The 2018-2019 EIHL season finally opens the flood gates and the wonderful world of British Ice Hockey is back in our lives after the summer hiatus that saw England reach the semi-final of some strange sport involving a ball.
The Manchester Storm drew one of their fiercest rivals away from home as they began the defense of their Patton Conference title against the Nottingham Panthers, a team that were eager to establish a foothold on the season.
The Panthers, along with a few other teams, have adopted a more physical approach to the season as they bring in head coach Rich Chernomaz. Manchester seemed to have paved the way and now it’s time for the other teams to follow suit.
Long-time British player David Clarke’s #5 jersey – who holds the EIHL records for all-time leading goalscorer and all-time leading points-scorer – was retired. Well played that man, well played!
With a starting line-up that featured no less than FOUR of the Great Britain Ice Hockey heroes, it seemed like the deck was stacked heavily in Nottingham’s favor but after just 20 seconds of the first period it was Ciaran Long who managed to sneak his way through thanks to an assist from Dallas.
The rest of the period saw both goaltenders tested multiple times, with Pither dancing through the defense only to be denied by the woodwork closely followed by a 2-on-1 break that saw Hurtubise almost feeding Tommy Hughes for a tap in.
Olsen tore a slapper from the point that was snatched out of the air by Matt Ginn in the Storm goal, the offence continued with Olsen and Pither once again testing the Storm goalie.
The turning point saw Bakker called for hooking, the resulting power play led to Nottingham equalizing, Luke Pither finally getting on the score sheet.
The dying moments of the first saw the Panthers on the penalty kill due to having too many players on the ice, a very bad penalty to be conceding, the resulting power play was wasted however and going into the second the teams were tied at 1-apiece.
The second period began to show the biggest problem with the Manchester Storm, their inability to stay on the ice without conceding penalties. Firstly Linsmayer saw the box for hooking and shortly after Dallas was ejected to the sin bin for interference, leaving the Storm facing a 5-on-3 penalty kill.
Thankfully the defense was up to the task and they weathered the Storm only for Springer to get called on a slashing penalty.
I love a rough and tumble game of hockey but some of the calls have been quite unnecessary and have put the Manchester team in multiple dangerous positions.
How much longer can they ride that wave of luck?
The third period saw the Nottingham side attempt to goad the Storm into more penalties with Dylan Olsen rubbing the face of Shane Bakker, unluckily (Or Luckily?) for the Nottingham man, Bakker did not retaliate and that saw Olsen sitting out for roughing along with Linden Springer who also got a 2 minute penalty for roughing.
The match was heating up, tensions were flaring and not long after the boys had gotten out of the penalty box, a fight broke out. Guptil and Dane Byers went at it and both men were given 5 minutes for fighting along with Lupine and Springer who both got penalties for roughing.
Both teams returned to full strength and it all began to rapidly fall to pieces for the Manchester side as the were hit with yet more penalties, Moffat and Long are sent to the bench and it’s up to Matt Ginn and the defense to keep the dream alive.
Justin Hovacs quickly kills the dream less than 20-seconds into the power play.
During the scramble that ensued in front of the Storm goal, Bakker was issued a tripping penalty and the Storm remain deep in penalty trouble.
But that is the way that the match finished and the one factor that has plagued the Manchester side throughout the pre-season has reared its ugly head once more as the side are punished for their penalties.
Let’s hope that the rematch is more profitable for the Storm!