Having now witnessed all eight away performances from the Manchester Storm and spent a pretty penny on petrol, in the process, will a four-point weekend be a bridge too far for this team? Once again, Manchester have been impressive at home, but the winning roadtrip formula remains a quandary and one that needs solving fast. Although, it must be noted this road effort was significantly better than most- well in the first two periods at least…
Fife Flyers vs Manchester Storm (10/11/18)
The home side were only without third choice goaltender Craig Douglas and injured forward Chase Schaber, for this encounter. The 19 skating (7D and 12F) options available to long-time coaching duo Todd Dutiaume and Jeff Hutchins would come in handy, in this bruising contest. The familiar face of Shane Owen extended his run as the starting netminder for Fife, with the young Andrew Little back-up.
The return of defenceman Declan Balmer from suspension allowed Dylan Anderson another chance to impress Ryan Finnerty. The inclusion of Anderson, meant utility player Logan MacMillan joined Chris Auger and Jindrich Pacl on the sidelines. Matt Ginn was handed his 16th start, in 17 league encounters, after turning away 29 shots on Friday night.
There was no sign of ‘bus legs’ for the visiting side, when after just 12 seconds they took the lead through captain Dane Byers. A good cross-ice pass from Luke Moffat sent Mike Hammond through on goal and following a scramble in-front of Owen’s goal the puck slid into the net, from the deftest of touches. After just over six minutes, Fife were level when poor decision-making from the returning Balmer left a chasm for the Fife forwards to skate into. The young British blueliner attempted to play the body and along the boards, but wasn’t quite quick enough to dislodge possession from Scott Aarssen who backhanded the puck to forward Danick Gauthier. This pass allowed Gauthier to skate into the gaping spaces and square the puck to Bari McKenzie who made no mistake from the slot. A moment of ill discipline, not for the first time this season, from Manchester gifted Fife two powerplay opportunities in quick succession. This lack of control would prove costly, when Evan Bloodoff managed to sneak one passed Matt Ginn, from close range, with assists going to the impressive Mike Cazzola and Carlo Finucci. The absence of self-restraint was compounded when Dane Byers attempted to staple ex-Storm player Marcus Basara into the boards, 2+10 was the result. Overall, a good first period of hockey that was evenly contested and Fife perhaps could think themselves a little fortunate to be ahead at this first intermission.
Early in the second period, two penalties were assessed against the visiting side which handed Fife a 5 on 3 opportunity. An excellent penalty kill from the Manchester Storm, resulted in Fife forward, Paul Crowder, wrestling down Dallas Ehrhardt in the corner out of frustration. This resulted in a PK turning into powerplay, a powerplay that would be converted on. Good zone retention from the Storm saw them fashion a golden opportunity for Riley Stadel whose shot was well saved, but the rebound was neatly batted out the air by Shane Bakker and across the goal line. The first half of the second period was shaded by the visiting side, until a defensive turnover deep in the zone sent Fife back ahead. Excellent forechecking pressure from Evan Bloodoff and Brett Bulmer prevented the puck from being sent safely along the boards and out the zone. Instead the puck would whistle passed a hapless Matt Ginn, from the stick of Joe Basaraba. A lapse in concentration from Rob Linsmayer allowed Basaraba to blow passed him and inadvertently ice the game.
A disappointingly quite third period (from a Storm perspective), saw little offence created with both sides kept to the outside. The final powerplay opportunity for Manchester was easily killed off by Fife and ultimately sapped the life out of the visitors. Ryan Finnerty elected to pull the netminder with 1:20 remaining in the game, but even with the extra skater Fife looked comfortable in defence. These two outfits have undergone a role reversal from last season, with Fife second and Manchester seventh in the standings. An excellent off-season from the Fife front office has seen them add more Elite League experience, skill and speed. Whilst the Storm have regressed, now 1-7-0 on the road and not looking at all confident away from the Shelter, this could well be a tumultuous campaign.
The double header against Guildford Flames, next weekend, could well be the pick off the action if further sparks fly after the highly physical last encounter, that saw multiple suspensions handed out. Furthermore, with any league challenge all but over for Manchester these two Patton conference fixtures will carry extra importance.
MVP’s: Marcus Basara (Fife Flyers) & Mike Hammond (Manchester Storm)
SOG: Flyers 32 & Storm 37
Feature image: Fife Flyers Facebook page/ Steve Gunn