An equalising goal from Danick Gauthier, with just 50 seconds left in the game, would ultimately cost Manchester the chance for a first win since November 17th. The overall matchplay was a significant drop-off in quality, compared with last week’s enthralling home encounter with Cardiff, as Fife were more than happy to sit-back and absorb the Storm attacks. The decision to play a cagey road-game was vindicated in overtime as the two points headed back to the Kingdom and ensured the looming sense of acrimony in Altrincham would remain for a while longer.
Manchester Storm vs Fife Flyers (02/12/18)
Another week, another change for Manchester Storm. This time it would be the frozen out forward Dylan Anderson (who hadn’t played in the league since November 10th) that would be heading home for Christmas. His replacement, Chance Braid (6ft1 and 98kg) who had earlier represented HC Benatky nad Jizerou in the Czech second tier, has most likely been brought in to ‘bang bodies’ and grind things out with Shane Bakker on the bottom line. Utility-man, Logan MacMillan, would be a healthy scratch after icing in Sunday’s defeat to Sheffield. Star forward, Mike Hammond returned to Canada this week to be with his family and on behalf of everybody at CTP we wish him well!
The visiting side remain without their star forward Chase Schaber, as a result ex-Storm forward Marcus Basara continues on a trail basis after being released by Manchester in late October. The only other absentee would be back-up goaltender Craig Douglas, with youngster Andrew Little deputising.
The visiting side would be ahead after only 2:05 seconds, after what can only be described as a moment of madness from Storm blueliner Felix-Antoine Poulin. After a scrappy face-off win from Luke Moffat, Poulin decided to step-off the blue paint and this mistake provide costly. The error of judgement left fellow defencemen Riley Stadel hapless to a 3on1 opportunity, as Brett Bulmer used the onrushing forwards as decoys before firing the puck low passed Matt Ginn. The visitors lead would last exactly two minutes before a clever play from Rob Linsmayer evened things up. After a horrific turnover from the goalscoring Bulmer, Brendan Brooks’ initial shot was stopped by Shane Owens before Linsmayer was first to get his stick to the puck and poked it home. It would then be the turn of returning forward Marcus Basara to get in on the goalscoring action. A melee infront of Matt Ginn saw the puck somehow bounce free, a puck that would give Basara his third goal in the last three games and 10th point in 15 appearances for Fife. Would anybody have him back in Manchester? Either way Basara would spend the next two periods hearing nothing but the mouth of Shane Bakker as the two renewed acquaintances. However, this wouldn’t be the last goal in the period as a bizarre deflection of the face of Evan Stoflet gifted Evan Richardson his second goal of the weekend. To be level at the first intermission was the least the home-side deserved, as a strong first period from Manchester saw them outshoot their opponents 15-8 in a penalty free period.
A quite start to the second stanza was punctuated by new signing Braid’s first EIHL goal. Another turnover by Fife, this time just outside the zone, allowed Ehrhardt to seize the puck and skate unchallenged into a goalscoring position. Ehrhardt’s drop-pass perfectly teed up Luke Moffat from the slot who’s shot rung off the iron before being batted out the air by Braid. During the remaining time in the second, three minor penalties were assessed to the Storm which including a 46 second 5on3 opportunity for Fife. Great work on the PK unit saw few goalscoring chances created before the buzzer sounded for the second intermission. A quite period that saw Fife have 13 shots compared to Manchester’s meager 7.
Tight checking and plenty of puck dumping, from both sides, saw the game clock expiring and few opportunities made in the final period. However, with 96 seconds remaining the Fife Flyers would pull their goalie for an extra attacker. This added offensive zone pressure caused Manchester to ice the puck with 78 seconds to play and unable to get the line change a timeout was called. Cue debate…my take: this decision highlighted how pensive things were on the bench towards the end of the match and afforded an opportunity (to draw up a play and an additional thirty seconds to put exactly who they wanted on the ice) which they should never have been granted. The players were tired and needed the break, you could be thinking at this moment. However, with one of Storm’s best face-off players on the ice and a little over one minute to play those players couldn’t dig deep and secure the W? Food for thought at least… Good zone retention from Fife saw them work the puck around the zone before Bulmer’s shot from below the goal-line rebounded of Ginn and Gauthier would make no mistake on the doorstep to send things into overtime. A great stretch pass from Carlo Finucci found Rick Pinkston in-stride and after his contested wristshot was initially stopped it would take Paul Crowder on the follow-up to seal the victory. The Storm netminder was visible upset with Linsmayer’s efforts on the backcheck as the two points slipped from his grasp.
A shock victory for Dundee Stars in Cardiff brings them level on points with Manchester and following another away loss on Saturday, a zero point weekend is not what Ryan Finnerty would have wanted. However, things can turn around quickly as Nottingham roll-into town on Tuesday and Saturday, before Storm head to Glasgow for a huge away fixture (too early for a four pointer)! As always this December period is crucial and things could well look different by the year turn.
MVP’s: Evan Richardson (Storm) & Rick Pinkston (Flyers)
SOG’s: Storm 32 & Flyers 36
Feature image: Mark Ferriss/ All Sport Photography