The Dragon Vs The Giants. Blaze Take on Belfast: Performance Review

Belfast’s Beskorowany denies a barrage of Blaze goals leading the visitors to a 4-2 victory at the Skydome.

Continuing the alternate game review, opinion styled performance reviews, this week we focus on the game against the Belfast Giants on Sunday.

I had hoped that the Giants would turn up tired after playing a Friday and Saturday game at home before flying to play Sunday, but sadly they were not put to the test by the struggling Milton Keynes Lightening, and if anything had been energised for the away challenge.

Within the first 5 minutes it was clear Blaze had dusted themselves off from the loss to Nottingham the night before and star Ben Lake scored an excellent deke styled goal – something he is really becoming known for this season. However Belfast game back within minutes. They had this same feeling, of back and forth all the way to the 35th minute where the Giants put away two goals and the Blaze started to look quiet.

There was an excellent 7-8 minutes at the start of the second where Blaze really looked on form on the rebound from Belfast’s 2nd goal, however, Beskorowany was also on form making some unbelievable flailing saves – with a style of net minding which I felt had a Nastiuk feel about it. At least 7 shots on goal and massive control of possession, and finally a goal by Brhysiveen. Sadly, the team had put so much effort in to try and get the puck in, that they looked tired and Belfast took the opportunity and put 2 away.

So lets look into the sections.

Netminder

Kopřiva playing his 4th game in Blaze blue, and having won the Man of the Match on his previous 3 games has made a real impression on the team and on the fans. My fascination with Ice Hockey Netminders has taken a new turn with Kopřiva, my usual amazement at the almost cat like flailing of the netties, thrusting their arms and legs around, jumping all over the place, even in all that padding… and on ice…. Is incredible, but I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Kopřiva. The reason being is that he stands almost perfectly still in the crouched position when play is in the opposing 3rd, and his head follows the puck twitching back and forth. There is sheer concentration here to track the puck all over the ice. Then when in action, the huge 6’4” nettie stands a lot more than most who go for the butterfly, meaning he isn’t afraid to come out and get in the mix. For instance, I observed several times where a defenceman was looking to screen him, he stood straight upright, towering over some of the smaller defence, and giving a shove to get a clear line of site. A really great netminder to watch.

Kopřiva made some excellent saves during the game, with immense speed, but also let in goals that he shouldn’t have – such as the goal through the 5 hole in the second period. It is hard to summarise Kopřiva’s game he withstood 34 shots on his net giving him a .882 game in comparison to Beskorowany’s 30 saves from 32 shots (.938). A few poor goals mixed with some excellent saves. I suppose you can’t save them all, all the time…

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Defence

The Defence had a hard night. There were several big mishandling errors, some very nearly resulting in a goal against them, such as Lawrence in the first period, the Dmen involved in the PK unit were bunched up, leaving gaps for the Giants to get deep into the zone on break-aways and what seemed a rather lacklustre performance from a physical perspective. I wonder whether the battle the night before against the Panthers had taken its toll? Saying that, the stats show a different story. The Giants got close enough to put 34 shots on Kopřiva, matched against the 32 Blaze managed to get past the Giants defence, who on the whole performed well. So on paper an equal performance, but sadly resulted in a loss, but no doubt it could have been a LOT worse. Scrappy – but got the job done. Far from what we have seen so far this season.

However, not all doom and gloom! I have said in my last 2 reviews about the power of the Bryhnisveen one timer/slap shot and we finally got to see one hit the back of the net. A stunning shot in the second half, and the last of the Blaze goals in the game.

Forwards

There are 2 sections I want to look at from the game. Firstly, Mr Ben Lake. Ben won the Player of the Month award post game following votes through the last few weeks, and then also won the Man of the Match award – understandably so. He had a busy first period! A goal within the first 3 minutes from yet another beautiful finesse deke shot off the back of an excellent Hansen assist saw them both move to the 24th and 25th position (respectively) on the points ranking for forwards in the league.

As the 18th minute turned on the clock there was a fight between Lake and Ferland. From what initially looked like Lake not wanting to drop the gloves, a insistent Ferland continued to grab at Lakes helmet, whilst bashing at his chest with his forearm. Lake knew that he needed to push back and a fight ensued. Despite how this has been reported in other news sources, it is my opinion from what I saw and from the reports from other Blaze fans Ferland tried to drop Lake but did not achieve this and Lake was able to return the favour and drop Ferland to the floor walking away as victor (my opinion anyway!).

The second point I want to cover from the game is the determination of the forwards. As mentioned earlier, the section in the 2nd there was such grit and determination by the forwards (and the defence to be fair!) and so many shot on goal in a short space of time it was heart wrenching not to have put more away. I can’t give all the credit to Beskorowany who did make one of the finest saves during this section. There were several shots that should have sounded the buzzer. Missed slap shots. Missed chips behind the keeper. Holes in a wobbled defence not utilised. I am not sure whether it was pure mistakes or a panic to get a goal in, or just unlucky strikes, but there was not enough opportunities close to the net put away.

Though, whilst I appreciate it was not all perfect, there were as usual glints of the superb speed on a break away and the domination shown in the attacking third. Whilst neither games this weekend were perfect, or resulted in a win, the underlying impressive nature of the team this year was still visible. There’s more to do, but I am still confident.

Appreciate today’s article has been doom and gloom – but I am assured the boys have dusted themselves off, and ready to train hard this week ready for this weekend – and we are all behind them.

View the full Box Score here; https://eliteleague.co.uk/game-centre/schedule/game/?id=3344309

View the Highlights courtesy of Cleancut Sports;

P.S. Scorch, as always, was superb.

All Pictures – Adam Partoon

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