back of the net but DeCaro got away with it time and again. For Bison fans who remember Nick ‘Boing Boing’ Boucher, think that sort of keeper. DeCaro is coming off a season where he won the Central Hockey League title so his personal confidence is high, sometimes that’s all you need.
The Steelers defence unit looked very solid most of the game. The Blaze had more of the puck in the first period but they closed the Blaze down and gave DeCaro an easy job to do as a result.
Jason Hewitt’s goal was, as mentioned, an utter beauty of a shot that just went too fast for Hirsch to react. Jeff Legue, who scored the second goal had a decent game. He wasn’t flash or spectacular but he did the job.
Actually come to think of it, none of the Steelers players gave spectacular performances but they worked well as a team and the game plan worked. The keeper only saw shots he could deal with for the most part and, once they’d weathered the initial storm, could do pretty much what they wanted.
Colt King as well wins the evening’s hockey hair award. Power mullets, like Jagr in the NHL, are back.
FIGHT: 9:10 in and we got the aforementioned Colt King vs Bryan Jurynec. King got Jurynec’s jersey up over his head early which left the Blaze #48 flailing about to grab a hold. After landing a few shots, King appeared to get bored and asked the linos to step in but Jurynec was having none of it and kept throwing shots. Eventually they tumbled to the ground and headed towards the penalty box, Jurynec bigging up the crowd as he went. Result was an easy win for King but Jurynec held his own.
Overall: I’ve watched better games of hockey. I don’t think many people who saw this game will argue that point. In fact as I was finishing this up, I got a tweet from Jono Bullard saying “you only need one word. Dull!”
The game suffered from a home team lacking offence and a road team playing the good road game.
It’s been a while since I watched EIHL hockey but this was a bad game to judge 10 import hockey by. If that was your first game, I’d suggest watching another. It wouldn’t have been the best of introductions and there will be better games.
The result leaves the Steelers marching on and the Blaze having to re-think their strategy. On Saturday the Blaze announced that South Korean international and former team mate of Dustin Wood from Halla, Woo-Sing Park is joining on a month’s trial with a view to staying for the season. We’ll have to see if this reignites the fire in the Blaze. (See what I did there?)